MANCHESTER >> The more than 416,000 acres forming the Green Mountain National Forest is the largest contiguous public land area in the state. The national forest connects mountain landscapes with small-town settings. It's this juxtaposition of contrasting scenery that creates a strong sense of place for those living, visiting, and recreating in Vermont.
Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, like 51 other national forests in 25 eastern states, was created as a result of the Weeks Act passed by the United States Congress in 1911. The Weeks Act contributed significantly to the conservation of natural resources in the Eastern United States with nearly 20 million acres of land being brought into the national forest system. These acres were acquired either by purchasing properties or through land exchanges. The 20 million acres of National Forest system lands along with millions of acres of forested private and state lands across the Eastern United States provide valuable benefit to local communities. Some of the key public benefits include watershed protection, restoration of forests on public lands, and economic opportunities from forest products and recreation use.
Some general statistics from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources provide a basic picture of the forests and forest ownership within the State. The forested lands in Vermont cover nearly 80 percent of the state or approximately four and half million acres. Of this forested land, only 20 percent is publically owned with about eight percent of the public lands managed by the Green Mountain National Forest. As with the state's contrasting scenery, it's the juxtaposition of mixed ownership of the state's forests, between federal, state, municipal, and private, that demands an informed and knowledgeable public to grasp the importance and challenges these administrative boundaries play in the management of the state's natural resources.
The trees, plants, water, wildlife, and scenic vistas know no boundaries. On the other hand, the management of these resources is often times bound by these administrative lines of ownership. The United States Forest Service, along with many other organizations and individuals in the state of Vermont, work hard together to cooperatively and collaboratively manage the state's natural resources across ownership boundaries. It is often times difficult and challenging work with results that similarly don't always meet everyone's desires or expectations. The important thing to remember is the Forest Service and many others across the state are committed to constructive dialogue, engagement, and partnership in working through a public process to manage the state's forests.
The Green Mountain National Forest plays an important role in this process as it holds some of the state's most unique and diverse habitats and ecosystems as well as serving as the land base for many cherished recreation destinations in the state. These natural resources and recreation destinations contribute significantly to local economies as well as to the health and vigor of the state's natural resources. Some of the most notable recreation gems the Green Mountain National Forest has to offer include: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Long Trail, Catamount Trail, Robert Frost National Recreation Area, White Rocks National Recreation Area, Vermont Association of Snow Travelers snowmobile trail network, and several permitted alpine (Mount Snow and Bromley) and Nordic ski areas (Wild Wings and Prospect Mountain) within the forest's land base.
Over the coming months, the Manchester Ranger District will be highlighting and bringing attention to some of the resources managed, projects being planned and implemented, and recreation opportunities provided. If there is a particular natural resource management topic that you are interested in learning about or something you have always wondered about the Green Mountain National Forest, please let us know by stopping by our office at 2538 Depot Street, Manchester Center, VT, calling at 802.362.2307, or providing comment at the following web address: http://www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/gmfl/about-forest/contactus.
David Francomb is the District Ranger on the Green Mountain National Forest's Manchester Ranger District. He started work on the Manchester Ranger District in June 2015 and has worked for the United States Forest Service for 12 years. He came from the White River National Forest in Colorado and was previously working as a Deputy District Ranger on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.