Westfield dairy farmers help protect nearly 40 acres for clean water

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WESTFIELD — Over 38 acres of wetlands and land along the Missisquoi River, including over a mile of river frontage, are now protected thanks to dairy farmers Robert and Joanne Bathalon.

The Bathalons, working with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, took farm pasture out of active use in order to permanently protect and restore the land for clean water, erosion control, improved habitat, and flood resilience.

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The river will be able to flow naturally across this large area and change its course without obstruction.

“Allowing the river the freedom to flow across low-lying land and neighboring wetlands will reduce flood damage by slowing down the water during major storms,” said VLT’s Stewardship Director, Cara Montgomery. “Projects like these are furthering clean water efforts throughout the state.”

The Bathalons run an organic dairy.

The land they protected for clean water is part of the 157-acre farm they conserved in 2008.

They’ve owned the farm since 1999 when they purchased the property from Robert’s father.

The conservation easement requires that land within 50 feet of the river be kept naturally vegetated.

Very few areas of the newly protected riverside land are currently well forested.

The Bathalons are working with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a wooded area there.

Funding for the river corridor easement was provided in part by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, which has identified the Missisquoi River as a priority for stream protection and water quality efforts.

“This project is a great example of willing landowners who were open to a larger protection and restoration project of important wetland and river corridor functions,” said Staci Pomeroy, river scientist with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. “It showcases how partners and landowners can develop a project that works to meet landowner’s interests and needs, along with achieving goals to help improve river and wetland conditions in their area.”

Pomeroy says through participation in the River Corridor Easement program, this location in the river system will provide important water quality, habitat, and flood resiliency benefits to the larger Missisquoi River and Lake Champlain, today and into the future.”

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