On December 16, Susan Baker signed documents protecting her 212 acre property, located off Sawnee Bean Road in Strafford. She did this in honor and memory of her late husband, Chas Baker, who purchased the land and invested his time and energy in developing and maintaining a sugarbush and sugarhouse on the property. The conservation easement, now held by the Upper Valley Land Trust, will prevent future development of the land.
For the last several years, Susan Baker has leased the property to other local sugar-makers, most recently Tig and Elise Tillinghast. "Although I never met Chas Baker, sugaring this property over the past two years has, in a way, given me a chance to get to know him a little. His love for the sugarbush is obvious from how he maintained it, and he put a lot of thought into how he would like it to develop in the future,” says Tig Tillinghast. According to the Tillinghasts, the sugarbush has recently yielded about 520 gallons of syrup annually. The property is completely wooded, except for a five acre state-mapped Class II wetland, locally known as Cook’s Swamp, which is situated on the lower portion of the property between Cook’s Hill and Davidson Hill. Presently the wetland is actively used by beavers. Moose, deer, fox, and more than 40 documented species of bird also frequent the property.
According to Elise Tillinghast, "One of the great aspects of this property is the prime bird habitat, and it's something we've had fun exploring with more knowledgeable people. For example, this past year, Audubon biologists identified three mated pairs of Canada Warblers, a fairly uncommon songbird that's in decline throughout its breeding range.” Due to the role it plays in providing valuable bird habitat, Audubon Vermont has been supportive of the property’s protection.The parcel is distinguished by its proximity to other protected lands. It is located about one half mile east of the 924 acre State of Vermont's Podunk Wildlife Management Area and in close proximity to more than 850 acres of other conserved land in Strafford and Thetford. Some of Susan Baker’s recently conserved land abuts hayfields used by a local family. In addition, the protected scenic hillside is visible in areas of Thetford and New Hampshire. Overall, the conservation of this land will help to support healthy wildlife populations, provide scenic open space and ensure the availability of local maple syrup for years to come.
To learn more about the Tillinghast's sugaring operation, please visit http://www.freshmaplesyrup.com/
The Tillinghasts posted a blog entry about the conservation of this land, read it at http://www.freshmaplesyrup.com/maple-sugar-bush-permanently-conserved/