Plant Communities

An Overview of the Vegetation of Williston

Sitting at the foothills of the Green Mountains, the landscape of Williston serves as a transition zone between the Champlain Valley and the surrounding uplands. Due to this geological and topographical variation, as well as the human presence on the landscape, Williston’s vegetation varies widely from working agricultural fields, to large forested tracts, to forests fragmented by roads and buildings, in the more developed areas of town. The current patchwork of forest, field, and development sets the stage for people to work and recreate on the local landscape, as well as for wildlife to live on and travel across Williston in search of food and shelter.

Historically, the town’s land changed from being heavily forested in pre-settlement times, to heavily deforested from the late 1700’s to the mid 1900’s due to clearing for agriculture. Williston’s landscape has experienced a different type of change since the mid-1900s, as agricultural use has declined in the area and suburban development has rapidly increased. While many abandoned pastures and fields have reverted back into forest during this period, others have been developed into impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots. The future vegetative composition of Williston may also be affected by climate change, as plant species present in the region shift due to warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.

Williston’s Forests

The forests of Williston make up a particularly important part of the town’s landscape. At least 13 tree families and 43 tree species occur in Williston, as shown in the native tree species table. Nearly 45% of the land in Williston is forested, totaling approximately 8,780 acres. Of those forested acres, over 2,000 are considered core forest—forest that is located more than 100 meters from a build structure, road, driveway, or anthropogenic forest edge boundary. Core forest serves as potential habitat for wildlife species that are particularly sensitive to human disturbance, such as bear or moose. There are 29 core forest areas in Williston, including the forests around Five Tree Hill (known as Gramma Ridge) and near Lake Iroquois. The largest core forest patch in Williston, totaling nearly 400 acres, lies in the northeast corner of the town.

Land in Current Use

Eighteen properties in Williston have a portion of their land enrolled in Vermont’s Current Use Program, totaling 953.5 acres. This acreage includes land that is actively being worked for either forestry purposes. The Current Use Program, administered through Vermont’s state government, provides disincentives to develop land by basing tax rates on the productive value of land rather than on its development value. For more information contact the Vermont Department of Taxes Current Use Program at (802) 828-5869, by e-mail at vttaxdept@tax.state.vt.us, or visit http://www.vermontagriculture.com/currentuse.htm.

Williston’s Urban Forest

In 2005, the town of Williston conducted an inventory and assessment of its urban forest – including trees in public right-of-ways, municipal property, and parkland. In particular, the town’s focus was on the health of trees of five subdivisions and the Taft Corners area, the Town Hall and adjacent Old Brick Church area, Brennan Park, and the Community Park. In the fall of 2005, data on tree species, size and condition was collected for over 1,000 trees within these areas of town. An overwhelming majority of the trees inventoried were in good health, and seventy-three percent were either maple (Acer species) or ash (Fraxinus species). The town has and will continue to use these findings to set priorities and plan for Williston’s future urban forest.

Big trees

While most forested areas of Williston have been logged multiple times, there are a number of old, big trees that pepper the town’s landscape. Many of these larger “wolf” trees—old, big trees with spreading branches—mark the locations of historic fence lines, fields, and property boundaries. These living legacies provide important ecological benefits to the town and preserve pieces of the town’s cultural history.

Core Forest Map

This map depicts total core forest and non-core forest cover in Williston, based on orthophotographs taken in 2004 for the Vermont Mapping Program. Core forest, represented by dark green, includes all forest cover located more than 100 meters from a build structure, road, or driveway and more than 100 meters in from the forest edge boundary. Non-core forest, represented by light green, includes all forested areas that do not fit the core forest criteria.

Edge Forest Map

This map depicts total edge forest and total forest cover in Williston, based on orthophotographs taken in 2004 for the Vermont Mapping Program. Edge forest, depicted by light green, includes all forest cover that is within 100 meters of the forest edge boundary.