Conservation Reaches New Heights

Conservation of lands has a long history at Smokey House Center. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Stephen and Audrey Currier began assembling what would become Smokey House Center by buying up farms and forest land surrounding their original farmstead property. Although modern conservation easements did not exist then, they built a de facto land trust by creating this large block of land. Their work was cut short by their tragic death, but the conservation continued under the administration of the Taconic Foundation.

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In 1995 the lands of Smokey House were conveyed from the Taconic Foundation to Smokey House Center. Then in 2003, after a thorough strategic planning process, the Board of Smokey House placed conservation easements on the major portion of the forest and agricultural lands, legally limiting use of the land in order to protect its conservation values in perpetuity. These easements are held by the New England Forestry Foundation. At that point, there were excluded a number of potentially developable lots that could be sold in the future, if needed. These were called “banked lots.”

Most recently, the Board has affirmed its commitment to conservation by voting to place conservation easements on the banked lots and also on the large Lewis Farm, a total of more than 300 acres of agricultural lands. The funds raised to conserve this acreage will be used to add to the equity funds for the farmers’ retirements, creating a new model for farming in Vermont, that of young farmers leasing affordable land while being able to save for a comfortable retirement.