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Camp Johnson

Suburban encroachment is a growing concern of many National Guard installations due to increased noise restrictions and public concerns over property values, and Ethan Allen, VT, is no exception. The Ethan Allen Firing Range and Camp Johnson are completely enclosed by Chittenden County.

Camp Johnson, located in Colchester, is on one of the rarest natural community types in Vermont - the pine/oak/heath sandplain forest. Pitch pine growing in the Champlain Valley of Vermont are at the northern extreme of the species' natural range which extends from central Maine to northern Georgia. Marginal populations, such as those found in the Champlain Valley, are often genetically unique compared to more central populations and, therefore, may be valuable for future adaptation and evolution of the species, especially in times of predicted rapid climate change. Pitch pine in the northern extreme of the species range commonly compete best and are found on acidic, sandy, sterile soils in association with gray birch, red oak and black oak. In the Champlain Valley, particularly in the Burlington area, these same sites are extremely valuable as building sites. As a result, pitch pine habitat and populations are shrinking in response to development pressure.

Camp Johnson is one of the few remaining sites of pitch pine populations in Vermont. This tract supports a population of about 200-300 mature pitch pine growing primarily in small groups. There is very little regeneration in these stands, probably due to poor establishment conditions for young pitch pine seedlings. Pitch pine in this area usually require periodic fires to remove competition and prepare seed beds for germination and seedling establishment. Over the past 100 years humans have extinguished fires in this area for fear of it spreading to residential and commercial buildings along the fringes of Camp Johnson.

In 1995, the Nongame and Natural Heritage Program staff completed two prescribed burns at Camp Johnson to remove competition and prepare seed beds for pitch pine establishment. The scarcity of pitch pine habitat in Vermont along with lack of adequate natural regeneration in the tract at Camp Johnson, has prompted Nongame and Natural Heritage Program staff in conjunction with Camp Johnson personnel to make several pitch pine seedling plantings in these burned over areas on the base.

Since 1995, a couple of burning and planting cycles have taken place, along with the mechanical clearing of several small areas to create more openings for pitch pine seedling regeneration. These open areas will also be burned prior to the planting of seedlings. The condition of the pitch pine community will continue to be monitored by the Nongame and Natural Heritage Program and Camp Johnson staff in the coming years to successfully restore and maintain this rare natural community.


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