Conserving forever-wild landscapes for nature and people.

A line sketch of a brown pinecone.


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 wildlands safeguarded by Northeast Wilderness Trust—encompassing 82,071.92 acres—are now fully protected from future development.

What Is Wilderness?

The defining characteristic of wilderness is freedom for the land to evolve in its own way.

The roots of the word wilderness meant “will-of-the-land.” Thus wilderness is self-willed land, where natural processes direct the ebb and flow of life. Howard Zahniser, author of the Wilderness Act of 1964, consciously avoided the word “pristine” in the law’s definition of wilderness. Rather, he used the word untrammeled, which means not deprived of freedom of action or expression. Untrammeled lands are not necessarily untouched or even unpeopled, but are unyoked from human dominion.

Indeed, wilderness is not simply a special kind of place, it’s a special kind of commitment we make to a place. That commitment is protecting the land’s freedom to be wild.

Wilderness in Context

A vibrant landscape may include various land uses—from highly developed cities and towns, to lightly populated countryside, to fully protected wildlife habitat. Formally conserved lands are a key element in this whole landscape vision. They are vital to sustaining wildlife populations and to maintaining a high quality of life for human communities.

Land conservation takes many forms: “Resource conservation” focuses on supporting economic vitality via a sustainable flow of forest and agricultural products. “Open space conservation” emphasizes outdoor recreation and scenery. “Nature conservation” prioritizes wildlife habitat and maintaining ecological processes. These conservation objectives are essential and complementary, although Northeast Wilderness Trust works exclusively on the latter.

Over the past century, the vast majority of conservation work in our region has focused on farms and managed woodlands, not the core wild areas that anchor any effective system of conserved lands. Northeast Wilderness Trust was founded to do just that, by creating new wilderness areas on private land, fostering rewilding, and championing the wilderness idea.

Rooted in Ecocentrism, Practically Applied

Northeast Wilderness Trust’s work is rooted in an ecocentric worldview, where all species are recognized as having inherent value. When we think about land, we think less about ownership and management and more about relationship. We deemphasize resources and recreation and instead focus on reciprocity. We strive to partner with nature and foster an attitude of respect and familial love. This overarching organizational philosophy informs all of the daily efforts of the Wilderness Trust team as it employs proven land conservation tools and strategies to achieve on-the-ground results.

Fostering Rewilding

Some Wilderness Trust Preserves are used for scientific research. Some provide habitat for imperiled species. Some are crossed by footpaths, where people can find spiritual rejuvenation, watch wildlife, or sit quietly to listen to the sounds of the forest. All of the places we protect, via ownership or forever-wild conservation easements, incrementally advance a growing global movement to rewild the Earth.

Rewilding means allowing nature to heal, giving land back to wildlife and wildlife back to the land. By legally, permanently protecting places as forever-wild, Northeast Wilderness Trust lays the foundation for rewilding. And then we trust nature’s innate ability to adapt and evolve, creating beauty, diversity, and health over time.

Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Vision

We envision—and are actively working to establish—a landscape of connected, resilient wildlands shared by a human culture that recognizes the benefits of wild places. We envision a future Northern Forest region where bears and bobcats, warblers and wildflowers, pumas and people all have room to thrive.

Will you join us? 

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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. Our small and dedicated team of conservationists is based in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, and Maine, with a dedicated Board of Directors spanning the Northeast. Northeast Wilderness Trust protects more than 82,071 forever-wild acres across New England and Northern New York.


A photo of Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director.
Jon Leibowitz
President and CEO
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A photo of Becky Clough, Northern New England Land Steward.
Becky Clough
Northern New England
Land Steward
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A photo of Bob Linck, Conservation Director.
Bob Linck
Vice President of Conservation Programs
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A photo of Caitlin Mather, Land Protection Manager.
Cathleen Maine
Vice President of Operations
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A photo of Caitlin Mather, Land Protection Manager.
Caitlin Mather
Land Conservation Director
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Colby Galliher
Editorial Communications Specialist
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Head shot of Eric Bailey, Wildlands Ecology Fellow.
Eric Bailey
Wildlands Ecology Fellow
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A photo of Hannah Epstein, Stewardship Manager.
Hannah Epstein
Stewardship Director
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Janelle Jones
New York Land Steward
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Jeff Fournier
Finance Director
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A photo of Joe Falconeiri, Southern New England Land Steward.
Joe Falconeiri
Southern New England
Land Steward
Mandy Yonkman
Donor Impact Coordinator
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picture of person smiling at the camera
Maddie Hatoum
Digital and Technical Coordinator
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A photo of Nathaniel Williams, Development Coordinator.
Nathaniel Williams
Grants Manager
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A photo of Nathaniel Williams, Development Coordinator.
Nicie Panetta
Vice President of Advancement
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A photo of Shelby Perry, Wildlands Ecologist.
Peter Mandych
Land Conservation Manager
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A photo of Shelby Perry, Wildlands Ecologist.
Ptarmigan Abbott
Operations Manager
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A photo of Shelby Perry, Wildlands Ecologist.
Richard Knox
Communications Director
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A photo of Shelby Perry, Wildlands Ecologist.
Shelby Perry
Wildlands Ecology Director
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A photo of Sophie Ehrhardt, Carbon Specialist.
Sophie Ehrhardt
Vermont Land Steward
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A photo of Tom Butler, Senior Fellow.
Tom Butler
Senior Fellow
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Tricia Bhatia
Carbon and Transaction Specialist
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Board of Directors

A photo of Brian Tijan, Secretary Vermont.
Brian Tijan
A photo of Susie O’Keeffe, Vice President Maine.
Susie O’Keeffe
Vice Chair
A photo of Rick Rancourt, Treasurer Vermont.
Rick Rancourt
A photo of Henry Tepper, Massachusetts.
Eric Sorenson
A photo of Emily Bateson, Vermont.
Emily Bateson
A photo of Kristin DeBoer, Massachusetts.
Kristin DeBoer
A photo of Brett Engstrom, Vermont.
Brett Engstrom
A photo of Brett Engstrom, Vermont.
Kathleen H. Fitzgerald
A photo of Carol Fox, New York.
Carol MacKinnon Fox
New York
A photo of Daniel Hildreth, Maine.
Daniel Hildreth
A photo of Daniel Hildreth, Maine.
Alan Jutras
Bill Roper
Liz Thompson
A photo of Mark Anderson, President Massachusetts.
Mark Anderson
Board Emeritus
Annie Faulker Headshot
Annie Faulkner
Board Emerita
New Hampshire
A photo of Merloyd Ludington, Board Emerita, 1932-2022.
Merloyd Ludington
Board Emerita
Brian Tijan
A photo of Henry Tepper, Massachusetts.
Henry Tepper
Paul Torrence
New York
Annie Faulker Headshot
Annie Faulkner
Board Emerita, New Hampshire

Jon Leibowitz
Executive Director
Cathleen Maine
Development Director
Sophie Ehrhardt
Wildlands Partnership Coordinator


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

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

Other Publications

Other Publications

Learn more about forever-wild conservation through these recent publications written or co-authored by Northeast Wilderness Trust. These publications highlight the need for greater efforts to conserve wildlands and explain why the Northeast is an ideal setting for forever-wild conservation....

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....

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....



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

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At Northeast Wilderness Trust, we take seriously the responsibility for wilderness conservation to be a welcoming movement for all. It’s the right thing to do. “Widening the Wild” is the Wilderness Trust’s effort to make strides towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in the conservation field. You can read our commitment to a just and equitable world and workplace here.

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Sweet Water Fund

After thirty years creating an expansive wild legacy, Sweet Water Trust has become the Sweet Water Fund. The Fund will result in more forever-wild conservation across the Northeast.

Sweet Water Fund

After thirty years creating an expansive wild legacy, Sweet Water Trust has become the Sweet Water Fund. The Fund will result in more forever-wild conservation across the Northeast.