The Ninevah Foundation is a conservation organization dedicated to promoting the wilderness character and tranquil nature of Lake Ninevah and over 3,200 acres of surrounding land in Mount Holly and Plymouth, Vermont. For nearly half a century, volunteers with the Ninevah Foundation (and its predecessor, the Wilderness Corporation) have collaborated with area residents and conservation specialists to keep both lake and land in their pristine, natural state. Lake Ninevah and its environs remain a wondrous place for people to enjoy and a wide array of wild animals to thrive.
This year’s annual report features the vital wildlife conservation project that is one of the Ninevah Foundation’s most important accomplishments: the bear corridor.
THE BLACK BEAR CORRIDOR
Since the mid-1990s, the Ninevah Foundation has contributed more than 2,700 acres to the Green Mountain Bear Corridor, a critical north-south wildlife passageway for black bears and other free ranging animals identified in the late 1980’s. The corridor connects the two units of the Green Mountain National Forest with other private and public conserved lands along the Green Mountains’ spine in south-central Vermont, protecting a 20,000-acre expanse of forest habitat for black bears and migratory animals to roam freely. (See map below). The Ninevah Foundation contributed to the corridor by conveying conservation easements on its lands to the Forest Legacy Program, a joint federal/state initiative to conserve environmentally important forests. Under Forest Legacy, property owners agree that their lands will remain undeveloped in perpetuity, protect important habitat and natural resources and grant the state a right of public access to the lands for non-motorized recreational activities.
The lands the Foundation contributed to the bear corridor are “extraordinary,” said Nancy Bell, who spearheaded the initiative as a member of the Shrewsbury Land Trust and now serves as Vermont and New Hampshire State Director for The Conservation Fund. “The Ninevah lands are extraordinary both in their placement in the corridor and the aggregated size of the parcels that were protected,” Bell said. “Lake Ninevah is just remarkable habitat, with the wetlands at the southern end, and the fact that the lake is central to the ridgelines along the Green Mountain spine.” (More on the importance of ridgelines below.)
The area’s calcium-rich soils and many streams and ponds, such as Tiny Pond, add to the area’s value as wildlife habitat, Bell noted. Natural resource studies have shown that the bear corridor is also very beneficial for plant communities, promoting seed dispersal and adaptation, which are ever more critical in the face of climate change.
Other partners in the Green Mountain Bear Corridor include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Mount Holly Conservation Trust, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Vermont Land Trust, the State of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
Bear with us while we share a few more facts about these iconic Vermont mammals.
Room to Roam
The Green Mountain Bear Corridor is critical for the black bears of south central Vermont (as well as free ranging animals such as moose) because bears need large, connected tracts of undeveloped lands to survive and thrive. Other than the first year the cubs stay with their mother, black bears have individual home ranges, coming together only to breed. And each black bear needs from six to 60 square miles of land for its home range, depending on the density of food, which in Vermont consists primarily a wide variety of omnivorous foods through the summer and acorns, beechnuts and apples in the fall. In addition, bears are especially intolerant of car traffic, so the absence of a major highway on the Foundation’s lands makes them especially important to the success of the Bear Corridor.
Bears prefer to travel along ridgelines and stream corridors and through wetlands. It’s their “highway system,” in a sense, and they have habitual pathways. The point on Route 103 marked by a bear crossing sign is a favorite route, thanks to the nearby ridgeline, some small streams and protected land on both sides of the road. “It’s rare to see them on crossings,” says Bell, “but your chances are better at dawn and dusk – black bears are crepuscular, being most active then.”
Only in fairy tales do bears hibernate in caves. In real life, they need a dry, protected, hollowed-out area, such as under a bank or in the cavity of a pile of brush. Black bears usually hibernate from November to April. To prepare, they add an additional 30% to their body weight in the fall. The amount of daylight determines when they emerge, but food must be plentiful – first-year cubs are still nursing.
Black bears have a remarkable reproductive system. Female bears conceive in June or July, but the clump of fertilized eggs goes into suspended animation until November. Then, if the bear has enough to eat, gestation begins and the cubs will be born after eight weeks. But if “mama bear” is not healthy, her body will absorb the eggs – nature’s way of protecting her to live and reproduce in the future, because if an unhealthy bear gave birth, she and her cubs might all die.
You can learn more about the Green Mountain Bear Corridor at http://www.conservationfund.org/projects/green-mountain-national-forest.
NINEVAH FOUNDATION 2015 HIGHLIGHTS
Six Foundation accomplishments made 2015 an especially significant year for the Lake Ninevah community.
- As always, the Foundation hired specialized divers to survey the lake several times last summer to look for Eurasian watermilfoil. We are thrilled to report that Lake Ninevah remains free of this invasive plant that has ruined many other Vermont lakes. The Foundation’s greeters were also on hand at the state fishing access every day from spring through fall, checking boats to make sure no milfoil “hitchhiked” in on boats from other lakes, and distributing educational materials to boaters.
- The summer-season “Know Your Wild Neighbors” wildlife education series at the Mount Holly Town Library was as popular as ever, drawing enthusiastic audiences for programs on songbird conservation and the humane trapping of furbearing animals. The series was organized by the Foundation and cosponsored by the Mount Holly Town Library, Mount Holly Conservation Trust, Wilderness Community, Inc. and Mount Holly Community Association.
- The Foundation also helped organize a potluck supper last August in Blakely Meadow, inviting everyone who enjoys Lake Ninevah to share their concerns about the lake. A new community group emerged from the event, the Ninevah Neighbors Network, and another “pass-the-dish” supper is scheduled for Saturday evening August 6 this year.
- The Foundation acquired the Townsend Barn from the Wilderness Community, Inc., which had scheduled the barn for destruction last fall. The Foundation received a grant under the state’s 2016 barn preservation program and is raising funds for needed repairs on the historic structure.
- The Foundation hired a team of specialists to map our conserved land’s “ecological assets.” A report on our findings will be available in 2016.
- The Foundation’s forester, Silos Roberts, is working with Paul Nevin to remove Japanese Knotweed on Foundation land, thus reducing the likelihood of this invasive plant will spread more than it already has to lake-area owners’ properties.
NINEVAH FOUNDATION SOURCES AND USES OF FUNDS 2015
|Contributions (capital campaign, annual appeal, and other donations)||$29,010|
|Grant income (funding from the Vermont Agency for Natural Resources to subsidize milfoil control)||$8,130|
|Property rental (principally from Farm & Wilderness for two camps: Saltash Mountain and Flying Cloud)||$33,467|
|Timber sales (sustainable timber harvesting)||$8,760|
|Interest, dividends and capital appreciation of reserve fund||$297|
|Land conservation (land purchase and related transactions)||$2,609|
|Natural resources stewardship (milfoil control, forest management, conservation easement monitoring and enforcement, property taxes)||$57,836|
|Education and recreation (summer forums, website, trails signage and maps, newsboards)||$14,367|
|Resource generation (volunteer recruitment and fundraising, including communication with core constituencies and donors)||$2,647|
|Management and general (insurance, reserve fund management fees, and administrative costs)||$39,843|
INCREASE (DECREASE) IN NET FINANCIAL ASSETS($37,638)
CONTRIBUTIONS OF TIME AND MONEY
Volunteers. In 2015, Ninevah Foundation Board of Directors and other volunteers spent hundreds of hours working to conserve Lake Ninevah as well as its shoreline and vistas, and to support greater public understanding of natural resource conservation. Special thanks to George Wood for heading up Lake Ninevah’s loon care work, and Paul Nevin, Marvin Weisbord and Denise and Richard Blake for leadership in organizing the emerging Ninevah Neighbors Network. The board includes Jerry Carney, Todd Daloz, Emily Hunter (liaison to the Forest Echo community), Bonnie Koenig, David Martin, Betsey McGee, Paul Nevin, Rob Schultz, Andy Schulz, Tim Snyder ex-officio (as liaison to the Wilderness Community Inc.) and Dano Weisbord.
Donations. The Ninevah Foundation gratefully acknowledges the donations made in 2015 by the following supporters of Lake Ninevah. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the following list. If we have inadvertently omitted or misspelled your name, please accept our deepest apologies and let us know.
Denise and Richard Blake
Mary Ann and Len Cadwallader
Jerry Carney and Ellen Deluca
Fra and Carol Devine
Amy Donovan and Tom O’Toole
Jim and Carol Edward
Rita and Warren Eisenberg
Margaret and Sam Fogel
David Green and Juliet Bianco
Sandy and Dan Glynn
David Green and Juliette Bianco
Tom Gutheil and Shannon Woolley
Matt Guttman and Conny Class
Dick and Wende Harper
Lois and Caleb Harris
Rick and Emmy Hausman
Janet and Craig Hayman
Anita and Axel Hoffer
Daniel and Meredith Hoffer
Deborah and David Hoffer
Marina Robinson Huyler
Danielle Jacobs-Erwin and Bryan Erwin
Carol Jeffery and Tom Bittner
Denise Johnson and Tom Wies
Bonnie Koenig and Gerry Rosenberg
Wendy Koenig and John Walter
Jim Luckett and Betty MacKenzie
Joan and Alistair McCallum
Steve and Nancy McDonald
Betsey McGee and Mark Pecker
Conner and Kate McGee
Scott and Cathy McGee
Adrienne and David Magida
Nick Marshall and Kate Flynn
Carolyn and Robert Munger
Martha and Eskandar Nabatian
Judy and Paul Nevin
Andrew and Maureen Nosal
Lydia Pecker and Carl Johnson
Stacie and Tuoc Phan
Padraic and Margaret O’Hare
Judith and Donald Raffety
Diane and Gerald Rogell
Saundra and Robert Rose
Diana & Martin Schwartz
Harry and Patricia Schwarzlander
Mauri Small and Andy Schulz
Sue and Mike Thacker
Catherine and Stuart Thomas
Carol and Dave Venter
Keay and David Wagner
Marianne and Michael Walsh
Dano Weisbord and Annie Leonard
Dawn and Bob Weisbord
Dorothy and Marvin Weisbord
Joe and Joyce Weisbord
Milt Wolfson and Patty Burrows
Steven Zeichner and Rachel Moon