The town of Bennington has over 445 acres of municipal forests... and most of it isn't in Bennington at all.
In 1932, the 119 acre Fay-Gibb property in Pownal was purchased to protect the headwaters of what was then the town water supply. That was expanded in 1942 with the purchase of the 245 acre Rudd lot in Woodford.
Once the town water supply switched to Bolles Brook, the original water works were abandoned, including an aqueduct pipe that still has remnants in the woods.
The land is primarily steep and not ideal for agriculture. Like most of Vermont, it was probably entirely cleared by 1850 and was used for sheep pasturage. As factory jobs grew and better lands were opened up to the west, forests began to return to the lots and to Vermont as a whole.
The land has never been officially logged by the Town, though there is evidence that parts of the property were illegally logged around 20 years ago and 35 years ago respectively.
In 2017 a forest management plan for the municipal forests was created. The goals for management included sustainable timber harvesting, wildlife habitat development, and aesthetic and recreational use. The initial challenge towards implementing this plan was a lack of access... the lands were essentially "land-locked" by other properties.
R.J. Joly, director of the Department of Public Works, was able to arrange access to the lands this past summer, and the first harvests of timber and improvements to the habitat have begun. So far the town has earned almost $40,000 which is expected to grow to well over $100,000 once the full plan is completed. Funds generated from timber sales go into the Capitol Reserve for future use.
Part of the habitat improvement included created new forest openings and the results are already evident with lots of deer sign in the fresh snow. In addition to deer, the lands are home to black bear, porcupines, chipmunks, squirrels, toads, barred owls, oven birds, black throated green warblers, black throated blue warblers, red eyed vireos, pileated wood peckers, and yellow bellied sap suckers.