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Guardians of the Land: Another Year of Stewardship

Every year, Northeast Wilderness Trust relies on a team of 17 dedicated volunteers who help us keep eyes and boots on the ground at the wildlands we safeguard across six states. Our hard-working stewardship staff likewise monitor the lands entrusted to Northeast Wilderness Trust’s care. Among other things, they mark boundaries, remove trash, work to prevent or address illegal vehicle trespass, and maintain relationships with communities local to our Preserves. Here are just a few snapshots of adventures in the guardianship of wildlands from 2021.

Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary, Maine

This summer, four NEWT staff (Hannah Epstein, Shelby Perry, Sophie Ehrhardt, and Joe Falconeiri) ventured to Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary in the remote Western Maine Mountains. The journey involved two days of trekking through dense forests and over steep slopes, plus a day of travel over rugged backwoods roads on either side. Together, the team hung boundary signs on the entire property line despite a pair of shoes disintegrating in the rain and hours-long scrambles over downed trees that had been toppled in a prior storm’s microburst. In total, the team marked 6.4 miles of boundaries, making it to the farthest reaches of the property to witness forests hard-hit by past clear-cutting now recovering. Pictured here, the young trees are steadily climbing skyward, sequestering carbon and creating new wildlife habitat as they go. The two moose sighted by the team during their short visit were a testament to this land’s value to wildlife who need plenty of room to roam. The intrepid team was even able to take down a deer stand that had been on the land prior to its transfer to NEWT.

Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve, MA

Things at Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve have been quieter and more peaceful than ever thanks to our Southern New England Land Steward’s persistent efforts to block illegal motor vehicle trespass on the land, which was once a favorite destination for four-wheelers. Joe Falconeiri continues to be a regular presence at Muddy Pond and keep the footpaths clear and well-marked so that visitors may experience the land’s beauty on foot, at nature’s pace. Joe is now collaborating with local officials to help the bordering state forests cut down on motor vehicle use on the pine barrens next door.

We welcomed school groups back to the Preserve after a Covid-induced hiatus. This year, Sacred Heart High School and Plymouth Harbor Academy were able to take field trips to the land. Plymouth Harbor Academy students gathered native milfoil samples as part of their aquatic species class. Our summer monitoring of the endangered New England boneset, which only remains in a few coastal plain ponds like this one, turned up a whopping 20,000 stems. And, we launched ‘Team Muddy,’ a community of folks who care about the preservation and wildness of Muddy Pond, with a nature walk on the land where participants learned to use iNaturalist to document species. Stay tuned for a winter outing on the land in early March!

NEWT continues to collaborate with Native Land Conservancy (NLC) towards a cultural respect easement and forever-wild easement that NLC will hold on Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve, as well as to develop a conservation internship for Native youth based out of Muddy Pond.

Other highlights from 2021

At Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in New York, Champlain Area Trails completed Benny’s Trail circumnavigating Clear Pond, and we celebrated its grand opening together with CATS, Adirondack Land Trust, Writing the Land poets, and supporters of the Eagle Mountain conservation project. Work continued to dismantle remnants of former camps on the land, including a defunct picnic table and privy.

At Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in Maine, a new, low-impact footpath loop welcomes visitors and is accessible from the small parking area. We launched ‘Team Alder Stream’ and will host a volunteer work day to create bog bridges across a wet patch of the trail this spring.

Finally, all of our Ambassador Preserves now have kiosks educating the public about the benefits that abound when young forests are allowed the freedom to grow old and wild. They all have a rewilding photopoint station, where visitors can upload a photo to help document ecosystem changes over time. This year, we’ll be adding a new Ambassador Preserve as we establish the Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve in Vermont.

You can join the fun!

Photography: Team Muddy Pond volunteers by Natalia Boltukhova