Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Advisor(s)

Deane Wang, PhD

Anthony D'Amato, PhD

Catherine Paris, PhD

Elizabeth Thompson

Abstract

Vermont's second-largest timber holding will soon be sold. Flanking the remote summits of the northern Green Mountains, the Atlas Timberlands comprise nearly 26,000 acres of forest, which, for the last twenty years, have been owned by the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Originally acquired from the Atlas Plywood Corporation in an effort to maintain large forested blocks managed with ecological forestry principles, VLT and TNC will now sell the lands to a new generation of land stewards. Although the land will change hands, the ecologically significant sites will remain protected under conservation easements.

In preparation for the sale of these parcels, I conducted a rapid ecological assessment of 17,500 acres to locate and map state-significant natural communities and significant wildlife habitat. The geospatial data and comprehensive reports that I generated will be used to draft easement protections for each parcel prior to sale. In total, I mapped seventy-two state-significant natural community occurrences, covering over 4100 acres. Throughout this process, I also worked closely with ecologists and foresters to document the ecological character and function of a newly-described Vermont natural community type—the Seepage Forest—which is prevalent on the Atlas Timberlands. This forest type occurs on mid-elevation slopes atop wet soils with a perched water table, and features black ash and red maple amidst a northern hardwood species assemblage. The emerging significance of this forest type as a headwater wetland may have implications for forest management in montane ecosystems.