Appalachian Corridor preserves Mount Foster with generosity of donors and partners

By Cassandra Pegg, Special to Brome County News

Appalachian Corridor, a non-profit conservation organization in Southern Quebec, announced the establishment of 215 hectares of protected land encompassing most of Mount Foster. This comes two years after negotiations for an agreement that protected Mount Foster from being developed into housing, according to a press release from the organization.
Mélanie Lelièvre, Executive Director at Appalachian Corridor, broke down the long road that brought them to ensuring the protection of the mountain.
It began with an offer from the organization to buy the territory from the previous owner. Unfortunately, Lelièvre revealed, the owner was set on the housing plan and did not take their offer seriously. In a few years, the housing project began in full force with dynamite clearing and road construction.
Lelièvre explained that while their organization was disheartened by the housing project going ahead, it was not long before it began hitting roadblock after roadblock due to legal restrictions, invalid permits, and bylaw limitations. By 2016 the owner of the territory was frustrated and ready for another solution. The municipality of West Bolton, with many residents in support of the conservation of the mountain, approved the development of the land on the condition that the owner have an agreement with a serious conservation group. Appalachian Corridor stepped in and began a year of negotiations that included securing a larger conservation area by allowing the same number of houses to be built, but on fewer acres.
In May 2019, a referendum was held in West Bolton. 76 per cent of voters were in support of the conservation project. With this support behind them, Appalachian Corridor was able to secure 86 per cent of the land in question for permanent protection. This, said Lelièvre, was now the moment they could begin fundraising to make this project a reality. The organization received funding from the provincial and federal government in November 2019, $1.4 million out of the $1.9-million project. This left $500,000 to raise from grants, private and public foundations, and importantly, the communities near to the mountain.
Lelièvre was relieved and grateful that the local towns, including St-Étienne de Bolton, West Bolton and Knowlton, came together so generously for the cause. $175,000 came from these communities alone. Lelièvre recalled people donating on one day and then calling back asking to give even more funds the next. With this project being made possible from the generosity of so many people Lelièvre added, it is like the mountain “belongs, in some ways, to everybody”. She especially wanted to thank Robert Blain and Gail Watts for going above and beyond to secure funding. From knocking on doors to getting stories published in newspapers to sending letters, they were instrumental to the cause.
The preservation of this land directly benefits the numerous mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles that make Mount Foster their home. Many of these creatures, including the Canada Warbler, Spring Salamander, Pickerel Frog and more, are designated vulnerable or threatened by the Act Respecting Threatened Vulnerable Species and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
The conservation project includes 3.5 km of trails through the wilderness that lead to the Scout Tower. The construction of the trails is set to begin by the end of the summer.
Appalachian Corridor will take the time needed to cause as little environmental impact as possible while constructing the trails and repairing the Scout Tower. The nature circuit on Mount Foster will open to the public in summer, 2021.

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