Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 55.74
Liaison Karen Talentino
Submission Date May 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

Saint Michael's College
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Kristyn Achilich
Director and Instructor
Center for the Environment; Education
"---" 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, 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:

Saint Michael's is fortunate to own about 350 acres of land (SMC Natural Area) along the Winooski River adjacent to campus, whose natural communities include a floodplain forest with wetlands, as well as a nearby unique sandplain forest. The floodplain habitat is critical in reducing land erosion and maintaining the flow and quality of stormwater runoff into the river, which eventually drains into Lake Champlain (which is experiencing significant phosphate pollution as a result of runoff). In addition to conserving the entire 350 acres which includes considerable protected wetlands, Saint Michael’s College has also entered into an easement with NRCS USDA to manage 160 of the most critical of those acres as restored wetlands and riparian areas to maximize wildlife habitat and water quality benefits via a conservation easement with the Federal government. The College additionally agreed to collaborate with the USDA NRCS in the restoration of the wetlands and riparian areas within the easement.

There are also two protected areas located adjacent to land that Saint Michael's owns: (1) Next to the Natural Area described above, is the Woodside Natural Area administered by the Winooski Valley Park District which has very good plant and bird diversity and a rare scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea); and (2) adjacent to our residence campus is Gilbrook Natural Area which has several ponds and the main forest is a rare and endangered forest community in VT a pine-oak-heath sandplain forest (47 acres).


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

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:

We have not done a comprehensive assessment, but we are aware of a number of endangered and vulnerable species (and habitats):
-Silver Maple - Ostrich Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest
-Pine-Oak-Heath Sandplain Forest
Golden-winged Warbler Near Threatened
Eastern Meadowlark Near Threatened
Evening Grosbeak Vulnerable
Blackpoll Warbler Near Threatened
Rusty Blackbird Vulnerable
Chimney Swift Vulnerable


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:

Recent descriptions:
168 bird species have been documented in the Natural Area on the eBird site where the area is listed as a hotspot. In addition, 64 iNaturalist observers have documented 489 species of all sorts in the Natural Area, including 29 mammal species.
The Hohn report (2015) includes under the heading State-significant natural communities and rare species: a Silver Maple-Ostrich Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest “in good condition with towering cottonwood trees, few invasives, and a diverse set of herb species.” Hohn also reported that there is a small fragment of Pine-Oak-Heath Sandplain Forest.


The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

Complete bird checklists on eBird; 579 completed to date.
Informal studies and one more formal community assessment for SMC property on the Winooski River side of Rt. 15 was done on June 10, 2015 by Charlie Hohn who at the time worked for the VT Fish and Wildlife (with faculty member Peter Hope accompanying him).


A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):

The 2015 Hohn Report was a fairly comprehensive assessment of the natural area. Since then, the assessment data are obtained primarily by volunteers through eBird, or through visitors and classes that utilize the area and report their observations.


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

The easement described above does the following: protects wetlands, floodplain, and adjacent upland habitat. It removes 56 acres of floodplain erodable land from extractive agricultural production. An additional 11 acres were removed from agricultural production and are being reforested. Additional adjacent acreage is already federally protected wetland. The easement establishes restoration plans for wetlands and floodplain forest. It improves rare sandplain forest outside of the easement by removing white pines that are outcompeting pitch pines. The white pines will be used as large woody debris in the restored wetlands.
An invasive plant inventory of the easement has been completed and a management plan is being developed (see map)
Native tree and shrub plantings are being managed through a faculty member who is an expert on restoration; these plantings are done through coursework, research and volunteer activities. We are monitoring the success of the plantings.


Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :
50

Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

All of the data and information about the Natural Area and associated initiatives to promote biodiversity on our lands, is coordinated through the Center for the Environment. The Natural Area further has a coordinator who works directly with visitors, the NRCS USDA, local partners, and supports the overall use of the area for teaching and learning and research.

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.