294 acres of farmland with more than two miles of natural forest along the Boquet River and associated tributaries, have been brought under a permanent conservation easement in a deal between the Adirondack Land Trust and the landowners, the Gillilland family.
The Boquet River, a major tributary of Lake Champlain that drops 2,700 feet over its 47-mile course from the Adirondack High Peaks to the lake, provides critical spawning habitat for salmon and other native fish.
The land is part of the Ben Wever Farm on Mountain View Drive operated by Shaun and Linda Gillilland, along with their daughter, Chauntel, and her husband, Pierre-Luc Gélineau. The farm raises grass-fed cattle, sheep, and chickens and includes an equestrian business.
Through conservation easements acquired by the Adirondack Land Trust for $576,000 with funding provided by The Nature Conservancy, development and other land uses are limited for the purpose of conserving the following:
- habitat for grassland birds
- viable agricultural soil important to the local food system
- pastural lands that contribute to the character of the Champlain Valley
- natural river and streamside forests that help protect freshwater habitat for fish and bolster climate resiliency
“The conversation about protecting our family farmland started with fish. Over the years, I have supported Atlantic salmon restoration work along the Boquet River in various ways, including the removal of a dam. We are as delighted to help conserve salmon habitat as we are to keep our promise to Ben Wever that the land he sold us would continue as a family farm just as it has been since 1829,” said Shaun Gillilland in an announcement sent to the press.
Lake Champlain’s land-locked population of Atlantic salmon was decimated in the 1800s. After various attempts since the 1970s to restore this species, naturally reproduced salmon fry were confirmed in 2016 and 2017 in the Boquet River in New York and the Winooski River in Vermont.
One year after the Saw Mill Dam in Willsboro was removed in 2015 to restore upstream Boquet River habitat, salmon nests, called redds, were found upstream above the confluence of the river’s main stem and north branch, near the newly conserved property.
A Nature Conservancy analysis ranks the Boquet River watershed as having high potential for climate resiliency. The science-based nonprofit has in recent years improved habitat for coldwater fish like brook trout and salmon by removing a dam and improving culverts.
As further investment in this watershed, The Nature Conservancy has provided funding to the Adirondack Land Trust for this project, in part through a grant award by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
The mission of the Adirondack Land Trust is to forever conserve the forests, farmlands, waters and wild places that advance the quality of life of our communities and the ecological integrity of the Adirondacks. The land trust has protected 27,606 acres since its founding in 1984.
Illustrations, from above: Aerial view of intact forests along the North Branch of the Boquet River on the Ben Wever Farm property; and map of Boquet River reclaimed salmon habitat after 2015 Saw Mill Dam removal (provided by Adirondack Land Trust/Becca Halter).