About Brushwood Forest

The mostly forested area known locally as “Brushwood” is part of a larger contiguous forest block of approximately 26,268 acres. In the heart of Orange County, Vermont within the Connecticut River Valley lies over 26,000 acres known locally as "Brushwood Forest,". Over many years, several organizations have identified this area as a high priority for conservation. Consolidating the fragmented ownership pattern of the area has long been considered an important first step toward protecting this extensive regional forest. This expanse of forestland is one of the last large undeveloped forest blocks in the area. Its diverse natural communities, large wetland complexes, and vernal pools offer critical habitat for wildlife, while oak-dominated stands boast highly productive soil for forestry. The Brushwood Forest has linked people to their landscape for generations through a long history of private forest stewardship, recreation and environmental education.

Properties located within the Brushwood Forest region are the 1,400-acre Fairlee Municipal Forest and the 660-acre Bradford Water Commission land, separated by smaller, privately owned forest properties. With increasing pressure from residential development, this land is unlikely to remain a connected forest without proactive effort. Recognizing the opportunity to preserve this outstanding community resource, the Town of West Fairlee has partnered with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to establish the Brushwood Community Forest. This Community Forest, which could be as large as 1,200 acres, would connect the Fairlee Municipal Forest and Bradford Water Commission lands to create a lasting resource for forestry, habitat for wildlife, and recreational trails.

History and Local Support
Residents have been exploring the idea of creating a community forest in West Fairlee for decades. As early as 1971, the Orange County Natural Resources Technical Team proposed the creation of a West Fairlee municipal forest located along the Fairlee-West Fairlee town line in order to "consolidate the three properties into a [single, expansive] tract in public ownership."

Starting in 2008, West Fairlee town officials spearheaded a project to establish a Town Forest in part of the “Brushwood” forest block. Working in partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), five privately owned properties were purchased through funding by the Federal Forest Legacy (FLP) Grant Program. The project was the top-ranked priority for the Vermont Forest Legacy Program in 2008 and ranked #16 nationally by the US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP) - a conservation program authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). With the strong support of Leahy, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and US Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch, the project received $1.485 million in federal funds.A successful private capital campaign provided the one-quarter match required by FLP. Major donors included the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation Enhancement Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation - Upper Valley Region, The Aloha Foundation, and many other generous foundations and individuals.  The 470-acre property became known as Brushwood Community Forest (BCF).

Working with TPL again in 2011, West Fairlee purchased the Town of Bradford’s 580-acre former Municipal Water Department land located in the Town of Fairlee. The Brushwood Community Forest is permanently protected from development by conservation easements held by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (DFPR). An easement on a portion of the property is co-held by DFPR and the Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT).

Brushwood Community Forest’s 1055 acres now links with the existing, but separated, 1,573-acre Fairlee Municipal Forest to create more than 2,600 acres of conserved, unfragmented forestland. This critical forest block provides significant wildlife habitat and watershed protection, serves as a community resource for recreation, and its diverse forest types offer opportunities for sustainable timber harvesting to support the area’s traditional land-based economy.