Taxpayer funds conserving

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is helping private landowners manage and enhance Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) habitat on their lands by providing federal funding through the Landowner Incentive Program.

LIP provides financial incentives to private landowners in return for habitat protection and stewardship of rare, threatened and endangered species and state significant natural communities.

LIP focuses in the Champlain Valley, as land in this area is 94 percent privately owned (compared with an average of 81 percent privately owned for the entire state).

Many of the state's rare, threatened or endangered species occur in restricted habitats throughout the state. Most of Vermont's rare plant and animal species are found in the Champlain Valley-the region of the state with the greatest human population and agricultural land use.

Some of these species are globally rare, like the federally endangered Indiana bat.

During late spring through early fall, the federally endangered Indiana bat inhabits forests in the Champlain Valley from Brandon to Hinesburg. Because the majority of the Indiana bat's range in Vermont is privately owned, the Fish & Wildlife Department is reaching out to landowners to educate them about the bat's ecology and their habitat needs. As part of this effort, the department created A Landowner's Guide to Indiana Bat Habitat Stewardship which was sent to over 200 landowners last summer in the Champlain Valley. The pamphlet discusses Indiana bat biology and their two main habitat types in Vermont, summer maternity colony habitat and their winter hibernaculum (caves and mines). The pamphlet also explains how landowners can protect and enhance their habitat in a way that will also benefit other uncommon species, forests and wetlands.

Landowners also can get help from department biologists to identify Indiana bat habitat on their property and determine habitat management and conservation strategies to maintain, enhance or conserve the habitat. The department drafted forest management guidelines to help landowners avoid harming or killing Indiana bats and to protect or enhance habitat characteristics favored by the bats while conducting forest management activities.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife has committed LIP funds to reimburse landowners up to 75 percent of the cost of hiring a consulting forester to draft a forest management plan that applies these guidelines. A list of foresters trained to apply these guidelines will be provided to the landowner, and a department biologist will work directly with the landowner and consulting forester to tailor the forest management plan to the property.

Interested landowners should contact Jane Lazorchak at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 479-4405.

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