Duren Mountain Is Forever-Wild!

Ducks Unlimited transferred the Duren Mountain property along Route 102 in Guildhall to the Northeast Wilderness Trust, protecting 184 acres of wetlands and forest as forever-wild.

New Wilderness Preserve Created in Bridgewater


BRIDGEWATER, VT – Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased 359 acres from Paedra Bramhall last week, creating the first privately protected, forever-wild preserve in the Chateauguay No-Town Conservation Area. The Wilderness Trust is a non-profit land trust that conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people.

The newly established Bramhall Wilderness Preserve is home to pristine cascading brooks, towering trees, and abundant wildlife. Protecting this land has been a long-time effort for landowner Paedra Bramhall, who was born in a rustic cabin on the property without running water or electricity in the 1940s.

“The fact that this dream I have had most of my life is now a reality [for] the acres my mom left me—that they are now and will be forever wild—is still sinking in,” said Ms. Bramhall. 


Streams shaded by hemlock groves offer prime habitat for native brook trout. Shelby Perry

Since Ms. Bramhall has left the land largely unmanaged for decades, the forest is already well on its way to returning to old-growth.

“Old and wild forests like the Bramhall Wilderness Preserve are among the best natural tools we have to address the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss,” says Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Wilderness Trust. “They are remarkably effective at storing vast amounts of carbon, and they offer habitats to a wide array of species that will need space to move and adapt as the climate becomes hotter and more unpredictable.”

The Preserve offers wildlife habitat and a resilient ecosystem to wildlife large and small. Shelby Perry

The Preserve lies just south of the Appalachian Trail as it winds its way down from the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River. Nearly two miles of waterways, including the North Branch of the Ottauquechee River and two smaller tributaries, tumble through the steep hills of the Preserve. Dense hemlocks shade the water, creating prime habitat for native brook trout. 

Northeast Wilderness Trust is working with the Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) on the permanent conservation of the land. VRC and VHCB will co-hold forever-wild legal protections on the preserve. 

Nearly two miles of tributaries of the Ottauquechee River cascade through the land. Shelby Perry

“We are excited to partner with Northeast Wilderness Trust for the sake of public access to the rivers in the beautiful Bramhall Preserve,” says Lydia Menendez Parker, Assistant Director of VRC. “Low-impact recreational access paths from the parking pull-out will support those adventurers looking for a place to dip in the cool, refreshing waters and cast a line.”

VHCB played a key role in in protecting the land with a $160,000 grant. “VHCB is pleased to support the conservation of this special property,” said Gus Seelig, Executive Director of VHCB. “Situated as it is in the center of 60,000 acres of managed forestland in federal, state, municipal and private ownership, this core block of land will remain forever wild and provide permanent public access for swimming, hunting, fishing, and hiking. The Bramhall Wilderness Preserve will create a unique learning laboratory for scientists, naturalists, and educators to compare natural processes over time to the managed forestland surrounding it, helping community members and visitors to better understand the ecological benefits of old forest.”

Paedra Bramhall, who was born on the land, has been working for decades to see this land preserved as wilderness. She has left the land to evolve and change over time without interference, meaning that the forest is mature, and well on its way to returning to old-growth status. Daryl Burtnett

Last semester, Woodstock High School ran a Wilderness Studies class about nature, conservation, and wildlands. The students spent two field days on the Preserve for experiential outdoor learning.

“It is vital that students take time in school to develop their personal relationship with nature, wilderness, and society,” said Sophie Leggett, a student who served as Teaching Assistant for the class. “Moreover, we are lucky to be working with the Northeast Wilderness Trust to have a deep and meaningful educational experience with local wilderness. Using the Bramhall Preserve as a lens for more global thinking, this class is a step in developing personal and cultural values surrounding wilderness.”

BioBlitz at the Bramhall Wilderness Preserve in 2019. Chris Fastie

The Wilderness Trust prohibits timber harvest, vehicles, trapping, mining, agriculture, subdivision, and development on all forever-wild properties it protects. “Paedra has allowed nature to take charge on this land for decades and we will continue that legacy,” said Shelby Perry, Stewardship Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “From this day forward, the forest will always continue to grow old and wild per her wishes, providing diverse wildlife habitat and storing carbon indefinitely.”

The new Bramhall Wilderness Preserve is part of the Wilderness Trust’s Wild Carbon initiative. Through this program, the new Preserve will be aggregated with other Wilderness Trust properties across four states. The goal of the program is to sell carbon credits from the combined properties to generate funds for future wilderness conservation.

The Preserve is open to low-impact recreation such as hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, and nature study. Shelby Perry

“We are far from living in a carbon-neutral world,” explained Sophie Ehrhardt, the Wildlands Partnership Coordinator for Northeast Wilderness Trust. “This carbon project will provide an original model for other organizations who want to preserve land. This program creates income from carbon storage rather than timber harvest.”

The Wilderness Trust’s first Wild Carbon sale was completed in 2016 on two of its Preserves in Maine. “Funding to protect wild places is scarce,” Sophie added, “so carbon credits are a creative way to build a wilder future.”

Although enough funds were raised to buy and create the Bramhall Preserve, the Wilderness Trust is still working to raise $204,000 to secure the long-term stewardship and care of the property.

To learn more about this land, visit newildernesstrust.org/bramhall. If you would like to support the Preserve with a tax-deductible gift, please visit donorbox.org/support-bramhall-preserve or call 802-224-1000.


Wilderness Preserve Expands in New Ipswich


For more information, contact:

  • Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director: jon@newildernesstrust.org, 802.224.1000
  • Sophi Veltrop, Outreach Coordinator: sophi@newildernesstrust.org, 802.224.1000

For immediate release: February 7, 2020

New Ipswich, NH – The Northeast Wilderness Trust bought 47 acres of forest and wetlands from Shirley Sawtelle, safeguarding the last remaining unprotected shoreline of Binney Pond and a section of the Wapack Trail. The Wilderness Trust will manage this land as a forever-wild addition to its Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, which it purchased in 2016.

The Sawtelle addition connects the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve to the Wapack Wilderness—a property owned by the Hampshire Country School and legally protected by Northeast Wilderness Trust.

“The Sawtelle Addition, while relatively small in size, is mighty in its impact,” said Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “It protects the final puzzle piece of Binney Pond’s shoreline, and is a critical linkage between two Wilderness Trust-conserved properties.”

With the addition of 47 acres to the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, the entire shoreline of Binney Pond is now protected from development.

In total, a 1,963-acre landscape of unbroken wilderness is conserved by the Northeast Wilderness Trust in New Ipswich and Rindge. These Wilderness Trust lands abut a network of other private and public conserved lands, creating interconnected, diverse natural habitats that are needed by far-ranging species like moose and bobcat, both of which have been observed on the Sawtelle Addition.

“Northeast Wilderness Trust’s ongoing conservation of forever-wild lands in southern New Hampshire is part of a larger vision to secure a resilient New England landscape,” added Mr. Leibowitz. “In this region, wildlands and well-managed woodlands complement one another for the benefit of nature and people.”

Now that the Sawtelle property is protected as forever-wild, a connected corridor of 1,963 acres creates an expansive refuge for wildlife.

Mrs. Sawtelle wanted to preserve her property for its values to wildlife, including the beaver, heron, waterfowl, and amphibians that rely on the pond and its surrounding wetlands and forest.

“Nature is very important to my family,” said Mrs. Sawtelle. “We came to love it here because of the wildflowers and the animals…we’ve enjoyed the Wapack Trail tremendously.”

The 21.5-mile Wapack Trail, which leads from Mt. Watatic to North Pack Monadnock, the recently conserved property. The trail is maintained by the Friends of the Wapack, who partner with organizations like the Wilderness Trust to protect the lands surrounding it. Rick Blanchette, president of the Friends, has volunteered with the organization for 30 years.

“As a teen, I would climb Pratt and New Ipswich Mountains and wander the Wapack,” said Mr. Blanchette. “Adding this piece with the Binney property is huge—it’s just terrific to have it all done.”

In 2001, Jacob Varney and the Ashby Boy Scout Troop built boardwalks on Mrs. Sawtelle’s property. The boardwalks were Varney’s Eagle Scout project to improve the hiking experience without disturbing the natural flow of water or the fragile wetland soils. “That was just the best thing,” said Mrs. Sawtelle. “Everyone always uses them because the trail is so wet there.”

The Sawtelle parcel protects a short section of the 21.5-mile Wapack Trail, affording hikers views of Binney Pond and a pleasant meander along boardwalks built in 2001 by the Ashby Boy Scouts.

“From the boardwalks, one can see beautiful mountain laurels and herons in the summer,” said Mr. Blanchette. “I’ve encountered signs of moose on this land while hiking alone.”

The Friends of the Wapack are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Only five miles of the Wapack Trail remain unprotected, and the Friends hope to accomplish this goal in the upcoming years. As for Mrs. Sawtelle, her 2020 goal is to hike from her house to Mt. Watatic for a picnic, crossing the newly protected trail en route.

About the Northeast Wilderness Trust

Founded in 2002, the 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. The organization currently safeguards more than 35,000 acres of wildlands in six states.


Wilderness Rebounds in the Heart of Kingston


For more information, contact:

For immediate release: January 20, 2020

Kingston, MA – In the center of the suburbs, Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is offering a wild refuge for nature, wildlife, and people. The Northeast Wilderness Trust established the Preserve in 2018, and has been working to re-wild the land and connect students and residents with wilderness.

The Preserve sits at the northern reaches of the Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens. This forest type is globally rare, and found only in New Jersey, Long Island, and Southeastern Massachusetts and its islands. The Pine Barrens are dominated by pitch pine and black, white, and red oak trees. While Massachusetts’ Pine Barrens survived European settlement because their nutrient-poor soils were not suitable for agriculture, they are now very rare due to suburban development. Several species live only in the unique Coastal Plain Ponds of Southeast Massachusetts, and are critically endangered or threatened. 

Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is home to a rare ecosystem that is home to diverse flora and fauna.

Looking Back

As locals know well, suburban sprawl has boomed south of Boston since the 1980s. Most of the original Pine Barrens have since been destroyed or broken up into fragments.

 “Plymouth County has lost most of its large, un-fragmented open spaces in my lifetime,” said Joe Falconeiri, the Southern New England Land Steward for Northeast Wilderness Trust. “In only a few decades, much of this globally rare ecosystem in our backyards has been forever altered and lost due to residential and commercial development.”

In 1995, Kingston was home to a stretch of unbroken forest totaling more than 2,000 acres. In the mid-90s, large developments began to eat away at its edges. And in 2004, Route 44 was built, splitting the forest in two.

South of the highway, the 322-acre Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is one of the remaining pieces of that original forest. It is owned by Northeast Wilderness Trust, and is open for low-impact recreation like hiking, bird-watching, and nature study.

Although safe from development, the Preserve is only bordered by 200 acres of forest. Some is state and town land and some is protected by The Wildlands Trust. Yet the rest is private land under threat of development. The Preserve’s only connection to 775 acres of woodlands opposite the highway (including Camp Nekon and the Kingston Town Forest) is one concrete tunnel under Route 44.

Decades of construction have added up. Today, the Pine Barrens are small, separated pieces of diminished habitat. As the forest disappears, so do the opportunities to connect with nature and experience the native landscape.

Moving Forward

The Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve offers a redeeming glimmer of hope in that patches of these forests do still exist; they are not yet gone forever. Within the Preserve, the nearby hum of traffic is muffled by songs of frogs, birds, or crickets. In early spring, amphibians lay their eggs, wildflowers blossom, and turtles dig nests. Through the summer, rare and endangered plants found only in this kind of ecosystem emerge from the waters of Muddy Pond. They bloom as fall sets in, while birds stop by for a rest as they migrate south.

New England Boneset is an endangered species found only Southeast Massachusetts. It thrives at Muddy Pond and its population is being closely monitored.

Re-wilding is the practice of letting nature take charge. Joe Falconeiri is working with local schools and organizations to jumpstart the re-wilding process while teaching about wilderness values.

“When people visit Muddy Pond, they immediately decompress and become reconnected and centered within themselves,” said Falconeiri. “The social, political and environmental lessons Muddy Pond provide are profound for the community and region and these lessons will now be protected for future generations to come.”

Falconeiri works with residents to haul out trash, shut down old trails, and hang signs. More than 75 students have joined Northeast Wilderness Trust to lend a hand and enjoy the outdoors. Teenagers are becoming familiar with this native habitat as they gather data for biology class. Dozens of adults have joined hikes and volunteer days, too.

Volunteers help clean up litter in the forest surrounding Muddy Pond, in collaboration with the Wildlands Trust and Northeast Wilderness Trust.

These citizens are redefining the relationship between people and the environment. Rather than treating the land as a resource to be used and extracted, they approach it as a source of knowledge, excitement, and beauty.

Your Guide to Muddy Pond

Parking is located on Bishop’s Highway, one mile west of Route 80. To protect this precious landscape, visitors are asked to respect the Preserve’s rules: Hiking and fishing are limited to designated areas, and dogs must be kept on-leash. Vehicles, bicycles, radios, fires, camping, hunting, and trapping are not permitted. Please note that the Preserve’s official hiking network is still being formalized.

To learn more or inquire about volunteer opportunities and events, visit www.newildernesstrust.org or contact Joe Falconieri at joe@newildernesstrust.org

About Northeast Wilderness Trust

Founded in 2002, the 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. The organization currently safeguards more than 35,000 acres of wildlands in six states.


New York’s Newest Wilderness Preserve

Northeast Wilderness Trust closes on landmark wilderness project in the Adirondacks’ Champlain Valley

Jon Leibowitz, Northeast Wilderness Trust: (802) 829-8199
Mike Carr, Adirondack Land Trust: (518) 837-7569
Eileen Larrabee, Open Space Institute: (518) 427-1564

CHESTERFIELD, NY – A vast expanse of Adirondack foothills at the headwaters of the Boquet River, including wild streams, pristine ponds, and mature forest, has been permanently protected for the benefit of nature and people in a major land preservation milestone within the Adirondack Park’s ‘Blue Line.’

Copper Pond in the Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Photo: Brendan Wiltse.

“This is a momentous day for wilderness in New York’s Lake Champlain region,” says Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust, the non-profit that purchased the 2,434-acre property from the Rodgers family on May 24th.  “In contrast to the great wilderness areas of the High Peaks and lakes country of the central and western Adirondacks, the easternmost region of the Adirondack Park remains underrepresented when it comes to forever-wild landscapes.  Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve is a big step toward ensuring that low-elevation areas receive equal wilderness representation within the beloved Adirondacks.  It’s in these ‘West Champlain Hills’ where some of greatest biological diversity is found in all of the Adirondack Park.”

The purchase of Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve entailed a year of fundraising towards a total project budget of $1.8 million.  Major funding support came from Sweet Water Trust, Conservation Alliance, Gallogly Family Foundation, Open Space Institute, and Cloudsplitter Foundation.

An aerial view of Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Photo: Brendan Wiltse.

Partnering with Northeast Wilderness Trust, Adirondack Land Trust will hold a “forever-wild” conservation easement on the property, and will be responsible for ensuring that the terms in the easement are upheld in perpetuity.

“This project is both innovative and unique in the Adirondack Park,” said Mike Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Land Trust. “First, this is not like other Adirondack wilderness; this is private forever-wild land that will now be opened to the public for uses that are compatible with its wilderness character. Also, the Adirondack Land Trust is just one of several partners using their different expertise to protect and manage this special place, leveraging the strengths of all involved. The Adirondack Land Trust has a 35-year history of investment in the Champlain Valley, primarily in farmland protection, and we are honored to work with Northeast Wilderness Trust and others to protect its biological diversity as well.”

Peregrine Falcons have been nesting in the cliffs of Eagle Mountain in recent years. Photo: Brendan Wiltse

Eagle Mountain is the beating heart of a large, intact forest that connects the High Peaks to lower elevation lands near Lake Champlain.  Surrounding protected areas include New York State’s Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest (home to the local landmark, Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain), as well as other privately conserved lands.

The dramatic cliffs of the property’s namesake summit harbor nesting habitat for rare Peregrine Falcons, the fastest animal on the planet.  These New York State-listed endangered birds have been documented successfully nesting within the boundaries of the Preserve for the past several years.

In addition, the acquisition of Eagle Mountain will protect more than five miles of headwater streams that feed into the North Branch of the Boquet River.  These streams are cold, clear, and support rich native brook trout habitat.  The exceptional water quality of this stream system is further demonstrated by the presence of the Eastern Pearlshell, a rare freshwater mussel found in only a few locations in New York State and at risk throughout its historic habitat due to water pollution and dams.

“The protection of Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve is a monumental achievement in the larger effort to protect irreplaceable public resources within the Adirondacks,” says Kim Elliman, president and CEO of Open Space Institute, one of the project’s funders. “The Preserve is a critical stepping stone for wildlife moving across the landscape from Lake Champlain to the High Peaks. OSI is proud to have supported this project, and we commend the Northeast Wilderness Trust on their tireless work seeing this land protected.”

Champlain Area Trails will team up with Northeast Wilderness Trust and Adirondack Land Trust to develop a footpath that showcases the property’s beauty while respecting rare plant and animal communities.  In addition to hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, snowshoeing, and skiing, hunting with some restrictions will be allowed by permission.  Hunting permits are free and can be obtained at www.newildernesstrust.org.

“Renowned author and Northeast Wilderness Trust Advisor, Bill McKibben, wrote that ‘The Adirondacks are perhaps the world’s greatest experiment in ecological recovery, a place hard used a century ago and now slowly recovering, slowly proving that where humanity backs off, nature rebounds,’” reflects Jon Leibowitz of Northeast Wilderness Trust.  “Eagle Mountain is the proof behind McKibben’s lofty words.  This landscape is not pristine or untouched, but its wild character is strong, and from this point forward, it will continue its recovery and rewilding.  With this project we take a giant step towards creating a brighter, healthier future for both human and wild residents of this special corner of the Northeast.”

Although sufficient funding has been raised to complete the purchase of Eagle Mountain, there are funds still needed to support long term stewardship of the property.  If you would like to support the Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve with a tax-deductible gift, please visit www.newildernesstrust.org/donate or call (802) 224-1000.


Founded in 2002, Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people, to date protecting more than 34,000 acres across New England and the Adirondacks.