An informational meeting about the proposed reclassification of Vernon’s Black Gum Swamps will take place on May 8 at 6 p.m. at the Town Office Building (lower level), led by Laura LaPierre, Wetlands Program Director, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Black Gum Swamps in Vernon’s J. Maynard Miller Town Forest are a set of unique ecosystems, featuring ancient black gum trees which are quite common in the South but comparatively rare north of the Mason-Dixon line, especially this far north.

Some of the black gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica) are more than 400 years old. One black gum tree in the Vernon forest was measured, some years ago, to be 435 years old. At another location in southern New Hampshire, a black gum was found to be 562 years old. These trees are not only among the oldest trees in New England, but they may be the oldest broadleaf deciduous trees in North America.

Because of the presence of these trees, as well as other unusual species, the DEC has proposed to designate the swamps as Class I wetlands (they are now Class II) in order to provide greater protection to these natural areas. There have been some questions and concerns in the town about how this may affect the use of the town forest.

This meeting will be an opportunity to learn more about what Class I status entails and to address concerns and questions the town may have.

A big crowd (about 75 people) came out to hear about Vernon’s Black Gum Swamps at a guided tour on April 28. (See photo at top of this post.)  Leading the tour were Bill Guenther, Windham County Forester, Bob Zaino, State Lands Ecologist, and Laura Lapierre, State Wetlands Program Director.