The purchase aims to bolster chances of salmon returning to the river
By Mike Lynch
The Adirondack Land Trust has purchased a conservation easement in Willsboro that will protect close to 300 acres of farmland and more than two miles of shoreline on the Boquet River.
The land is located on part of the Ben Wever Farm on Mountain View Drive. It is owned by the Gillilland family and operated by Willsboro Supervisor Shaun and Linda Gillilland, along with their daughter, Chauntel, and her husband, Pierre-Luc Gélineau.
The easement will limit development and other land uses to conserve habitat for grassland birds, preserve pastoral lands that contribute to the character of the Champlain Valley, protect natural river and streamside forests that help shade and filter freshwater habitat for fish and retain viable agricultural soil important to the local food system, according to the land trust.
The land trust paid $576,000 for the 294 acres, using grant funding from The Nature Conservancy.
Adirondack Land Trust Executive Director Mike Carr praised the scenic view across Ben Wever farm to the river, Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains.
The Gillilland family purchased the property in 2006 from Ben Wever, whose family had been farming it since 1829. Wever died in 2013.
“He had me promise to keep it as a farm, and I gave him my word that I would do that as long as I was around,” Shaun Gillilland said.
The Gillillands have used the land as a ranch, raising grass-fed chickens, cattle and sheep for meat. They also train horses on the property and are using it for composting.
Gillilland said he practices regenerative grazing with his sheep and cattle.
“We’ve always been very conscious of keeping animals out of the streams and rivers and those kinds of things,” he said.
The Boquet River is a major tributary of Lake Champlain that drops 2,700 feet over its 47-mile course from the High Peaks to Lake Champlain.
Scientists and conservatorships have been working for years to restore a self-sustaining landlocked Atlantic salmon population in the Boquet River. Redds, which are nests created by female salmon to lay their eggs, have been found near this section of the river.
The purchase aims to bolster chances of salmon returning to the river.
“This project honors the region’s bucolic landscape and way of life while also providing a lifeline for salmon between the lake and river,” Carr said.
The easement was lauded by David Minkoff, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, because it protects spawning habitat for salmon and brook trout.
“This significant conservation easement will help facilitate our continuing efforts to restore riparian and wetland habitats in the watershed and re-establish river connectivity for migratory fish,” Minkoff said.
A Nature Conservancy analysis ranks the Boquet River watershed as having high potential for climate resiliency, according to the land trust. The conservancy provided funding to the Adirondack Land Trust for this project, in part through a grant awarded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.