May 13, 2022
The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association (WHPA) signed a conservation easement with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board on May 5, 2022 on an ecologically diverse 615-acre parcel the nonprofit group recently acquired in Windham County. Known as Lily Pond Highlands and located in the towns of Athens, Brookline, and Townshend, the land was purchased in May 2021 by WHPA. The signing by the co-holders of the easement is the final step in the conservation of this rugged landscape.
Lily Pond Highlands lies west of Hedgehog Gulf and Grassy Brook Road and is connected to the WHPA’s 2,100-acre reserve to the east by the Town Line Trail, with a trailhead just across Grassy Brook Road from this newly conserved land.
WHPA's management goal is to allow the forest to mature into old growth conditions whereby it will store a significant amount of carbon. These mature forests will also provide old forest habitat that is underrepresented in the region and will support the diverse range of species that depend on it. Lily Pond Highlands is recognized by the partners in this conservation effort to be especially resilient habitat for diverse species in the uncertain climate we are now facing.
The land that now comprises Lily Pond Highlands was owned for years by James Massey of Westminster West. WHPA realized the importance of this parcel of land and discussed with Mr. Massey his wish to see it remain undeveloped. After Mr. Massey’s death, the land passed to his two nephews in Ohio, James and Joseph Massey, who knew their uncle’s wish for the land to be conserved, and honored it in the terms of the property transfer. With the addition of the Lily Pond Highland parcel, 3,350 acres of land is protected along the Windmill Hill Ridgeline and on the parallel ridgeline continuing into Townshend to the west by WHPA, Putney Mountain Association, and other landholders.
“We are thrilled to support the Pinnacle Association in protecting this land,” said Jennifer Garrett, project director of the Vermont Land Trust. “Our partnership goes back over decades and we're gratified to have helped them conserve 2,000+ acres that are important for wildlife, climate, and the community.”
An extensive ecological assessment was conducted at Lily Pond Highlands in 2021 by ecologist Brett Engstrom, helped by Andrew Toepfer who assisted with fieldwork, cartography, and information on cultural features. The assessment brought to light important features of the land:
In the near future, trail work will be done and public access to the trail will be provided; more information will be available at that time.
And this summer, Rich Holschuh and Melody Walker Mackin of the Atowi Project in Brattleboro will carry out a “traditional cultural landscape assessment” (TCLA) of Lily Pond Highlands in an effort to contribute to the growing awareness of the connection between the land and the indigenous people who have lived on it for over 12,000 years.
The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association is extremely grateful to the many generous individuals, foundations and granting organizations whose contributions have made the purchase and conservation of Lily Pond Highlands possible. We appreciate the extraordinary support from the following: Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund which supports the protection of climate resilient lands for wildlife and communities - the Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; The Davis Foundation; Fields Pond Foundation; William P. Wharton Foundation; Bafflin Foundation; and the Windham Foundation. The Vermont Land Trust was an invaluable partner and provided leadership assistance, strategic support, and technical expertise to make this project a success.