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Join Us, Be Part of the ESH Project!

We’re going to do this project entirely with volunteer labor.  In the fall of 2013 we scheduled five work sessions; 39 people came out to help, many of them more than once.  We cleared about two acres on the former Meadow ski slope.  In the fall of 2014 we'll try to clear one more acre to widen the ESH area.  In the fall of 2015 we'll move our efforts over to the former Great White Way ski slope.  If you'd like receive an email when a work session is planned, click the Contact Us button and ask to be added to the ESH volunteer list.



Do You Own Woodland?  Create ESH on Your Property


Wildlife experts are deeply concerned about the loss of ESH in Vermont and around the country as agricultural land which was abandoned in the 20th century reverts back to forest in the 21st.  Several programs exist which can help landowners develop ESH on their land.  The federal government offers WHIP grants (Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program) to private landowners.  The Audubon Society offers assistance through its Forest Bird Initiative.

We’re using the former ski slopes as the sites for developing ESH because that lets us leave the existing mature forest untouched. (Click ESH Map to see proposed areas for ESH work.)  Why cut down mature trees to create ESH?  Instead, just give the former ski slopes with their rapidly aging ESH a hard haircut to rejuvenate the shrubby young growth that is so appealing to many kinds of wildlife.



As an added benefit, the 10-year rotation of cuts on the former ski slopes will mean that the fantastic views that skiers at Hogback loved for decades will be maintained for enjoyment by hikers, snowshoers, and backcountry skiers.  (We’re NOT re-opening the ski area, but backcountry skiers are welcome to make use of the openings that will be created by this habitat-enhancement effort.)

At the end of the cycle, we’ll assess the rapidity of the regrowth and decide whether to start in on another 10-year round of cutting, or whether to slow down to a longer cycle.


Red eft

by Bob Anderson

When the ski area closed down in 1986, the slopes gradually grew over with berries, bushes and small trees, and the wildlife loved it!  But by now, the growth on the former ski slopes is closer to forest than field, and if nothing is done, soon there won’t be any ESH left on the mountain.


The 10-year plan

We’re undertaking a 10-year plan to rejuvenate the ESH on the five major ski slopes on the mountain:  Meadow, Ripperoo, Sugar Slope, Practice Slope, and the Great White Way.  We started in the fall of 2013 by clearing Meadow.  We'll clear one of the other slopes every subsequent two years.  We’ll be generating a wide variety of different aged growths, so that animals and birds will always be able to find some appealing spot on the mountain to forage or shelter.


Not forest, not field, but that in-between stage where grasses, brambles, bushes, and young trees grow in thick profusion, that’s the condition known as early successional habitat (ESH).  Many birds court, nest, and raise their young exclusively in this type of environment.  Many mammals find rich sources of food  in ESH, for example bears in blackberry patches, or moose in young ash thickets.  Many other types of wildlife, from salamanders to butterflies, also thrive in this type of environment.

Red eft

by Bob Anderson

The ESH Project at HMCA Rejuvenating Habitat for Wildlife

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