Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 81.82
Liaison Ryan Ihrke
Submission Date Feb. 23, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Green Mountain College
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Ryan Ihrke
Director of Sustainability
Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

The Poultney River has been designated an “Outstanding Resource Water” by the state of Vermont, and the lower Poultney River is bordered by TNC’s Buckner Preserve. The College campus is upstream of the TNC segment, but the conservation activities of the College have an impact on the downstream quality of the river.

Most of the 39 acre natural areas on the 123 acre main campus lies on the Poultney River floodplain. A portion of this land is classified as Class 2 Wetland, and wetlands along part of the northern edge of campus are part of extensive wetlands (shrub swamps and cattail marsh) to the north. Class 2 wetlands are on national wetland inventory maps, and are legally protected from development. Rare plants and
animals have been documented on campus by the Vermont State Agency of Natural Resources.

Protected wetlands on campus and to the north include a variety of plant community types associated with the Poultney River floodplain. Along the river shore there are erosional river bluffs, and river-sand-gravel shores. Silver maple-ostrich fern riverine floodplain forest grows in the frequently-flooded flats near the river. Further from the river, wetlands occupy depressions left by past flooding events, and old river channels. Cattail marsh, alluvial shrub swamp, and alder swamp can be found there.

The College’s 85-acre Lewis Deane Nature Preserve, off campus, is protected by a conservation easement owned by the Vermont Land Trust. The Preserve rises steeply to the west from a small headwater stream, Endless Brook, on sand and gravel of glacial origin, to the top of St. Catherine Mountain with thin soils over slate. In addition to a small old field near the brook and very small pockets of wetland conditions along the brook and in seeps and vernal pools, there are about twelve upland plant communities, dominated by northern hardwood forest, white pine-northern hardwood forest on a sandy glacial deposit, and hemlock-northern hardwood forest and hemlock forest on steep northeast-facing slopes in thin soil. Rich northern hardwood forest occurs at the foot of steep slopes, along with mesic red oak-northern hardwood forest and mesic maple-ash-hickory-oak forest. The ridge-top has dry oak-hickory-hophornbeam forest and dry oak forest. On the upper southwest-facing bluffs there are small but significant stands of red pine woodland, temperate acidic outcrops, and temperate acidic cliffs. As in much of this region of Vermont, land was probably cleared to the ridgetop during the 1845-1855 boom years for sheep grazing, but the presence of some trees pre-dating this time period on steep bluffs may indicate that difficult-to-reach patches of forest were never cut. Most of the preserve is fairly mature second-growth forest today.


Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

The College has conducted biotic assessments of the Poultney River segments that run through campus during the fall of 2015 and 2013 for fish and invertebrate communities. The aquatic assessment uses EPA’s Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for use in wadeable streams (fish, invertebrate, periphyton, habitat). The assessment will continue on a two-year cycle.

For example, since 1996 and continuing through the fall 2016 semester, botany students have searched main campus for plants. Their collections are in the Green Mountain College Herbarium. Similarly, collections document the flora for Deane Nature Preserve.
Birds and mammals are documented, both by students in the ornithology class and other biology courses, and by the independent work of faculty and students.

In all cases, communities are mapped, showing which ones are rare on campus. In the region, the plant communities found at the top of the preserve are most rare, being limited in Vermont to warm, well-drained southern exposures.

Long-term studies by students in ecology, botany, aquatic ecology, and others provide good data on some natural areas. However, the best methods for identifying rare species or sensitive areas have been larger independent studies by students and by faculty. For example, an independent study on the seedless vascular plants of Deane Preserve revealed the presence of several uncommon fern species for the first time.


A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

No endangered species are identified within the river on campus, though the lower Poultney does contain several rare mussel species as well as some Vermont threatened minnow species. The degree to which these remain viable depends upon conservation activities of all the upstream landowners. Primary consideration within the river is sediment and bank stability.

Among the plant communities listed for Deane Nature Preserve, dry oak-hickory-hophornbeam forest, dry oak forest, red pine woodland, temperate acidic outcrops, and temperate acidic cliffs are the most rare in the region. Their rarity is related to their association with dry, warm, well-drained conditions, more common in the central and southern Appalachians, or in prairie regions in the upper Midwest where some of the species here become more common. Fire is not the major ecological factor in most Vermont plant communities that it is in many other regions, but in these dry oak and red pine communities, we find species with adaptations to surface fire, including thick bark.

Information on rare species at the Dean Nature Preserve originates from Ruth Larkin's study:
Larkin, Ruth. 2010. Up on the mountain: a natural and cultural history of the Lewis Deane Nature Preserve. Senior Study for Green Mountain College.


A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

The Poultney River Buffer Zone is a natural area preserve on the Green Mountain College campus alongside the Poultney River, generally occupying land within 35 meters of the annual high-water line. The buffer zone was approved by the College in 1997 to improve stream habitat, reduce bank erosion, restore floodplain forest, provide a corridor for movements of animals and plants, reduce overland flow of non-point source pollution from agricultural fields and other land uses, protect scenic and recreation values, and provide field sites for courses and research at the College.

The College expanded protection of habitat with its Natural Areas Policy (2006) that set guidelines for Leave-No-Trace use of the Buffer Zone and all other campus lands outside designed-built areas and the college farm, about one third (39 acres) of the main campus. At the same time, the college adopted its Invasive Species Control Policy (2006) to establish methods for monitoring and reduce the impact of introduced species on native species.

GMC maintains natural ecosystem values at its 85-acre Deane Nature Preserve south of the main Poultney campus. The preserve is protected by a conservation easement owned by the Vermont Land Trust, and by a board of the preserve that includes college and town representatives. The board conducted a multi-year planning process for the preserve that led to adoption of the Deane Nature Preserve Plan in April 2012. Management under the plan aims to preserve natural values, including native species and plant communities. The plan allows for land management practices in the future that serve species or other resource management objectives consistent with maintaining native species and communities and education goals. Non-native plant species at the preserve are managed under the Invasive Species Control Policy for the main campus.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Information in this section was provided by Professors Meriel Brooks and Jim Graves.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.