Putney land opened for wildlife, recreation
PUTNEY - A keystone parcel along the Windmill Ridge in Putney and Brookline has been protected for wildlife, climate, recreation, and clean water, the Putney Mountain Association and the Vermont Land Trust announced Monday.
The two organizations worked together to conserve one of the few remaining gaps in protected land along the Windmill Hill to Putney Mountain ridgeline. The 140 acres connect trails and other public lands, including the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to the south and the Putney Town Forest to the north. In addition, the newly protected land expands a contiguous block of protected or public woods and wetlands, now totaling over 1,000 acres.
Known as the Hinton Woods, after the Hinton family who owned the property for decades, the land is accessible via a trailhead across the road from the main Putney Mountain parking area.
Putney Mountain Association worked with the Hinton family to develop a public trail in 2012, connecting PMA’s trail system from the south to the north. This trail section will be called “Libby’s Way” in honor of Libby Mills, PMA’s 2022 person of the year and dedicated longtime PMA board member who had a major role in this and many other PMA conservation projects.
The tract joins several protected properties along the Windmill Hill to Putney Mountain ridgeline, stretching from Dummerston to Grafton. These parcels, along with a few that are not conserved, support more than 30 miles of linked trails. The Conte Refuge abuts the property for about a mile along its southeastern, southern, and southwestern sides.
The land will now be open to all for non-motorized recreation such as bird watching, cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, snowshoeing, and wildlife observation, and for educational activities.
Over the past summer, dozens of dedicated volunteers assisted local naturalists with a BioBlitz organized by Putney Mountain Association. They identified moss, fern, invertebrate and bird species, and explored the unique piece of geography in detail.
The land contains northern hardwood mixed forest, along with red oak, white pine, and red spruce that give way to mixed hemlock stands on the western slopes. With a deer wintering area and a newly-mapped vernal pool where salamanders breed, the Hinton Woods are rich with wildlife. Wetlands straddle the ridge and feed tributaries of Salmon Brook and Grassy Brook, part of the Connecticut River watershed. The land also hosts the barbed-bristle bulrush, a plant that has been identified as endangered at both the federal and state levels.
Hinton Woods is the fifth Windmill Ridge property protected with funding from OSI, and the second supported by OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund. The $18 million ALPF, made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, seeks to respond to habitat loss and climate change by investing in the conservation of Appalachian mountain forests.