When Maime Thurston died last year at the age of 87, she decided to leave everything to the visitors who stopped by her East Montpelier property. But these visitors weren't people -- they were animals -- the birds, deer, and other creatures she got to watch from her home. It was a rare move that surprised the state's Fish & Wildlife department.
"We were totally shocked and so pleased that she had thought about the animals and lands that she cared so much about 11 enough to leave this legacy to us," says Kim Royar with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Fish & Wildlife says the donation couldn't have come at a better time. In recent years their funding has been slashed, and they had a budget gap to fill.
"All of a sudden Maime left us this property and now we'll be able to fill a hole that we weren't sure what we were going to do about," Royar says.
The money from selling this land will be met with a nearly three to one match through federal grants. Interest from that endowment fund will be used for the department's nongame programs. Those help support species like the little brown bats, loons, bald eagles, spiny softshell turtles and even lynx.
"Our nongame program has been a difficult one to manage because the funds tend to go up and down. And this will give us some security over the long-term," Royar says.
The department has seen at least one land donation before, and they were able to add that land to an existing management area. This one was too small and far away from their other properties for that to be an option. But the department hopes other Vermonters might follow Thurston's lead.
"Many many Vermonters care very much about the lands of Vermont, the working lands, the wildlife habitat and the species here, and I could see a lot of Vermonters thinking this might be a good idea," Royar says.
Officials are waiting for the transfer and the paperwork to be complete, then they told us they'll look at putting the house and property on the market.
Vermonters who want to donate to the nongame wildlife fund can also check the box in line 29 on their tax returns or buy a conservation license plate.