Linking Lands Alliance
The Linking Lands Alliance is a grassroots educational organization. It began with informal conversations between Conservation Commissioners from Hartford, Thetford and Norwich about wildlife habitat that extends beyond Town borders. These talks lead to the development of an active organization eventually called the Linking Land Alliance or LLA. The LLA, with the help of Jens Hilke at Vermont Fish & Wildlife, developed maps that illustrate ecologically important habitats and areas of contiguous wildlife habitat over a ten-town region in the Upper Valley of Vermont. The maps are used to identify regions in these towns that are likely to be good wildlife habitat, to help identify potential animal corridors and to be used generally to educate landowners about how their land fits in to the natural landscape.
The LLA uses their maps as education tools at landowner gatherings and at lecture series given throughout the region. They have also developed a game for elementary aged students to teach some of the basic habitat needs of far-ranging animals.
Forest Land, Inventory, Land Management, Land Protection, Outreach, partnerships, Walks and Talks, wetland, wildlife
The LLA got its start as an education-minded organization by receiving a Wellborn grant to send a group of Upper valley residents to receive training in animal tracking from Sue Morse at Keeping Track in Jericho Vermont. The group then focused on soliciting the help of Fish and Wildlife to generate the habitat maps they now use. Later they received another Wellborn Grant for community outreach that enabled them to host Where Wildlife Roam lecture series, provide videos of the lectures to local libraries, and to develop the game described above.
The LLA has also partnered with Vermont Coverts. Vermont Coverts offers landowner-training sessions twice a year, helping residents learn how to steward their land to support wildlife. Vermont Coverts encourages landowners to hold walks and talks on their land and the LLA has helped sponsor those activities.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences
Montshire Museum of Science
Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission
The expertise of Jens Hilke, a Vermont Fish & Wildlife employee, in developing the LLA maps was essential to the success of the project. The Regional Planning Commission has also been very supportive in printing the maps. An outreach grant allowing the group to invest in well-known speakers was imperative in increasing the LLA's visibility and reach. The involvement of a variety of players in the group has also allowed for their success; the LLA runs efficiently with help from organizers, town representatives, foresters, ecologists, interns and other folks.
Funding is always a challenge as is finding and keeping representatives from each of the ten towns covered by the project. These challenges do not seem insurmountable.