Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve Expands by 15 Acres
For immediate release: July 2, 2021
Protected Wildlife Corridor Expands in Southern New Hampshire
New Ipswich—On June 25, Northeast Wilderness Trust expanded Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve by 15 forever-wild acres. The Wilderness Trust purchased the land from Virginia Steel, bringing the Preserve’s total acreage to 550. The Steel Addition to the Preserve marks the Wilderness Trust’s fourth conservation success within one of New Hampshire’s most important wildlife corridors—a 6,000-acre forest block at the state’s southern border.
The Preserve is a bridge between surrounding protected forests, including the 1,428-acre Wapack Wilderness, owned by Hampshire Country School and protected with a forever-wild easement by Northeast Wilderness Trust.
“Since 2007, Northeast Wilderness Trust has been invested in protecting the wild Wapack corridor—both for wildlife on the move and for people enjoying the historic Wapack Trail,” said Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Wilderness Trust. “Landscape-scale conservation is sometimes assembled piece by piece. We look forward to building on this momentum with our regional partners in the years to come.”
The Friends of the Wapack have been in partnership with the Wilderness Trust for more than a decade to preserve the habitat and scenic beauty surrounding the 21.5-mile Wapack Trail.
“The Wapack Trail has benefited greatly from Northeast Wilderness Trust’s successful work over the past few years to protect this historic trail and the adjoining forests,” said Rick Blanchette, President of Friends of the Wapack. “The Steel Addition to Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve increases the conserved land along the trail, helping to protect the Wapack’s wilderness experience that we all love.”
Though small in size, the Steel Addition is large in impact. The land is located at the eastern entryway to the Preserve, and boasts an impressive amount of ecological diversity. There is a small “pocket wetland” and two headwater streams. Due to the land’s important water features, its protection was supported in large part by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service’s Aquatic Resource Mitigation fund.
“NH DES is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Northeast Wilderness Trust to conserve this parcel of land,” said Lori Sommer, Wetlands Mitigation Coordinator for NH DES. “The property is a priority area for the Town of New Ipswich. The fact that it is adjacent to a large conservation area makes it an extra special asset that will benefit the state for years to come.”
The protection of the Steel Addition was also made possible by landowner Virgina Steel, who generously sold her family’s land at less than its full appraised value. The project also received support from the Quabbin-to-Cardigan Partnership, and generous individual donors.
Thanks to the thoughtful caretaking of this land by Virginia and her late mother, Margaret Gunn (pictured above), the forest has a good start on its way to becoming old-growth. “My mom loved the land…she loved the ability to walk anywhere she wanted, ” said Virginia. “After she couldn’t drive any longer, I would bring her up to visit it often.”
Red oak and American beech provide acorns and beechnuts to hungry wildlife in the fall. Sign of moose, deer, and coyote have been seen there, and it is likely that bobcat and bear frequent the land. Rocky outcrops and boulders provide denning habitat to porcupine.
“I’ve always been interested in conservation of any type,” Virginia added. “I’ve been very happy [that] this could be the outcome for the land.”
Forestland photography by Shelby Perry | Photos of Margaret Gunn courtesy of Virginia Steel
About the Northeast Wilderness Trust: Founded in 2002, Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people across New England and the Adirondacks. The Wilderness Trust owns Wilderness Preserves and Sanctuaries, and also protects land through legal means such as conservation easements. It is the only organization in the Northeast focused exclusively on forever-wild conservation and currently safeguards more than 41,000 acres of wildlands across six states.