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Cahill Property

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

When Dale Cahill began farming his land in East Fairfield, VT, he cleared it of brush and trees to create fields that he could use for hay and corn. Years later, after his children had left home and he was ready to stop farming, he wasn't sure what to do with those same fields that he once cleared for agriculture. With the help of USDA Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS), Dale made the choice to convert the land back to its natural state. Now his property is home to a restored wetland and a forested Creek and Dale loves "the beauty and the increase of birds” and wildlife he has now as a result. 


Changes to the Land


Initially Dale agreed to "riparian buffer" tree plantings along the Black Creek, which flows through his land and eventually reaches the Missisquoi River. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service was involved in the project early on and suggested that Dale's property had opportunities for wetland restoration in addition to planting trees.

The end result included three excavated wetlands, taking the form of kidney bean-shaped depressions in the land. After construction they almost immediately filled with water, restoring the hydrology of the site and creating wildlife habitat. Dale's fields had also previously been ditched for crops. These ditches helped get water off the fields quickly so Dale could plant crops sooner in the season, but were not part of the area's natural hydrology. The restoration project involved constructing a ditch plug and filling in part of these ditches, then seeding the bare earth to create a flat, vegetated surface that would absorb water without draining it from the wetland area. All of this work was done in the fall of 2008 with Dale's full support.


Before: the site in 2008 when it was still an agricultural field

photo credit: VT Department of Environmental Conservation

Completed Restoration Aerial View.JPG

After: the site in 2009 after wetland restoration. The wetlands are already visible as frozen ponds.

photo credit: VT Department of Environmental Conservation

Planting Trees

In addition to the restored wetland area, the Missisquoi River Basin Association (MRBA) helped plant a 35 to 50 foot buffer along Black Creek. These plantings prevent runoff from reaching the creek, shade the water to improve wildlife habitat, and help control erosion, among many other benefits. In total, roughly 18 acres of trees and live willow stakes were planted with 4,000-5,000 stems in 2008 and 2009. The MRBA was already familiar with Dale's property, and had planted roughly 400 trees there in the late 1990's. Helping out with a larger restoration project like this was a great opportunity to revisit the land in pursuit of a larger goal.


Wetland in 2019

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Wetland and shrubbery in 2019

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"There was no downside"

Dale can now look out from his porch to see the trees and shrubs planted back in 2008 and 2009. Though he loves the beauty and wildlife, the choice to do the project was ultimately financial. As he put it, "if you can get paid to clean up water you can do two good things. I'm making an awful lot of oxygen and I have a small carbon footprint with all the carbon I take in here.” The Conservation Reserve Program (CREP) that the trees were planted under typically leases the land from farmers for 10-15 years, paying a yearly sum to the landowner. In this way it made financial sense for Dale to restore his land: "There was no downside to do any of the programs in my book.”


Digging the wetland in 2008

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


The same wetland in 2011

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Restoration Partners: 

This project  involved the partnership of the VT Agency of Natural Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Missisquoi River Basin Association to restore and protect 25 acres of wetland habitat. The wetland restoration was funded through what was then the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) through NRCS. US fish and wildlife service did the survey, design, and construction oversight for the WRP program. The riparian buffer work was funded and completed as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CREP), and Partners for Fish and Wildlife covered 10%.


This story was produced with the generous support of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

This project was funded by an agreement LC00A00394 awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee.

Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection agency under agreement LC00A00394 to NEIWPCC, it has not undergone the Agency’s publications review process and therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, the LCBP Steering Committee, or EPA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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