Master's Project: Bolton Backcountry - An Assessment of Glading on Wildlife Habitat Suitability

Kathryn Wrigley, University of Vermont


The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR) acquired the 1,144-acre Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Ski Trails Parcel in 2013. Backcountry skiing is a fast growing sport in Vermont and FPR is currently working on a management strategy for this new use. My project seeks to inform FPR's long-term management plan of the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Ski Trail Parcel as well as provide information for state-level planning.

My primary goal was an ecological assessment of the effects of gladed ski trails on wildlife habitat suitability. I used United States Fish and Wildlife Habitat Suitability Indexes as well as primary literature to analyze habitat suitability. I collected the vegetation data needed using Phase 2 and 3 protocols from the United States Forest Service Field Inventory and Analysis program. I collected data in randomly selected plots in a treatment (gladed) and a control (forested) area. Results suggest that there is an effect on the wildlife habitat suitability for species associated with the understory layer of the forest.

To create suggestions for best management practices on the parcel I contacted experts in glade management at Mad River Glen and at the United States Forest Service. I also reached out to FPR and their partners for support on developing an education program in Bolton. Short-term it will focus on formalizing trail maintenance of the parcel's trail system. Long-term it envisions using the parcel as a backcountry ski trail education hub.