Meet a Forever-Wild Circle Member

Meet Brett Engstrom, an ecologist, a Wilderness Trust board member, and a new monthly donor as part of the Forever-Wild Circle. Brett first became involved in Northeast Wilderness Trust in the early 2000s, when he was hired to conduct ecological inventories of Champlain Valley properties.

“When I learned more about the Wilderness Trust from other naturalists, I realized they were doing really important work that no one else was doing,” says Brett. “They’re allowing natural processes to play out, which is what really thrills me as a naturalist.”

Forever-Wild Circle members, like Brett, provide Northeast Wilderness Trust with reliable support through monthly donations. These gifts create a steady financial base that allows the Wilderness Trust focus less on fundraising in order to take the long view and focus on protecting wild landscapes for nature and people. Learn more about the Forever-Wild Circle here!

“Forever-Wild is a radical, much-needed way of looking at the landscape,” says Brett. “So I’m a staunch supporter now.”

This year, the Wilderness Trust is thanking new and current Forever-Wild Circle members with custom bandannas. Printed on hemp and organic cotton cloth, they feature the artwork of Vermont painter Patricia Leahey Meriam and are hand-dyed with homegrown Vermont indigo by Honey Hill Studios.

Brett regularly uses his new bandanna while doing ecological field work across the Northeast, or when hiking the town and state forests near his hometown of Marshfield, VT. “The bottom line for me is supporting the organization for the long term in a steady way; it makes all the sense in the world,” says Brett. “And to get a bandanna on top of it is just gravy!”

We invite you to become a monthly donor and join the Forever-Wild Circle. You will receive a custom 2020 bandanna (while supplies last) as our thanks for your generous support of wilderness conservation!

 

Rewilding Earth Podcast features Shelby Perry

Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Stewardship Director, Shelby Perry, talked with Rewilding Earth about the ins and outs of how we work to rewild the Northeast.

Welcoming Lillie Howell

 

Northeast Wilderness Trust is delighted to welcome Lillie Howell to the team. Lillie joins us as the Wildlands Partnership Intern, helping to connect more land trusts with wilderness conservation to accelerate the pace of protecting wild places across the Northeast. She is a student at Vermont Law School and University of Vermont. We asked Lillie about what motivates her to connect to and protect wilderness.

Lillian Howell

What makes you excited about the Wilderness Trust’s mission?

​Northeast Wilderness Trust’s mission excites me because it is a refreshing antidote to the norms and values that control our culture, economy, and prevailing land management regimes in the United States. While humans certainly benefit from wildlands in many ways, the Wilderness Trust’s mission of protecting nature for nature’s sake takes us out of the spotlight and places us back where we are meant to be: one species amongst an interconnected ecosystem, rather than a dominant species in control.

Tell me about a formative experience that seeded your love for nature/the wild.

The most formative moments I had when I was young were not grandiose experiences in a National Park or on an extended backpacking trip, but when I was growing up in Nashville. At one point my dad lived across the street from a Civil War battle site which had been protected as a public park. It was a small property surrounded by development and consisted of a short forested trail. This park wasn’t advertised and there were no signs, so almost no one knew about it. I would go there all the time and wander around in the woods by myself and sit next to this one fallen log for hours at a time. It has helped me to remember even today that our love of nature can happen in unexpected places; it doesn’t always have to be an expansive wilderness for us to feel connected or inspired.

What parts of your work are you looking forward to tackling?

I am looking forward to forging relationships with land trusts throughout the region and to hopefully foster a sense of community between the many organizations that are dedicated to wilderness conservation in New England. I think the Wildlands Partnership is an amazing opportunity to expand the Wilderness Trust’s reach and to bring a diverse array of stakeholders together to achieve a common goal. I also think it is important to be reminded of the bigger picture and to see how what I’ve learned thus far in graduate school is applied in “the real world.”

 

Welcoming Our New Board Members

Northeast Wilderness Trust is delighted to welcome four new members to our Board of Directors!

Honoring Annette Dykema’s Legacy

 

Every so often, we encounter a special wilderness champion whose passion for nature makes a very real difference in the lives of wild beings. Annette Dykema was just such a person. Annette passed away last December, but left a legacy that will last for generations to come.

 

Annette and her family spent summers and weekends at their property in Guilford, Vermont, connecting with each other and the land. The forested valley lay at the end of a dirt road, “For my mom, it was a big part of her; she knew every inch of that place,” said Alex Liston Dykema, her son.

Annette deeply cared about protecting any property she could; she had placed a conservation easement on her former property in Oregon. In the early 2000s, Annette began to explore conserving the Guilford forest surrounding her home. Annette’s wishes were for the valley to remain wild and unmanaged, but she had difficulty finding a land trust that was philosophically aligned with her personal land ethic. Alex, who is now an attorney for the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, began to do some digging and eventually came across Northeast Wilderness Trust. It was a match.

“The concept, for Mom, of being able to protect [the land] as a completely natural space forever was remarkable,” said Alex. Soon after Annette had placed a forever-wild easement on the land with Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2004, an adjacent parcel of land came up for sale. So she worked with her neighbors to buy it and raise the funds for the Wilderness Trust to place forever-wild protections on it. In total, Annette’s devotion to the wild protected 232 contiguous acres in Guilford.

The Dykema family on their Guilford property in 1999. From left: Martha Frost, Alex Liston Dykema and his son, Eligh, and Annette Dykema.

Annette’s daughter, Martha Frost, will keep the land in the family. “My siblings and I were outside in all four seasons as kids,” noted Alex. “Mom’s eight grandkids each have a connection to this land—it is firmly rooted in all of us.”

In the 45 years since they have owned this land, the family has watched it evolve. In addition to seeing the forest itself grow older and wilder, they have seen moose and black bear come back to the woods. “The property really gave us a sense of what rewilding could do,” said Alex. “There was no chance we’d have seen moose or black bear four decades ago, and now they’re there.”

Annette’s generous spirit and warm heart will be missed. She has set an example of unfailing dedication to the wild. For that, we are grateful…and we’re pretty sure those moose and bear are, too!

Thank you as well to the donors who made a gift to the Northeast Wilderness Trust in memory of Annette Dykema. Together, you contributed $1,375 to wilderness conservation. Thank you!

 

Student-focused Wilderness Stewardship Program takes shape at Muddy Pond

Innovative partnership with Plymouth-based Map Academy introduces wilderness to local youth

Map Academy teacher, Lance Merritt, and students at Muddy Pond.

“It has been really rewarding partnering with Joe and Northeast Wilderness Trust so far.  There is a well-established benefit to getting students out in the field and making a tangible difference in their community.”

 

Lance Merritt, program partner and teacher at Map Academy

At the Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve in southeast Massachusetts, Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Joe Falconeiri has been spearheading a quiet effort to better connect local youth with a wilderness ethic through specialized programming. 

In a partnership with the Map Academy of Plymouth, MA, students have joined Joe in the field to assist the Wilderness Trust in cleaning up the preserve and flagging old trails for closure and maintenance–the first step in a long rewilding process for this special property.  Founded in 2018, Map Academy recognizes that learning is not limited to the traditional school day or the traditional school walls, and believes the high school experience should not be limited in those ways either.

Northeast Wilderness Trust Southern New England Land Steward, Joe Falconeiri, digs into the natural history of the Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve with students from Map Academy.

In the first three months of this new partnership, seven students have joined their teacher and Joe on five different occasions.  The founder of Map Academy, Rachel Babcock, attended the first session. 

“It has been really rewarding partnering with Joe and Northeast Wilderness Trust so far.  There is a well-established benefit to getting students out in the field and making a tangible difference in their community,” said Lance Merritt, a teacher at Map Academy.  “In just a few visits, they have been able to see the impact of their hard work.” 

Muddy Pond was conserved by the Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2018.  At 322 acres, it is one of the largest privately conserved forever-wild preserves in the Greater Boston Area.  Northeast Wilderness Trust is currently implementing a three-year short-term management plan to curtail illegal motorized trespass, clean up litter, decommission trails, and develop a long term wilderness management plan. 

“A growing partnership with Map Academy is good for the Preserve and good for the future of wilderness in southeast Massachusetts,” says Joe Falconeiri, Southern New England Land Steward for the Wilderness Trust.  “During work projects on the property, the students have been getting introduced to the concepts of self-willed land and why Northeast Wilderness Trust’s management style is different than most other organizations.” 

Map Academy students explore the shore of Muddy Pond on a recent visit.

As the partnership grows, programming will evolve to include ecological lessons and discussions on how the Preserve and wilderness, generally, enrich our lives—whether in an exurban setting like Kingston or in the furthest reaches of northern New England. 

“Partnerships with groups like Map Academy will always focus on valuing and appreciating nature for nature’s sake.  Northeast Wilderness Trust is firmly rooted in recognition that forever-wild landscapes have intrinsic value worth protecting…it’s part of the DNA of this organization,” said Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust.  “But, we also celebrate wilderness’s many clear benefits to people.” 

Students investigate the impacts of illegal motorized recreation.

Moving forward, Northeast Wilderness Trust hopes to welcome Map students on a regular basis to work with Joe to steward the globally rare Coastal Plain Pond and Pine Barren ecosystems on the property.  A primary goal is to offer students courses and research opportunities at the Preserve that can earn them credits at school. 

In the next few weeks, Map Academy will be partnering with a local ecologist and botanist, Tim Simmons, to lead lessons and days in the field centered around vernal pools. 

Programming like this was part of the vision when the Wilderness Trust took on this “pocket” wilderness, as it’s often referred to.  Such wild forested pockets in an otherwise developed area are still places where nature can direct the ebb and flow of life and set the agenda.  We hope Muddy Pond becomes a resource to the people of Kingston and Plymouth; a physical place to get to know wild nature and become part of the land community that is larger than any one of us.  Northeast Wilderness Trust is excited to help foster a sense of place and pride in the local landscape, tied firmly to wilderness ethics, and to cultivate the next generation of conservation champions in southeast Massachusetts and beyond.

Would you like to volunteer to help us steward and rewild the Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve, or share your knowledge of local natural history with students and the public? Contact Joe Falconeiri to lend a hand at joe@newildernesstrust.org or (802) 505-5594.

Late day light at Muddy Pond.