Plant Restoration Nursery at Green Mountain College Partners with Nature Conservancy on American Elm Project
Champlain Valley Native Plant Restoration Nursery (CVNPRN) is a partnership between Green Mountain College, The Nature Conservancy and Poultney Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District. The nursery produces high-quality seedlings from local stock for uses in restoration and riparian buffer plantings in the South Lake Champlain watershed. The nursery and its partners provide opportunities throughout the community for hands-on learning through seed collection, propagation and native plant studies, as well as plant-related restoration projects for conservation and water quality. Each year the nursery grows thousands of trees for habitat restoration and water quality, provides internships to Green Mountain College students, and creates ongoing learning opportunities for a diverse group of community volunteers and local high school classes. In its partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and biologist Christian Marks, CVNPRN has raised a genetically diverse population of elms that are Dutch-elm disease tolerant. Once grown to appropriate height, the saplings leave the nursery where they will be injected with the disease. Those that don’t succumb will then be planted at floodplain forest restoration sites in the Connecticut and Champlain Valley basins to improve water quality, increase flood resiliency and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
“Now, with the development of disease-tolerant American elms, we can restore elms to their former role in the floodplain forests,” Marks said. Once the biggest and longest-living tree on the northern floodplains, the American elm held a critical niche that no other tree has been able to fill since their decline began in the 1970s. Mature elms once grew taller than other species and provided important habitat for eagles, ospreys, barred owls, a host of breeding songbirds, and mammals such as roosting bats and flying squirrels. These strong and stately trees can withstand floodwaters for days and naturally filter sediment to temper the impacts of flood events, protecting communities from potentially expensive and dangerous flooding. Through funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program, CVNPRN holds workshops, and supports public participation in TNC’s American Elm project. Workshops at the nursery include grafting, soil conservation, seed collection and propagation, bare root bed construction and hoop house construction. To volunteer, contact Alex Stephanson at [email protected] or Beth Miller at [email protected] or 802-282- 7279.