NEWPORT — Sarah Damsell marks her first year as the new District Manager of the Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District.
Damsell comes to the Conservation District after working as an Agriculture Resource Specialist for the Vermont Association Conservation Districts for three years and the Conservation District Manager in Essex County for over two years.
She brings a passion for conservation coupled with a deep understanding of current agricultural and land use challenges. Her background working in the conservation field, vegetable and dairy farms, and for seven years as an Organic Farm Inspector for the National Organic Farm Association of Vermont, provides her with the intimate knowledge to engage with local farmers and landowners, understand their challenges, and aid them in completing conservation projects on their land with a key goal of improving water quality.
Over the last year, Damsell began working with a variety of partners to reduce nutrient runoff into Lake Memphremagog, as part of a Regional Conservation Project working with the State of Vermont and a variety of local partners. This work is funded through a federal grant and includes working with local farmers to develop conservation and nutrient management plans, and helping farmers access funds to implement projects to reduce nutrient runoff and erosion.
She is also organizing an areaway rental program used to reduce soil compaction while increasing soil health and improving water and nutrient filtration.
In 2016, the areaway rental program was used on 947 acres in Orleans County.
Damsell’s work does not stop with farms, as she also is working with the towns of Derby and Coventry to complete road erosion and structure inventories to better understand how to improve municipal road infrastructure to reduce runoff into our waterways. She has also been working in the forests, planting trees along the Black River in Craftsbury to restore riparian habitat and re-connect wildlife travel corridors along the river, as well as organizing a portable skidder bridge rental program to help local loggers minimize runoff into waterways while working in the woods.
Her work in 2017 will continue much of the work of the past year, striving to assist local landowners in conservation our natural resources. This spring, the Conservation District will also be offering a tree and shrub sale to landowners, where trees and native shrubs can be purchased for spring wildlife and conservation planting.
In addition, in May the Conservation District is hosting Conservation Field Day for local 4th & 5th graders at the Randall farm in Troy.
In Orleans County, the Conservation District operates as a local non-profit with close affiliations with both state and federal agencies, creating the unique position to effectively connect farmers, municipalities, state agencies, local schools, and landowners across the county.