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.
The new Bramhall Wilderness Preserve has been getting some attention across Vermont!
As the first forever-wild land that has been privately protected in the Chateauguay No-Town Conservation Area, the creation of this 359-acre wilderness is a significant achievement. After several years of hard work and fundraising, the Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased this property in April 2020. The land is just south of the Appalachian Trail, and is traversed by headwaters of the Ottauquechee River that provide pristine habitat for native brook trout. Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and the Vermont River Conservancy will co-hold a forever-wild easement on the land, which will ensure its perpetual protection. We are still fundraising to secure the long-term stewardship of the land. You can help by making a donation to support the Bramhall Wilderness Preserve.
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.
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 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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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!
Thanks to those who support wilderness conservation, Northeast Wilderness Trust has made strides towards a wilder tomorrow for the northeast. In 2015, we set a goal of conserving 10,000 additional wilderness acres by 2020, and we exceeded that goal this past year with the protection of Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Each conservation success in the intervening years was critical to making it this far.
Check out our work in each state below!
In 2019, NWT launched a campaign to expand the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve in New Ipswich, NH by 47 acres. With the help of 76 generous donors, we have met the fundraising goal and now count the Sawtelle Addition as a forever-wild piece of this critical wildlife corridor! This land connects Binney Hill to the NWT-protected Wapack Wilderness to the north, and it secures the last piece of the Binney Pond shoreline so that this undeveloped pond is now fully protected.
Just west of Poke-o-Moonshine in the northeast Adirondack foothills, the brand new Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve now protects 2,434 acres. The land includes pristine ponds, cliffs where peregrine falcons nest, wetlands, brooks, and vernal pools. The protection of this land furthers the effort to secure a swath of interconnected lands for wildlife, linking the Adirondack Park to the shores of Lake Champlain.
NWT bought the 12 acres to add a beautiful, official access point (below) to the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in Atkinson, ME. In partnership with NRCS and local contractors, we removed culverts from former logging roads in the Preserve to restore waterways and jump-start the rewilding process. We will soon be launching a fundraising campaign to purchase 3,000+ acres in Western Maine…stay tuned!
Southern New England
On the Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve in Kingston, MA, more than 75 students have connected with the globally rare Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens ecosystem this year. They visit Muddy Pond to hike and reconnect with nature, and learn science, history, and wilderness values in a real-world setting. Biology students and local ecologist Tim Simmons are monitoring rare and endangered plants, while dozens of volunteers have helped haul out litter, close down ATV trails, and create a beautiful new parking area.
In Connecticut, we’re excited to be exploring new conservation opportunities in the northwest corner of the state, and will be presenting at the Connecticut Land Conservation Conference this March (see upcoming events below). UnTrammeled: The Case for Wild Nature, our popular presentation, will make its Connecticut debut at the Norfolk Public Library on May 21…save the date!
In partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Vermont, we now hold forever-wild protections on Burnt Mountain. Spanning 5,000 acres across the northern spine of the Green Mountains, this rugged terrain is home to black bear, brook trout, and a rich diversity of breeding songbirds. We continue to raise money to protect the Bridgewater Hollow Bramhall Wilderness Preserve, and hosted a BioBlitz on the land this summer.
Curious what the next five years will bring? Check out our 2020-25 Strategic Plan to see how the Northeast Wilderness Trust will accelerate and expand the protection of wild places. You can help make the Northeast a wilder place by making a tax-deductible donation. Your support gives the Northeast Wilderness Trust the standing to conserve more land at a greater pace. Thank you.
…People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wilderness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully. Looking out on a clean plank of planet earth, we can get shaken right down to the bone by the bronze-eyed possibility of lives that are not our own.— Barbara Kingsolver, in “Small Wonder”
After 50 miles and two days of walking, Shelby Perry hung a left off of the Appalachian Trail and dropped into a quintessential New England landscape where time seems to stand still. Following the twists and turns of gin-clear Bridgewater Hollow Brook, hardwoods and hemlocks towering overhead, birdsong echoing down from the canopy, it was a peaceful conclusion to a one-woman protest march – a long-distance awareness-building and fundraising effort to shine a spotlight on the power of wilderness to address two of the greatest crises of our time: climate change and the planet’s sixth major extinction episode.
It was also the kickoff to a weekend of science and wonder at the Bridgewater Hollow BioBlitz, an effort to protect a mature, wild forest along the North Branch of the Ottauquechee River in Central Vermont.
On Sunday, June 23rd, Shelby and a half-dozen expert naturalists and landscape historians descended on the proposed Bridgewater Hollow Bramhall Wilderness Preserve to help identify the biodiversity harbored on the 360-acre property. Joining Shelby (NWT’s Stewardship Director) were Spencer Hardy and Nathan Sharp of Vermont Center for Ecostudies, ecologist Brett Engstrom, and Middlebury College landscape historian, Chris Fastie. So far, these pros – along with help from 15 participants who joined them for a variety of outings throughout the day – have identified nearly 200 different species from their field observations, and the list continues to grow.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the BioBlitz and who donated in support of Shelby’s Walk for Wilderness, which raised over $6,000 to safeguard the Bridgewater Hollow Preserve.
There are still significant funds to raise to complete the purchase of this wild landscape at the heart of the Green Mountains.
You can join the Northeast’s community of wilderness supporters by donating to protect Bridgewater Hollow, today.
5,487-acre property becomes Vermont’s largest privately conserved forever-wild preserve
Big, wild, and connected: that’s our dream for wildlands of the Northeast. The Burnt Mountain forever-wild easement is just the sort of project that helps achieve that lofty vision.
In an exciting new partnership between The Nature Conservancy in Vermont and Northeast Wilderness Trust, Burnt Mountain is now the largest forever-wild landscape to be protected in Vermont since Congress passed the New England Wilderness Act of 2006, designating wilderness areas on the Green Mountain National Forest.
“We’re proud to partner with The Nature Conservancy in Vermont to protect the largest forever-wild preserve in the Green Mountain State,” says Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “Though many consider Vermont to be a rural, wild place, only about 3% of the state is currently protected as wilderness.”
Burnt Mountain marks the second joint project of The Nature Conservancy in Vermont and Northeast Wilderness Trust. In 2017, TNC donated a forever-wild easement on the 1,170-acre West Mountain Inholdings to Northeast Wilderness Trust for permanent safekeeping. The Wilderness Trust has also partnered with The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire, where we hold the Granite State’s largest forever-wild easement on the Vickie Bunnell Preserve, a 10,330-acre property in the northern White Mountains.
Learn more about this significant conservation milestone by visiting the Burnt Mountain project page.
Do you want to support more good news like this year-round? Join our community of monthly wilderness supporters! We are protecting forever-wild landscapes across the Northeast at a faster rate than ever before. As of this month, Northeast Wilderness Trust has helped to permanently preserve and rewild more than 32,000-acres across New England and the Adirondacks. Your monthly support as a member of the Forever-Wild Circle allows us to focus on what’s important: conserving land and water. Please join us today.