West Fairlee, VT Natural Capital

West Fairlee and it’s neighboring towns are home to the Brushwood, Community Forest, roughly 10,000 acres of undeveloped forest, one of the last major areas of undeveloped land in the area. This forest offers a habitat for many forms of wildlife, and produces highly productive soil for forestry. There has been major pressure from the townspeople however to develop the area which connects and helps establish community in at least four towns. The town of West Fairlee has partnered with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) in attempt to preserve this important resource. (Spaulding, 2016)

Because the forest hasn’t been logged since the 80’s, many of the trees have grown in and closed off parts of the forest. In 2014 a plan was made to maintain the forest by logging and creating openings that would help generate more diverse species of tree and wildflowers in the forest. Because most of the forest is always cast in shade, only species of trees like Oak that can live without sunlight have been able to survive. Opening up the forest will also allow nice spots for songbirds to nest in the trees and provide an opening for animals like deer and moose to live. Below are links to maps of the Brushwood forest, one simple layout of the forest and another more detailed map that the towns of Fairlee and West Fairlee created order to envision a plan to maintain the forest. (Fitzhugh & Guest 2016)



West Fairlee was first established in 1761 when it separated from the neighboring town of Fairlee, and relied heavily on its resources and major capital from farming until about 1854 when the Ely Copper mine started operations in the small town of Ely only a mile and a half west of Fairlee. With the opening of the Ely Copper mine came more money, more resources, and the population of Fairlee rose to well over a thousand people. Farming became less popular as people in the community became more interested in mining. Due to the prosperity that the copper mine brought to the town, lots of small businesses popped up including but not limited to a furniture and jewelry store, a hotel, and two churches. (Cat, Spaulding 2016). Operations at the mine stopped in 1920 because of health hazards to the ecosystem. Cleanup efforts for the abandoned mine is still in progress today. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). The first picture below is of the mine in the late 19th century, and the second is of the mine in the early 21st.


West Fairlee is home to around 700 inhabitants. Of those 700 inhabitants, 363 are employed workers 16 and older and collectively earn an average of around $500,000 per year. 57 people work in natural resources, construction, or maintenance related occupations, but very little to no one works in farming, fishing, or forestry occupations anymore. (Us Census Bureau 2014).


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Spaulding, C., (2016). Welcome to the Town of West Fairlee Website! West Fairlee, Vermont. Retrieved from http://www.westfairleevt.com/

Fitzhugh, L., Guest, A., (2016). The forest & Trails Fairlee, VT. Retrieved from http://www.fairleeforest.org/forest.html

Environmental Protection Agency, 2016. Site Information for Ely Copper Mine. Retrieved From https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/CurSites/dsp_ssppSiteData2.cfm?id=0102065

The united States Census Bureau, (2014) Community Facts: West Fairlee, Orange County, VT. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF