CATS purchase allows for a trail to connect Coon Mountain and Split Rock Wild Forest.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) purchased two parcels of land from the Lewis Family Farm that conserve important wildlife habitat and provide for public hiking trails. The larger 87-acre tract, located between Lakeshore and Angier Hill Roads in Westport, is the key woodland parcel linking Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest and Coon Mountain Nature Preserve. This secures essential habitat connectivity in the Split Rock Wildway wildlife corridor that connects Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks.
The transaction also involved a 12-acre property in Essex with extensive frontage on the Boquet River. It contains riverside forest, riparian wildlife habitat, and an old farm field reverting to woods. Conserving these lands will protect the habitat and remove the threat of runoff from logging and farming too close to the river.
“The Lewis Farm’s Westport property has been a long-time conservation target because it is where animals that prefer woodlands move between the largest protected forest on Lake Champlain and interior timberlands,” Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director said. “It also secures the opportunity to have a trail for people to hike or ski between two of the central Champlain Valley’s most popular natural areas.”
Sandy Lewis said his family understood well the benefit of establishing a natural corridor for wildlife between the lake and the mountains.
“I was pleased to make the sale,” he said. “CATS is putting together some beautiful trails. This is a key property we sold them.”
Protecting habitat connectivity is supported by the work of conservation biologists who have proven through the “Island Effect” that natural areas lose plant and animal species when they are not connected by natural habitat. The Lewis property is in a narrow forested corridor connecting Split Rock Wild Forest to Coon Mountain and the forests beyond. So if the Lewis property had been developed into houses or cleared of its trees, it would have seriously hindered wildlife movement and led to loss of species at these preserves.
“We thank the Lewis Family Farm for contacting us when they considered selling these tracts,” said Maron. “We also thank Open Space Institute, Northeast Wilderness Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Land Trust, Eddy Foundation, and the State of New York for protecting other key properties in the Split Rock Wildway and for articulating the importance of conserving habitat connectivity.”
“We are especially pleased with this acquisition because it secures public access to these two properties,” CATS board chair, Katharine Preston, said. “We look forward to when people can hike or ski from Coon Mountain to Split Rock Wild Forest and then continue on trails up to Essex, Willsboro, and Keeseville. I’m also excited by the idea of having a self-guided interpretive nature trail on the Boquet River tract so we can all learn more about rivers, clean water, and streamside ecology.”