View of the Middlebury campus and Green Mountains at sunrise.

As owner of several thousand acres of land in the Champlain Valley and Green Mountains, Middlebury College is committed to exemplary land stewardship.

Middlebury College’s land stewardship and conservation program is one of the hallmarks of our commitment to sustainability. We take seriously our responsibility to the land, the human community, and future generations, and we are honored to have the opportunity to teach students about land sustainability through classes, research projects, and our land stewardship interns program.

The Lands Advisory Committee is a group of faculty, staff, and students that is consulted by the Board of Trustees and the College’s administration regarding important land-use decisions on the College’s lands.

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Guiding Principles

Middlebury’s Land Stewardship Initiative established seven Guiding Principles that inform our use of land:

  • The College recognizes the importance of applying principles of environmental sustainability to the stewardship of its lands.
  • Land stewardship involves fiscally responsible decision making.
  • The College recognizes that College lands are parts of broader ecosystems and promotes practices that improve the biological integrity of those ecosystems.
  • The College recognizes the value of the traditional Vermont landscape and historically important land uses to Middlebury College and to the larger Vermont community.
  • The College recognizes that appropriate use of lands can help achieve broader sustainability goals, such as reduction of transportation impacts through development of land close to town centers, or reduction of carbon emissions through development of land for alternative energy sources.
  • The College recognizes the value of existing teaching and research sites and acknowledges the tremendous opportunities for experiential education across disciplines that exist in its network of landholdings.
  • The College embraces the ideal of compatible uses, recognizing that conservation and fiscal prudence are not mutually exclusive objectives, and resolves that responsible stewardship will carefully consider all of these guiding principles.

Community Benefits

It would be difficult to overstate the importance the institution’s landholdings have for the local environment. Institution-owned lands contribute to a variety of ecosystem functions—from water quality maintenance and carbon sequestration to biodiversity and wildlife habitat connectivity. The lands also contribute to the local economy and food and timber production. Agricultural land is leased to area farmers, and forested lands occasionally contribute to the forest products economy. The lands also contribute directly to Middlebury’s educational mission, as they are used by Middlebury and local K–12 classes and for student and faculty research.

In land stewardship, the College strives to look broadly across all lands and manage competing outcomes and interests. To that end, the College has made a special effort to document the ecological and agricultural value of its lands, so that it can responsibly assess the impacts to competing values when evaluating prospective land-use decisions.

The College leases approximately 1,700 acres to local farmers. We are committed to maintaining and, where necessary, improving soil and water quality on the agricultural lands and ensure that lessees uphold the Vermont Required Agricultural Practices on all of our lands.

Bread Loaf Campus

The College’s 2,000 acres at and around the Bread Loaf campus were conserved with the Vermont Land Trust in 2015. The conservation easement ensures, in perpetuity, the four primary purposes: conserving ecosystem health and integrity to maintain natural conditions of the forests and wetlands; conserving and protecting outdoor recreational resources; conserving and protecting features of the property that support our educational mission and programs; and preventing the use or development from adversely affecting the resources, values, and features of the lands. The easement’s purposes also include conservation and protection of the scenic, open space, and historic and cultural resources of the lands.

Rare, uncommon, and exemplary natural communities and species occur on the College’s lands at Bread Loaf and other mountain locations as well as in the Champlain Valley. These values have been mapped and documented by faculty and students. The maps and reports help guide land-use and management decisions, and were instrumental in creating stricter protection zones for the most ecologically important portions of the conserved lands.

Included in the College landholdings is a National Natural Landmark, Battell Research Forest, on old-growth northern hardwood-hemlock forest. Research at the forest expands our knowledge of intact forest systems in northeastern North America, where few examples of forest that has never been logged exist. Battell Research Forest is an important research site for classes, long-term faculty research, and student theses.

Otter Creek

The College also stewards part of the Otter Creek Swamps complex, a phenomenally diverse wetland system with deep-peat, red maple-northern white cedar swamps, floodplain forests of several natural community types, silver maple-green ash swamps, clayplain forest islands, and much more. 

Jackson Lands

Another part of the College lands is the 377-acre Jackson Lands in Cornwall just west of campus. Generously gifted to the College in 2012, the woods, fields, and ponds provide a multitude of educational, wildlife conservation, agricultural, and recreational uses.

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