Four years later, 600 acres of land conserved permanently

HINESBURG - Since 1919, the 600 acres of land that formed the Bissonette Farm has remained untouched by corporate hands. Now, thanks to a joint effort between the Hinesburg Land Trust and Wayne and Barbara Bissonette, that land will remain untouched forever. Last week, officials from the Hinesburg Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land, and the Vermont Land Trust announced the opening of the Hinesburg Riparian Forest. The 300-acre gift was accepted by Town Clerk Missy Rose, Governor Jim Douglas, and students from the Hinesburg Community School. The forest is open to the public for hiking, hunting and fishing. Four years ago, with retirement on the horizon, the Bissonettes made a commitment that they would not allow their land to be developed for economic means. Instead, they pledged to work with the Hinesburg Land Trust to make sure Vermonters could enjoy the land's open fields, rolling wooded hills, and its stunning view of the Green Mountains. The acquisition of state and federal grants totalling $3.7 million helped make this conservation project a reality. Andrea Morgante, a spokesperson for the Hinesburg Land Trust, called the project a great achievement for Vermont. "The diversity of funding sources is a reflection of the numerous resources this land contains and the generosity of so many Vermonters," said Morgante. "It was an extraordinary effort by those who stood up and said this land is important for Hinesburg and for Vermont." Douglas noted that the conservation project's completion was the first major success following the birth of his Clean and Clear Action Plan. "This project is significant because it represents the first closing on a land conservation project that was funded in part with wetlands and river protection dollars from my plan," he said. "The restoration and conservation of 130 acres of wetlands, and the protection of three miles of the LaPlatte River and associated river corridor where forested buffers and floodplains may re-establish, should make an important contribution in reducing phosphorus loading to the river and Lake Champlain." According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, saving the land also keeps Vermont's legacy of good stewardship towards natural resources intact. "This remarkable project is a superb example of what can be accomplished when public agencies, nonprofits and private citizens work together with clear goals," said Leahy. In addition to the 300-acre Riparian Forest, 150 acres of farmland will be conserved for local food production. John Roe, vice president for conservation at the Vermont Land Trust, assured that future generations would see this land protected with their best interests in mind. "As Vermonters have watched land values in the state increase dramatically, especially in Chittenden County, it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to gain access to productive and affordable farmland," he said. Morgante noted that celebrating the conservation project at the Hinesburg Community School was fitting, as it would be those students who would enjoy the land in the future. "This school is the perfect location to celebrate this conservation effort," she said. "This land is really a gift to these students and to future generations. We hope they will be inspired to visit this area often, and to become good future stewards of this land." Major sources of funding for Bissonette Farm initiative Recovery Land Acquisition Grant (USFWS) - $500,000 VHCB Farmland Conservation Program (State) - $520,000 Vermont Clean and Clear Action Plan (State ) - $220,000 VHCB Community Grant (State) - $150,000 VT Landowner Incentive Program (State & USFWS) - $150,000 Town of Hinesburg $100,000 Wetland Reserve Program (NRCS) - $75,000 Castanea Foundation - $1,318,000 Private Sale of parcel 2A with Restrictions - $550,000 Individual Donors - $277,000 Private Foundations - $225,500 Limited Development on parcel 3a - $125,000

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