University of Vermont

Alum Pamela Johnston Brings Stewardship Experiences to Vermont Land Trust

Graduate alum profile

Alum Pam Johnston is stewardship manager for Vermont Land Trust's southwest region
Alum Pam Johnston is stewardship manager for Vermont Land Trust's southwest region

Pamela Johnston Burlingame (MS-NR '11) brought much of her know-how in land stewardship from her graduate work in ecological planning, along with plenty of other environmental experience, to the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) in February 2012. Headquartered in Montpelier, Vermont, VLT conserves land for the future of Vermont. As the regional stewardship manager for the Southwest Region, Pam works out of Poultney, Vermont to help VLT and landowners and communities conserve agricultural and forest land in the southwestern portion of the state.

A native of Oregon's Willamette Valley, Pam acquired an early appreciation for the agricultural landscape and was attracted to Vermont for its agricultural land use history and strong local food movement. Before coming to Vermont, she earned her BS in biology from the University of Oregon, assisted scientists studying behavior of alpine partridges in the Alps of Austria and Italy, and taught marine science to middle schoolers at an outdoor science school on the Oregon coast.

Pam then brought her teaching skills to Danby, Vermont where she engaged middle schoolers in environmental field studies at the Smokey House Center. For Vermont’s Poultney-Mettowee Natural Resource Conservation District, she educated landowners about local water quality issues, and at the Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vermont, she assisted with their maple sugaring operation.

With a desire to become more immersed in land conservation, Pam enrolled in the Rubenstein School’s master’s program and focused on ecological planning with advisor Associate Professor Deane Wang. She conducted ecological inventories and other field work for several organizations including VLT. For her master’s project, with the Northeast Wilderness Trust, she assessed landscape connectivity for large mammals such as black bear, bobcat, and fisher in the mid-Champlain Valley and compiled recommendations for landowners and managers interested in enhancing wildlife movement on their agricultural properties.

"I focused on farm lands because much of the wildlife connectivity work has targeted forested areas, and I wanted to look at it through a different lens. My project made me more aware of how different ecological concerns can be approached through conservation methods such as land easements," she notes.  "I'm glad that the Vermont Land Trust is giving attention to large mammal connectivity, sometimes as a primary purpose of an easement."

Pam acknowledges Lecturer Walter Poleman's Place-Based Landscape Analysis course for helping her to connect the social and ecological sides of land stewardship and teaching her how to best put all the diverse pieces together to conserve a place. Professor Austin Troy's GIS (geographic information systems) class enhanced her mapping and technical skills which are also much used in her job.

For VLT, she confirms property boundaries, researches land deeds, photo documents properties, sweeps for ecologically significant features, and interviews landowners about land use history on newly conserved properties and does yearly monitoring of 240 already conserved lands, ranging from 2 to 800 acres. "It rolls right off my ecological planning experience doing natural resource inventories," says Pam. "Between alone time in the woods or fields, home office time mapping, and my interactions with landowners helping them steward their properties, I have the best of all worlds. I interact with a real diversity of people from sixth generation Vermont dairy farmers to second home estate owners."

"As a resident of Vermont's Southwest Region, I know there is a rich history of agriculture and forest land that landowners take great pride in. I hope to bring my knowledge of the area to my work with landowners to ensure their commitment to conservation," states Pam. When away from work, Pam can be found fiddling, searching for caves and wild edibles, or gardening with her husband Josh and their flock of chickens in East Poultney.