One Tree at a Time – PMNRCD 2023 Planting Projects

Over the last few years, PMNRCD has annually planted around 4,000 trees and shrubs along streams in the Poultney Mettowee Watershed.  This past year was no exception, our planting crew kept busy! The trees being planted aid in the protection of water quality by reducing the amount of runoff containing excess nutrients from entering our waterbodies.  The plantings also serve many other goals including, stabilizing stream banks (reducing erosion), restoring native plant communities (Clayplain and Floodplain forests), re-establishing connectivity of habitat along riparian corridors, improving water quality, reducing flood damage and impact, and aiding in the storage of carbon.

Below are sites that we planted this season, all with different goals and partners. 

West Haven, VT

PMNRCD partnered with The Nature Conservancy to complete planting for the Clayplain Restoration Project at their West Haven site. The restoration site is in an area that historically has sustained one of the richest forests in Vermont, the Champlain Valley Clayplain Forest.  In addition to reestablishing the floodplain, water quality improvement was also a goal.  This site has clay soils, which can travel in small particles in surface water and contribute to the water quality issues in Lake Champlain.  Our nearby water quality monitoring site has comparatively high total phosphorus levels compared with the rest of the Poultney River watershed.

In Spring of 2023 the PMNRCD crew installed a 35’ to 50’ buffer (2,758 native trees and shrubs) along three small tributaries to the Hubbardton River.  The plant species were chosen for their current presence and success on site and the surrounding area, their value as Clayplain species, and their likelihood to survive moderate browse as they grow.  A variety of species were installed including viburnums, willows, and dogwoods, along with traditional masting species such as bur oak.

Due to historical deer browse in this area, planting was followed by significant maintenance to protect trees from high herbivory pressures while they get established.  All of the plants were mulched and flagged, and 400 stiff, 4’ tubes were installed on the larger trees.   The remaining stems were fitted with tree wraps and soap baggies.  In addition to individual tree protection, several of the plots were fenced in.

The planting is just one component of the TNC process-based restoration project.  This restoration approach re-connects waters with their floodplains through the addition of instream woody plant material to restore the hydrologic network and enhance the natural evolution of a river.  Work at this site included wood jam stream additions, the removal of old farm culverts, in-stream channel work, beaver dam analogs, and willow fascines.  
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Pawlet, VT

Sometimes, due to environmental conditions, sites take extra care to become established and fill out the original planting goals.  Restoration work at a site in Pawlet falls under this category.  The stream is a tributary to Beaver Brook, which has seen historical incision and widening, as well as aggradation.  The unnamed tributary runs most of the year and was previously channelized.  In 2020, funded by DEC, the landowners worked with the District to remove the berm that was present on the southern end of the stream and plant 7.4-acres of riparian buffer. The 100-foot buffer comprised of 2,085 native stems, and the berm removal has helped to accommodate an increase in sinuosity and nutrient filtration. 

Since 2020 installation, there has been extensive rodent damage throughout the planting, particularly in the lower section of the hay field.  In the spring of 2021, PMNRCD received funding for an additional 200 stems to be added to this location through a partnership with 350VT. Basic survival monitoring and limited maintenance (clearing around the most vulnerable stems in the lower field) has taken place through Pur Projet funding.  This monitoring showed a survival percentage of 60% of the original DEC funded plants. 

Through this project, PMNRCD planted a total of 399 new stems at the farm buffer restoration site and provided maintenance measures to combat rodent pressure between the 2022 and 2023 field seasons.  New stems were added throughout the planting area with focus on areas that had low survival rates recorded in 2021 during site monitoring.  Staff installed tree wrap to susceptible species and cleared plants by hand, pulling competing vegetation 1-2’ around the stem and tamping down vegetation in the surrounding area to reduce rodent habitat directly around the planted tree.

A goal for this site based on the chosen species and stewardship tactics used is that after this project the site will be considered stable without additional maintenance and have a high survival percentage carrying beyond this project. 

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Hubbardton, VT

Our Hubbardton restoration site is located just upstream of the Pelletier Dam, which was removed in Spring 2022.  The site is a former recreation pond that was filling with sediment. The old, marble dam was a barrier for fish and other aquatic species passage as well as sediment transport within the stream system.  North Breton Brook is a tributary of the Castleton River which flows westerly and joins the Poultney River in Fair Haven, VT.  The dam removal connected 37 miles of riparian habitat.  Following the dam removal, formerly inundated areas encompassing approximately 2 acres were opened up and in need of vegetation.  This planting was split between seasons, with some completed in the fall of 2022, and the rest completed in the spring of 2023.  This spaced timing allowed some plant material to get established in appropriate areas, while the stream channel stabilized during the first year following removal. 

Project partners include the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) with specific project collaboration through Karina Dailey, VNRC Restoration Ecologist and VT Dam Task Force Chair. VNRC provided planning oversight and assistance on site during volunteer days.  Additional planning support was provided through Fish and Wildlife, the owner of the property.  Will Eldridge and Shawn Goode were involved in plans to remove the dam and in oversight of the planting plan and will continue to be involved in discussions about seedling success.

The first half of this site was in the fall of 2022.  PMNRCD staff and volunteers from VNRC and VT Fish and Wildlife installed 370 bare root plants and 300 live stakes on the open stream banks.  Species added in the fall included white pine, black birch, silky dogwood, red osier dogwood, black willow, and shrub willow.  Most of the stems were set back from the stream’s edge, to allow time for further shifting of the stream’s channel and settling of sediment.  The planting was concluded with another volunteer day in Spring of 2023.  PMNRCD staff was assisted by a large group of volunteers from VNRC, installing an additional 350 bareroot stems.  Species added in the Spring of 2023 included arrowwood, red maple, speckled alder, and swamp white oak.  Volunteers were given a planting demonstration and PMNRCD staff made sure species were placed in appropriate locations suitable to their soil and water tolerances. 

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If you are interested in getting involved in our planting programs either through your own property or assisting during a volunteer day, let us know! Please contact Sadie Brown, sadie@pmnrcd.org, or Hilary Solomon, hilary@pmnrcd.org, for more information.

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These three projects were primarily funded through Trees for Streams, a state-wide program funded by an Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) grant through the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts and the Lake Champlain Basin Program.  Project contribution also included private funding through the organization Pur Project which focuses on agricultural land.

This project was funded by an agreement LC00A00394 awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee. Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection agency under agreement LC00A00394 to NEIWPCC, it has not undergone the Agency’s publications review process and therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, the LCBP Steering Committee, or EPA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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