Watershed Forestry Partnership Annual Meeting is Back in Person

By Anna Marchessault
April 09, 2024

On March 27, Shawn White, Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s new Watershed Forestry Coordinator, led the first in-person Watershed Forestry Partnership Annual Meeting since 2019! About a hundred watershed forestry professionals attended the meeting at the University of Vermont Davis Center.

 “We’re super happy with the turnout of this event, and even happier to meet again in person. There are so many good side conversations that happen when people are together that really can’t happen virtually.  It was also great to see so many new nurseries and partners in the basin participating,” said White, who took over the coordinator position previously held by Alison Adams last December.

The meeting started with a fun ice-breaker twig quiz of popular riparian trees in the area, then went right into funding opportunities for tree nurseries and partners hoping to establish riparian buffers on their property. Then, Katie Kain from the US Fish and Wildlife Service presented an update on new site preparation techniques, highlighting experimental projects across the state.

Mandy Fisher and Ben Rogers from the Intervale Conservation Nursery provided an update on their tree sales and an overview of some of the flood impacts on nursery operations followed by a presentation by Jess Colby of the Northwoods Stewardship Center and Brooke Fleischman from the Intervale Conservation Nursery about a fledgling seed collection program aimed at providing more locally sourced trees for restoration projects.

“I found all of the speakers and sessions to be incredibly helpful. Before that day I had never met the folks from US Fish and Wildlife Service who sat at our table—we had great conversations about our work. It was also amazing to see how many people were in that room!” said Taylor Litwin, Project Manager for the Friends of the Winooski River.

Afternoon sessions took place on and off-site. One group of participants braved the light rain and headed down to the Intervale with Audubon Vermont to learn about the role of tree selection and project design in bird habitat. Another group stayed on-site to be part of a roundtable discussion of the challenges of growing native woody plants for conservation and opportunities for collaboration among established and emerging nurseries. This discussion was one of the high points of the meeting, according to one nursery owner, “I loved the nursery roundtable. It's so valuable for nurseries to connect with each other, and for practitioners and nurseries to have an opportunity to sit down and hash out how we can achieve our common goals, despite the many barriers.”

Late afternoon concurrent sessions reviewed monitoring methods for riparian planting projects and successful landowner outreach. The day culminated with a full group discussion led by Lake Champlain Sea Grant’s Shawn White determining what the role of the Watershed Forestry Partnership will be going forward and outlining the support this group can provide.

 “I look forward to maintaining these new and old relationships. We learned today how critical these collaborations are for everyone involved,” explained White. “The meeting brought up many issues with both nursery production and riparian restoration, so we’ve got some work to do.  It also revealed the energy the partnership has to tackle them, and I’m so excited to see what will come out of the Watershed Forestry Partnership over the next year or two!”

Learn more about the Watershed Forestry Partnership.