Orange County Headwaters Project (OCHP)

The Orange County Headwaters project began to emerge in 2002 in the towns of Corinth and Washington, VT. The project stemmed from a community interest in maintaining the character of the area in the face of increasing development of these largely forested and agricultural towns due to the short commuting distance to Barre/Montpelier and the Upper Valley area of VT and NH. As towns surrounding the area became increasingly more fragmented by development, the landowners of Corinth and Washington decided that they needed to do something to stabilize the land uses in order to act as a way to mitigate their towns' lack of zoning. This led to the formation of the OCHP. The OCHP is a grass roots project that involves landowners donating their development rights to qualified land trusts in order to prevent heavy future development. The community paid $10,000 and received $10,000 from a challenge grant application in order to conduct a feasibility study and to begin the OCHP. The study involved gathering a steering committee that conducted landowner outreach to determine the community's level of interest in conservation, producing a GIS map with parcel information, and ultimately producing a project proposal. After the proposal was completed, the OCHP partnered with the Vermont Land Trust and the Upper Valley Land Trust and signed MOU's that laid out shared responsibilities between the OCHP board and coordinators (Ben Machin and Virginia Barlow) and the land trusts. Essentially, the OCHP was responsible for the local aspect of the land donations, while the land trusts were responsible for some funding and the education of the landowners about their donations. Over the course of the OCHP, over 35 parcels have been conserved through the donation of landowner's development rights to the Upper Valley and Vermont Land Trusts. The land is conserved under the values of protecting water resources, wildlife, and forests, as well as keeping a working landscape of farms and recreation. The project originally had a timeline of about three years. However, land parcels are still occasionally donated to the land trusts under the OCHP.

Project Contact: Ben Machin
Project Contact Email:
Project Lifespan: 2002-present
Corinth, Washington
Regional Planning Commision: None
Agricultural Land, Land Management, Land Protection, partnerships
Other Keywords: Easements
Project Accomplishments:

The OCHP acquired 6-7,000 acres of land for conservation in the towns of Corinth and Washington, VT. This protected land reduces the risk of habitat fragmentation in these areas and allows for working forest and farmland far into the future.

Project Partners:

Vermont Land Trust
Upper Valley Land Trust
The Conservation Fund

Critical to Success:

The OCHP was unique in that it was the product of many people from different backgrounds and levels of expertise coming together to work towards a common goal for the conservation of their community.


The largest challenge faced by the OCHP was gaining the respect of the land trusts and making it clear that the project organizers and community would be able to make good on their promises of conservation easements. When the Orange County Headwaters Project was proposed, the land trusts had not seen similar projects. The project seemed like a huge undertaking for a grassroots, community-led group to accomplish. Therefore, convincing the Vermont and Upper Valley Land Trusts to take the project seriously was a challenge. Additionally, the fact that OCHP was forging a new path made the planning and implementation difficult.

Reference Documents: The full case history of the Orange County Headwaters Project including its purpose, methodology, and some significant background information on its beginning.