Mount Philo State Park: Climate Change and Rare Plants


The Park’s management plan is being revised and will include climate change considerations.

Staff from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are currently working to update the Park’s management plan, which includes a large amount of public input because of the park’s popularity.

Project Area

Mount Philo State Park is located atop Mt. Philo and overlooks the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The 168-acre park is Vermont’s oldest State Park and is a popular destination for hiking, birding, and other outdoor activities. Views from the summit are spectacular and have long been an attraction of park visitors, drawing thousands of visitors per year. Mt. Philo State Park is much loved for its forested setting in the increasingly fragmented Champlain Valley; for its representative forests, plants and wildlife; for its high-quality hiking trails; for its spectacular views; for opportunities to view wildlife and observe nature; and for the opportunity to escape to a natural place. Visitors place high importance on the ecological value, resource protection, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities afforded by public ownership and value a healthy forest in an increasingly fragmented landscape.

Management Goals

The Agency of Natural Resources is currently developing a long-range management plan (LRMP) for the 232-acre Mount Philo State Park located in the Town of Charlotte. 

The Vision Statement for the Park is: The healthy forests and spectacular views of Mt. Philo State Park provide a valued setting for high quality, well-managed, hiking-focused, recreational experiences that are consistent with the mission of the Department of Forests, Parks& Recreation; are ecologically and physically sustainable; and engender a strong sense of stewardship among visitors. It provides a location where responsible and ethical recreational use does not degrade the natural communities and their associated forests, plants and wildlife; where water and soil resources are protected; and where interpretation of natural and historic resources provides the visitor with a greater understanding and appreciation of Mt Philo State Park and the natural landscape of Vermont.

There are many specific objectives for management at the Park. Many of these focus on conserving biological diversity across the site, including many rare plants and natural communities, and improving ecosystem health, while also providing a high-quality trail system and opportunties for dispersed recreation.

Climate Change Impacts

Mt. Philo State Park, like the rest of the region, is expected to face strong impacts from climate change over the next 100 years. These changes may have important consequences for forest nutrient cycling, timber productivity, forest pest ecology, wildlife habitat, and winter recreation opportunities in the forest. Assessing changes in our climate and the potential effects on Mount Philo influence how the forest is managed to improve resiliency and adaptability. Numerous climate change effects have been identified for the area, including:
Compositional changes associated with changes in thermally suitable habitat (loss of cold-adapted species and increase in warm-adapted species)
Increase in overwinter survival of pests, such as balsam and hemlock woolly adelgid
Increased physiological stress, resulting in increased susceptibility to pests and disease, decreased productivity and increased tree mortality
Increased evapotranspiration, resulting in a decrease in soil moisture; moisture limitation/stress negatively impacts productivity and survival in many plant species
Increased decomposition rate of organic material may enrich soils and make them more suitable for competitors
Decrease in winter snow pack, leading to change in deer browsing patterns, which affects regeneration
Lengthening of growing season resulting in changes in species competitiveness, especially favoring non-native invasive plants or altering phenological relationships
Increased physical damage and disturbance from extreme weather events, leading to gap formation, which could facilitate the spread of invasive plants

Adaptation Actions

Land managers from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources used the Adaptation Workbook to consider what actions could be used to respond to the anticipated effects of climate change on the Park. These actions have been evaluated and incorporated into the long-range management plan.

Entire park
Strategy 1: Sustain fundamental ecological functions.
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
Retain species with high nutrient cycling capability
Retain or enhance coarse and fine woody material for nutrient cycling and soil protection
Conduct forest management on frozen or snow-covered ground
Strategy 2: Reduce the impact of biological stressors.
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Manage invasive species as an important part of northern hardwood silviculture
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Implement strategies that protect regeneration from browsing (i.e. fencing, leaving large tops)
Strategy 3: Reduce the risk and long-term impacts of severe disturbances.
Strategy 5: Maintain and enhance species and structural diversity.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Maintain or enhance native species diversity
Promote age class diversity and vigorous crown development
Maintain species that naturally occur in a natural community and consider including species that may be better adapted to future conditions (i.e. oaks, hickories, white pine)
Strategy 4: Maintain or create refugia.
4.1. Prioritize and maintain unique sites.
Maintain site quality and existing species composition where they may be better buffered against climate change and short-term disturbance
Strategy 7: Promote landscape connectivity.
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Maintain or create forested corridors to help to promote movement of species – trees and wildlife

Learn More


Management plan

Last Updated

Tuesday, May 15, 2018