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Celebrate 20 Years of NEWT with These 20 Essential Articles, Studies, and Books

20 is a special number. It’s the number of freshwater ponds in the Grasse River Wilderness Preserve. It’s the minimum number of years we need for global temperatures to stabilize, according to the IPCC Working Group I. And it’s the rough estimate of how many millions of acres of land across the US are stewarded by accredited land trusts.

20 is also the number of years Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT) has spent securing forever-wild places across our beloved Northeastern landscape. We are proud of the work accomplished thus far and enthusiastic about the goals that lie ahead. With a passionate staff of 14 and a board that spans the region, NEWT enacts the belief that wild nature deserves the freedom to flourish. On those grounds, we cherish all 70,220 acres of wildlands safeguarded by our land trust.

And yet, two decades into our work, we are still learning, as is the greater community of land conservationists across the globe. Scientists, grant writers, researchers, landowners, stewards, volunteers, ecologists—we are all united together in pursuing new ways of understanding wild nature and approaching conservation, both scientifically and philosophically.

Part of this mission requires staying up to date on recent books, studies, and articles that have made an impact and sparked debates amongst thousands of climate experts, conservationists, and wildlife enthusiasts. We want you to be part of the conversation, too. One could read hundreds of articles and scientific studies before they feel properly up-to-date on the climate crisis and conservation movement. So, in celebration of NEWT’s 20th Anniversary, we have curated for you a roadmap of sorts, composed of a certain number of recent publications…

We trust you can guess that number.

One of the 20 ponds at Grasse River Wilderness Preserve in Russell, NY. Photo by Brendan Wiltse.

Books, Articles & Essays

1. Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth 

In a NEWT-shell

This formal document was prepared by global conservation experts, including NEWT’s own Tom Butler, in preparation for the 11th World Wilderness Congress (2020) and pushes for the protection and expansion of wild lands around the world. The charter calls on governments, volunteers, businesses, and organizations to join together for this cause, which will promote human welfare, clean water and air, pollination, and climate stability.

2. Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations

In a NEWT-shell

This five-volume series features essays, interviews, poetry, and stories from over 70 contributors. The content “explores our deep interconnections with the living world” as an “offer of solidarity, highlighting the interdependence that exists between humans and nonhuman beings.” The series functions as a “guide and companion into the ways we can deepen our care and respect” for nature.

3. Preserving not just the most beautiful landscapes, but the most resilient

In a NEWT-shell

This Boston Globe op-ed by Dr. Mark Anderson, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Science and Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Board President, makes the case for prioritizing the conservation of ecosystems capable of withstanding climate change. Anderson and his team studied land across the US to identify “resilient strongholds,” of which there are many in New England. These areas create diverse “micro-climates,” making them resilient and necessary to protect.

4. Wilderness and Traditional Indigenous Beliefs: Conflicting or Intersecting Perspectives on the Human-Nature Relationship?

In a NEWT-shell

This article explores the history of “wilderness” with the aid of Indigenous Cu’pik and Gwich’in perspectives. There is much to clarify between the Western approach to conservation and the values of Native populations across North America. In an equitable and communicative union, we are much more capable of addressing climate change and land protection for the wellbeing of all parties involved.

5. The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild by Enric Sala

In a NEWT-shell

If you’re looking for a contemporary book to rekindle your devotion to conservation, you’ll find it in this “inspiring manifesto.” Internationally renowned ecologist Enric Sala lays out the ways in which protecting nature is “our best health insurance” and “makes economic sense.” This accessible read even has insights on conservation’s ties to the coronavirus pandemic.

6. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In a NEWT-shell

This essay collection was a national bestseller and is now published in a special edition with all-new features, such as color illustrations. Written by botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass showcases how plants and animals are “our oldest teachers.” Kimmerer argues that “a wider ecological consciousness” requires us to embrace and respect nature.

7. Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization by Eileen Crist

In a NEWT-shell

This book “documents the rising tide of biodiversity loss, but also lays out the drivers of this wholesale destruction and how we can push past them.” Crist argues that the appropriate response is to empower women worldwide with family-planning tools and access to education, to deindustrialize food production, and to localize economies while contracting global trade. In short, this book is a wakeup call for humanity.

8. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by E.O. Wilson: 

In a NEWT-shell

This moving book shows us the devastating harms of the human race and offers an ambitious solution: to protect half of the planet’s surface for nature. Wilson argues that any goal smaller than that will not overcome the encroaching threat of mass extinction. If you’re not yet convinced on the stakes at play in land conservation, this book will win you over.

9. Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence by Marc Bekoff

In a NEWT-shell

This handbook of sorts connects compassion for wildlife to the keys of coexistence. Bekoff, who is a leading activist and animal expert, invites readers to engage in “the essential work of becoming reenchanted with the world, acting from the inside out, and dissolving false boundaries to truly connect with both nature and themselves.” At the heart of this book is an excavation of the human attitudes that are most beneficial to habitat restoration.

10. Fifty Years Later: Wilderness & Civil Rights in the Same Breath by Lauret Savoy

In a NEWT-shell

This article was released on the 50th anniversary of both the Civil Rights Act and the Wilderness Act and explores how these two landmark pieces of legislation are more closely tied together than some think. Savoy writes that “this key step toward social justice and this great conservation achievement came about through the long-term efforts of reform movements commonly seen as unrelated.” For a helpful lesson on the relationship between justice for the land and justice for people, check out the full article linked above.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly at Vickie Bunnell Preserve. Photo by Shelby Perry.

Studies & Research

11. Global priority areas for ecosystem restoration

In a NEWT-shell

This 2020 study published in Nature identifies the highest priority pieces of global land that require ecosystem restoration–which include the temperate forests of the Northeastern United States. Researchers found that “restoring 15% of converted lands in priority areas could avoid 60% of expected extinctions while sequestering…14% of total emissions since the Industrial Revolution.”

12. Protecting Half the Planet and Transforming Human Systems Are Complementary Goals

In a NEWT-shell

This Perspective article from last year argues that protecting nature and improving the planet for humans are not contradictory or even mutually exclusive goals, but rather are two outcomes in the same climate mission. This is done in part by “protecting nature generously, and simultaneously contracting and transforming the human enterprise, we can create the conditions for achieving justice and well-being for both people and other species. If we fail to do so, we instead accept a chaotic and impoverished world that will be dangerous for us all.”

 13. A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets

In a NEWT-shell

One year pre-pandemic, Science Advances published an article introducing this ambitious plan, The Global Deal for Nature (GDN), to be paired with the Paris Climate Accords that will “save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth” by protecting 30% of the planet and designating another 20% as climate stabilization areas by 2030.

14. Multi-Decadal Carbon Cycle Measurements Indicate Resistance to External Drivers of Change at the Howland Forest AmeriFlux Site

In a NEWT-shell

This study, conducted at NEWT’s very own Howland Research Forest, exemplifies that wild forests are a long-term climate solution because they store carbon dioxide in soil and plants. Forests like Howland counteract the significant damage caused by too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

15. Older Eastern White Pine Trees and Stands Accumulate Carbon for Many Decades and Maximize Cumulative Carbon

In a NEWT-shell

This study refutes the claim that old-growth forests are not “useful” allies in the fight against climate change  by proving that the opposite is true: old-growth forests are key in climate restoration because they store significant amounts of carbon. This case covers eastern white pine trees in particular and presents old-growth forests as a “proven, low cost, natural climate solution that also protects and restores biodiversity across the landscape.”

16. Puma concolor as ecological brokers: a review of their biotic relationships

In a NEWT-shell

Mammal Review published this expansive study about cougars’ impact on prey, carrion, other carnivores, and the ecosystem at large. The scientists concluded that cougars play an important role in moving energy and nutrients throughout the trophic (food web) levels in the Western Hemisphere. Protection of cougars in the Americas will conserve biodiversity.

17. Wilderness areas halve the extinction risk of terrestrial biodiversity

In a NEWT-shell

The irreversible consequences of biological annihilation would be avoided by securing more protected wild land. In this Nature study, learn about vital areas across every continent that are not currently protected. Wilderness conservation would halve the chances of extinction for species within those special ecosystems.

18. Guiding principles for rewilding

In a NEWT-shell

Look no further for clarification on the definition of rewilding. This study presents 10 guiding principles for rewilding. In short, rewilding “aims to restore ecosystem structure” and set nature up to direct its own course, without human interference.

19. Inter-plant communication through mycorrhizal networks mediates complex adaptive behaviour in plant communities

In a NEWT-shell

Did you know that plants really do talk? To each other, at least, and it’s thanks to a shared network of subterranean fungal networks that promotes complex adaptive changes all throughout the ecosystem. Without this enigmatic communication, the health of the forest would suffer.

20. NEWT’s Wild Works Series

In a NEWT-shell

The Wild Works series is published by Northeast Wilderness Trust and so far comprises three installments. Volume 1: Wild Carbon, by Mark G. Anderson, is a timely piece about the critical, and often misunderstood, role of old and wild forests for carbon storage. Volume 1.1: Wild Carbon Supplement, was written by Anderson as well and discusses carbon sequestration while using recent research to build the case for old and wild forests as natural climate solutions. Volume 2: Biodiversity: The Language of Wilderness, by Janet McMahon, shows how old forests offer niche and under-represented habitat types. 

Happy reading!