We awoke to grim skies Saturday morning, but with raincoats in tow we were prepared to have a great day on our public lands, nonetheless.
The hour drive was unexpectedly dry and when we arrived at Gale Meadows Wildlife Management Area we were greeted by a platoon of men and women ready to get to work. After a short walk through old forest cuts to promote early successional growth (which they did, successfully), we emerged from the canopy to the foundation of an old farmstead, which happened to be the site of our operation.
Chris Bernier, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist, enlightened us to the rich history of the ground on which we stood. The 707-acre plot, including Gale Pond, was donated to the state through the will of an elderly couple that used the farmstead as a summer home. In its hay-day, there was once a house with a 3-story barn that enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, the state had to remove the structures once they inherited the land due to their age and state of integrity, but the rock foundations that remain preserve the memory of the past.
Anticipating a downpour, we made haste to complete our project--planting and protecting a variety of fruit-bearing trees and shrubbery, such as apple trees and winterberry. The land is dominated by coniferous old-growth forest which critically lacks mast production, thus the addition of mast bearing plants will provide a much-needed boost to ecosystem biodiversity. After a short planting demonstration from Chris and Morgan Gouviea, from the local National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter, we got to work.
Over burgers and sunshine, we all completed our volunteer paperwork, which is crucial to provide match funding for the state via the Pittman-Robertson act; the turnout of over 20 people will supply the state with much needed funding for conservation.
You know what they say, many hands make for light work, and the age-old cliché proved true once again. In less than 2 hours, our squadron of conservationists had planted around 3 dozen saplings and shrubs equipped with a wire guard to protect them from deer and beavers. We celebrated a job well-done with wild-game barbeque complete with venison burgers, turkey breast, and venison steaks. To our surprise, the sun would fight its way through the clouds to smile in approval upon our work.
Over burgers and sunshine, we all completed our volunteer paperwork, which is crucial to provide match funding for the state via the Pittman-Robertson act; the turnout of over 20 people will supply the state with much needed funding for conservation. Days like these instill a sense of pride like no other; it is always special to have a chance to give back to our environment which constantly provides. Thank you for Morgan Gouveia and Matt Dibona from the NWTF and Chris Bernier from VT Fish and Wildlife for coordinating with Castleton BHA to make this event happen.