The Massey Property: Why its conservation matters

The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association is raising funds to preserve a large parcel of forest and ponds in southern Vermont. The Massey property covers more than 600 acres in Brookline, Athens, and Townshend, just west of the Pinnacle ridgeline and directly within view from the Pinnacle summit.

This land is important to conserve because its forest offers habitat for bear and moose, and its two pristine ponds are home to beaver colonies, a heron rookery, and several species of ducks. Its wetlands and vernal pools support the endangered Northern bulrush and other uncommon plants. Wood turtles, a species of conservation concern in Vermont, live on the property in the watershed of Grassy Brook. Development is already encroaching into the adjoining valley and ridge, and acquiring the Massey property will permanently protect it from being developed.

The entire property is part of a priority habitat block for the state, and it connects to another large conserved area to the south. Allowing the trees to continue to grow on this tract will capture carbon from the atmosphere to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The history of the property

Formerly owned by the late Jim Massey of Westminster West, the land is now in the hands of his nephews in Ohio. The purchase price of $500,000 is hefty, but the owners have agreed to sell to the Pinnacle below the appraised value of $610,000. They want to carry out their uncle’s wish that it be conserved. Raising funds to meet the purchase price is a challenge that the Pinnacle is meeting head-on, with growing momentum.

A pristine pond on the Massey Property

One of the two pristine ponds on the Massey Property. Photo: Camilla Roberts

Forest path on the Massey Property

A forested path on the Massey Property. Photo: Camilla Roberts

This acquisition may be the most ambitious conservation project undertaken by WHPA. It is arguably the most important because of its size, location, and the present and potential connections to other large blocks of protected land. It will be an enormous gift to future generations, as our climate changes and many species (including our own) seek new habitat. Its conservation will guarantee that the land stays undeveloped so the beaver can build and the heron can nest. Not to mention our own pleasure in seeing the familiar green hillside in the foreground as we look from the Pinnacle summit toward Stratton and beyond.

Long-term goals and provisions for the land

Once WHPA meets our fundraising goal, we will secure a conservation easement to preserve the land in perpetuity, then establish a trail for low-impact public access. We will manage and protect this property primarily for wildlife and ecological health.

We are researching management approaches to mitigate the impacts of climate change into the future. The WHPA Management Plan does not cut trees for timber sales, but instead manages for diverse and healthy, mature forests, while sequestering significant amounts of carbon as trees grow older and larger.

WHPA invests into a stewardship endowment for each property acquired, to generate interest for payment of annual property taxes and insurance costs. We have made a stewardship endowment goal of $135 per acre for this property, and have already received planned giving commitments for nearly half the total amount needed. Learn more here about planned giving and other ways to support our conservation work.

Map of the Massey Property