About

Conserving forever-wild landscapes for nature and people.

OUR APPROACH

At Northeast Wilderness Trust we believe that wild nature deserves the freedom to flourish. On forever-wild lands people take a step back and natural processes unfold freely. The 37,000+ acres of wildlands safeguarded by Northeast Wilderness Trust are places where all species can thrive and evolve. And when we make a choice to protect wilderness, it offers incredible gifts in return:

What is Wilderness?

The root of the word wilderness means “will-of-the-land.” Wilderness is self-willed land. A wild place is one that is free from human control, where natural processes direct the ebb and flow of life. Howard Zahniser, the primary author of the Wilderness Act of 1964, intentionally chose to use the obscure word untrammeled in the law’s definition of wilderness. 

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” 

A trammel is something that impedes free movement. Untrammeled lands are not necessarily pristine but are free, unyoked from human dominion. At the Wilderness Trust, we like to say that wilderness is not simply a special kind of place, it’s a special kind of commitment we make to a place.  

Wilderness in the Conservation Context

Land conservation can take many forms. Some conservation focuses on supporting human communities with a sustainable supply of forest and agricultural products (resource conservation). Others secure lands specifically for wildlife, so that they can have peaceful homes where ecological processes unfold naturally (nature conservation). These realms of conservation are essential and complementary.

Northeast Wilderness Trust works exclusively on the latter, but regularly partners with other land trusts that focus on conserving well-managed timberlands and farms. The bulk of land conservation work—about 97%—across the Northeast has been oriented toward conserving managed woodlands and farms, not natural areas. The Wilderness Trust was founded to help restore and preserve new wilderness areas on private land and to champion the wilderness idea.

Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Lands and Easements

Some of our Preserves are under active scientific study. Some have critical habitat for endangered or threatened species. Some are crossed by footpaths, where people can find solace while hiking, watching birds, or sitting quietly to listen to a brook or watch a sunset. All of these forever-wild places are allies in the fight to slow climate change, as they sequester and store carbon at a greater rate than timberlands.

While the Northeast has experienced an incredible recovery from the logging and agricultural practices of early European settlers, we are a far cry from knowing wilderness as a common feature of this region. Wilderness Society founder Bob Marshall once spoke of “freedom of the wilderness.” It is freedom that is the defining attribute of wilderness—not the absence of people or human impact upon the land. Indeed, on most of the land Northeast Wilderness Trust protects, one can find the remnants of past human activity, from stone walls to decommissioned logging roads to mouldering settlements. But in all these places, natural succession operates freely, allowing ecosystems to heal, restore, and grow old.

WHO WE ARE

Northeast Wilderness Trust is a non-profit land trust, founded in 2002 to fill the vacant niche of wilderness protection in the Northeast. Our mission is to conserve forever-wild landscapes for nature and people. Today we are a staff of six, based in Vermont and Massachusetts, with a dedicated Board of Directors spanning the Northeast. To date, we have protected more than 37,000 forever-wild acres across New England and New York.

Staff

Board of Directors

Advisors

Meade Cadot, PhD
Harris Center for Conservation Education
Stephen Trombulak, PhD
Middlebury College
Bill McKibben
350.org & Middlebury College
Mike DiNunzio
PROTECT the Adirondacks
Marc Lapin
Middlebury College
George Woodwell, PhD
Woods Hole Research Center

LIBRARY

Browse our Annual Reports, Wild Works series, Strategic Plan, and more.

Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan

Read the Wilderness Trust's Strategic Plan for 2020-2025, which is organized around four pillars: Protect, Connect, Champion, and Sustain....

Wild Works

Wild Works

Wild Works is an annual series written by experts in the field of wilderness conservation. The series showcases the many benefits of wildlands, for both nature and people....

Research and Essays

Research and Essays

Dive into the best scientific studies, poetic essays, and historic treatises supporting wilderness and protection of wildlands....

Financials

Financials

See IRS 990 Forms from the past five years and the Wilderness Trust's EIN....

Annual Reports

Annual Reports

Read stories, successes, and statistics from the Wilderness Trust's past few years of conservation work, accompanied by beautiful wildlife and landscape photography....

EMPLOYMENT

The Northeast Wilderness Trust is currently hiring for an Operations Manager. This new position offers an exciting opportunity for a dedicated professional to become a full-time, salaried member of our small team, based out of our Montpelier, VT office.

Biodiversity

In wild forests, a cornucopia of species can be found. Old and young trees, standing dead trees (snags), and fallen trees and branches (woody debris) create a mixed canopy and understory. This complex forest structure supports a myriad of niche habitats often absent from young and managed forests. 


The sheer amount of life—and death—is the secret to biodiversity in wild forests. Up to 30% of the biomass found in an old forest is made up of snags and trees in various states of decay. Decomposing logs host an abundance of insects, fungi, and slime molds. In some forests, a third of bird species live in cavities of old trees. Wild forests have also been found to have a higher density and diversity of species in studies on salamanders and lichen.

Resilience

Vast, interconnected habitats offer the best hope for species to survive and adapt to climate change as weather events become more unpredictable and temperatures rise. 


In wild forests where soil is undisturbed, vast mycorrhizal networks help trees, especially older ones, “share” carbon with one another, even between different species.  These subterranean networks of fungi become more connected the older and less disturbed a forest is. They help forests react to and survive stresses such as drought or pests.  


In addition, complex habitats are resilient habitats. No matter the state of a forest when the Wilderness Trust first protects it, from that day forward, it will grow in age and complexity year after year, becoming more resilient as time goes on. 

Carbon Storage

Old forests store immense amounts of carbon. Across the Northeast Wilderness Trust's portfolio of 37,000+ forever-wild acres, there are approximately 3 million metric tons of potential carbon storage.


As a forest's age increases, so too does the amount of carbon it stores. It was once believed that old-growth forests were sources of carbon (giving off carbon into the atmosphere) but we now know that they are more often carbon sinks, continuing to absorb carbon even when they are centuries-old.


To avoid the worst effects of a changing climate, we must implement "Natural Climate Solutions." Legally protecting forests as forever-wild—sometimes called proforestation—is among the most cost-effective and efficient tools to combat climate change.

Reciprocity

Connecting with wild places, with awe and respect, is a deeply human act. Since the beginning of time, human cultures all across the globe have revered and honored wild places, often designating beautiful or unique natural places as spiritual, religious, or cultural sites.


At the Wilderness Trust, we believe that respectfully communing with nature is essential to saving it. When people witness and experience the delightful kaleidoscope of life forms we share this planet with, we are moved to protect them. While it's easy to get bogged down by the grief of environmental destruction, we remember and celebrate that every protected landscape is here because many people spent years working to make sure that land was not developed.


The Wilderness Trust is dedicated to fostering and promoting careful and responsible experiences of wild places, to allow more people to grow a reciprocal relationship with nature.

Jon Leibowitz

Jon has worked in the private land conservation field since graduating from Vermont Law School in 2011 with a Juris Doctor and Masters in Environmental Law and Policy. Before joining Northeast Wilderness Trust, Jon was the Executive Director of Montezuma Land Conservancy, on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, in Cortez, Colorado. Jon serves on the Rewilding Leadership Council, the Steering Committee of Wildlands & Woodlands, the Board of Vermont Parks Forever and is a co-owner of WildEdge Brewing Collective. He lives on the outskirts of Montpelier, Vermont, where he enjoys gardening, wandering the woods behind his house, and maintaining a questionable obsession with house plants.

Cathleen Maine

Cathleen joined Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2015 with two decades of nonprofit experience. She received her BA from Hawaii Loa College, now part of the Hawaii Pacific University system, and attended the School for International Training’s Master’s Program in Intercultural Management. She worked for almost a decade in Washington, DC on women’s health issues before relocating to Vermont with her family. Prior to that she spent seven years studying and teaching in Hokkaido, Japan. Her experience with public health has connected her to the mission of the Wilderness Trust. In her free time she enjoys living in Montpelier, reading, exploring, and cooking with her family.

Sophi Veltrop

Sophi comes to Northeast Wilderness Trust with a background in land conservation, communications, and outdoor and environmental education. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. Since then, she has worked at Vermont Land Trust, Yestermorrow Design/Build School, and Earthwalk Vermont. Sophi is committed to helping create a world where all species have the chance to survive, thrive, and evolve. Outside of work, she can be found roaming forests and rivers with her puppy, tending an ever-expanding garden, and cultivating community and creative practice.

Sophie Ehrhardt

Sophie coordinates the Wildlands Partnership program of Northeast Wilderness Trust, while pursuing a Master’s Degree in Environmental Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. Her desire to be involved with environmental policy at a local level and to spend as much time as possible outdoors led her to work with conservation land trusts. Her passions for wilderness and wildlife, combined with a desire to play a role addressing the challenges of climate change, made Northeast Wilderness Trust a natural fit. Sophie has a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from St. John’s College and a prior career as an educator. In her free time Sophie enjoys paddling, walking among trees, and spying on birds. Indoors, she is obsessed with food, strategy games, and family.

Joe Falconeiri

After receiving a BS in Education from Montana State University and then spending 15 years in finance in Boston, Joe decided to trade in his suit and tie for his true passion, conservation and natural science. Since then he has served as a Ranger and Naturalist Interpreter with Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve while also supporting the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance. He continues to pursue his mission to help people, institutions, and organizations become more keenly aware and connected to the social, economic, and environmental values that wilderness and open space bring into their lives.

Shelby Perry

Shelby joined the Wilderness Trust in 2016 with a B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a M.Sc. in Plant Biology – Field Naturalist from the University of Vermont, and a deep love and respect for wild places.  She had previously spent two years documenting and advocating for wilderness in Wyoming’s Red Desert, and served terms in both AmeriCorps and the US Peace Corps, caring for conserved lands in the High Sierra in California and as a water sanitation engineer in West Africa, respectively.  When she’s not protecting and defending wilderness, Shelby enjoys exploring it either on foot or through photography, science, and artwork. 

Mark Anderson

Mark is Director of Conservation Science for The Nature Conservancy’s eastern U.S. region. Mark provides science leadership, ecological analysis, and landscape assessment tools for conservation efforts across across twenty-two states. His current research interests include ecological resilience, disturbance processes, geophysical landscape properties, and seafloor mapping. Mark lives with his family, two goats, three cats, one dog, occasional chickens, a visiting pair of barred owls, and a lot of trees in coastal MA.

President

Massachusetts

Susie O'Keeffe

Susie lives in Montville, Maine. She holds Master’s of Science with distinction in Environmental Management from Oxford University, England. She serves as a Research Associate and Visting Faculty at the College of the Atlantic. Her writing has appeared in Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, the Maine Review, Naropa University’s Phylogeny, and the Spoon River Poetry Review. Susie lives in Maine.

Vice President

Maine

Jim Dehner

Jim is the Executive Director for the Indiana Land Protection Alliance, serving the land trusts of Indiana. He has been in the land trust field for 30 years working for organizations including the Trustees of Reservations, the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Northeast Wilderness Trust, and was the Founding Board President for the Ashburnham Conservation Trust. He has taught graduate level courses in nonprofit management, and is currently completing his doctorate at Northeastern University. He holds BS and MS degrees in environmental science, and an MS in nonprofit management. Jim and his wife Vickie are avid hikers and walkers, have two sons, and residences in both Indiana and Massachusetts.

Treasurer

Massachusetts

Kristin DeBoer

Kristin is the Executive Director of Kestrel Land Trust, which is dedicated to conserving, caring for, and connecting people to the wildlands, woodlands, and farmland of the Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts. Kristin has a BA in economics and environmental science from Bucknell University and an MS in Environmental Studies from Antioch University, and has worked in the environmental field for more than 25 years. Kristin lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts

Brett Engstrom

Brett is a consulting ecologist and botanist specializing in the inventory and mapping of wetland and upland natural communities, and the inventory of rare, threatened and endangered plants, in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Maine.  He has worked on many inventory projects in northern New England, especially Vermont and New Hampshire focused on inventorying a wide variety of natural communities, and rare, threatened, and endangered plants for a variety of clients. He also teaches workshops on natural communities and plant identification and was part-time faculty at Lyndon State College for ten years. Brett lives with his family in Vermont.

Vermont

Carol Fox

Carol is General Manager, Global Accounting Firms, at Thomson Reuters in New York. She received a BA in Political Science from Yale University and an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia.  She is also a certified Master Composter. Carol spends much of her free time in the Adirondacks with her partner Phil Brown.

New York

Daniel Hildreth

Daniel is board chair of Diversified Communications, a family-owned trade media company based in Portland. Diversified produces trade shows and conferences for a variety of industries in North America, Europe, and Australia. Daniel currently serves on the board of Acadia Center, a clean energy policy and advocacy nonprofit, and on the Maine advisory board of the Conservation Law Foundation. In the past, he has also served on the board of Maine Audubon. He and his wife live in Falmouth, Maine.

Maine

Rick Rancourt

Rick is a CPA and he currently works as the controller of a fast growing tech company in Vermont.  Previously he worked for a large public accounting firm performing financial statement audits and other financial reporting services for various organizations.  Rick is a wilderness enthusiast who currently lives in Stowe, Vermont with his wife and son. 

Vermont

Henry Tepper

Henry is a conservation consultant and an instructor in the Masters Program in Sustainability at the Harvard University Extension School. He has a background in land conservation and has played a direct role in the protection of almost one million acres around the world. Henry’s past work experience includes fourteen years at The Nature Conservancy, first as the Director of the New Hampshire Program and then as the Director of the New York State Program. Henry serves on the Board of Directors of Tierra Austral Land Trust in Chile. Henry holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. and Admission to Doctoral Candidacy from Cornell University. He lives with his family in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts

Annie Faulkner

Board Emeritus

New Hampshire

 

Annie is a founding board member of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, and served as President, Secretary and Treasurer during her 15-year tenure on the Board of Directors. She is a landowner with conserved properties in New Hampshire and Maine. Annie has worked as an environmental activist and writer, community organizer, and reproductive health researcher, educator and counselor. Annie likes to hike, ski, and camp in remote and/or high elevation terrain. She lives with her husband, Bob King, their two amazing teenagers, and two pets in a nicely converted woodshed in Keene, New Hampshire. 

Merloyd Ludington

Board Emeritus

Massachusetts

 

In 2001, Merloyd Ludington joined a small, dedicated group of wilderness advocates in Boston to sound the bell for increased wilderness conservation in the Northeast. The group unanimously agreed that there was a strong need for a new land trust to fill this niche, and a year later the Northeast Wilderness Trust was born.

 

Merloyd served on the board of the Wilderness Trust for 15 years. She led the organization with her deep knowledge of the field, thoughtful insight, tenacious line of inquiry, and strong wilderness ethic for which we are deeply grateful.