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Northeast Wilderness Trust protects upland and freshwater tidal acreage as Forever-Wild in Pittston, Maine

January 6, 2023 – Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT) acquired more than 260 acres in Pittston, Maine in December. The land includes a freshwater tidal zone and an 1.5 mile stretch along the Eastern River, and will form a new forever-wild preserve called the Tidal Bends Wilderness Preserve. Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) supported the project as part of its Marshes for Tomorrow Initiative and the land abuts a 50-acre preserve protected by the Kennebec Land Trust, thus ensuring protection of both sides of this stretch of the Eastern River, a tributary to the Kennebec River that flows to the Maine coast.

The Tidal Bends Wilderness Preserve features approximately 33 acres of freshwater tidal marsh, a state-listed imperiled natural community, and provides important habitat for numerous species of birds, including the rare Black-Crowned Night Heron, and several state-listed rare plant species, including Estuary Bur-marigold, Eatons Bur-marigold, and Parkers Pipewort. The land also includes mature forest and appears to have not been logged for many decades.

“Only about four percent of land in Maine is conserved as Forever-Wild,” said Jon Leibowitz, NEWT Executive Director. “These are places where nature directs the ebb and flow of life, where natural communities are given the time and space to grow old and complex, and where resource extraction is prohibited.”

Leibowitz continued: “The Tidal Bends Wilderness Preserve is an exceptional property where the food web relationships can be witnessed in real time and where forever-wild protections will allow nature to flourish and wildlife to find permanent refuge.”

MCHT Project Manager Dan Hohl noted that MCHT has been honored to participate in the protection of Tidal Bends Wilderness Preserve in large part because it includes at-risk marshes and tidal ecosystems. “Conserving this property ensures that the marsh will not be impacted by human development and has the opportunity to expand and migrate into new areas as sea levels rise,” said Hohl.  “We are pleased to be partnering with NEWT as part of our coastwide initiative to protect marshlands from the impacts of climate change.”

A Vision to Protect the Land

Landowners Jim Goldman and Alyce Zellers donated the 260-acre parcel to the Northeast Wilderness Trust because of its ecological significance and its wide variety of habitats. “When we read a forester’s assessment of the health and extensive variety of both animal and plant life on our Pittston land, we decided it was too valuable to be sold for timber, but should instead be preserved,” Jim Goldman said.

“Natural preserves like this one not only do their part for preservation of habitat, but perhaps more importantly, they help people connect with and learn to appreciate nature,” said Alyce Zellers. “We are delighted to have worked with the Northeast Wilderness Trust to make this possible.”

It is not uncommon to see more than a dozen eagles feasting along this stretch of the Eastern River, and the river’s character changes dramatically depending on the ocean tide. When the tide swells, the riverway is fully flooded and navigable. When the tide recedes, the riverbed is exposed, revealing a nutrient-rich system of mudflats.

The diversity of habitat found on the 260-acre parcel includes:

  • 33 acres of freshwater tidal marsh
  • Mature forest
  • Small seeps where groundwater surfaces defrost early in the spring, bringing fresh food to forest dwellers emerging from winter hibernation
  • Large, exposed ledges that slope steeply down to a clear and rocky stream
  • Wet forest with floodplain benches
  • Beaver moderated wetlands
  • Old roadbeds and remnants of stone foundations.
  • Habitat for numerous species of birds, including the Black-Crowned Night Heron, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, etc.
  • Habitat for several state-listed rare plant species, including Estuary Bur-marigold, Eatons Bur-marigold, and Parkers Pipewort.

“We are thrilled to establish this forever-wild freshwater tidal preserve in Maine,” said Bob Linck, NEWT Conservation Director. “We are grateful to Jim and Alyce for seeking us out and are also excited to work together with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust to further protect this preserve.”

About Northeast Wilderness Trust: Founded in 2002, 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. It is the only organization in the Northeast focused exclusively on forever-wild conservation and currently safeguards more than 73,000 acres of wildlands across six states, with more than 33,000 in Maine.

About Maine Coast Heritage Trust: MCHT is a dynamic, multifaceted organization with initiatives ranging from high impact ecological work focused on reconnecting waterways and improving coastal resiliency to climate change to preserving coastal access for communities. A leader in Maine’s nationally renowned land conservation efforts since 1970, MCHT maintains a growing network of almost 150 coastal and island preserves free and open to everyone and leads the 80-member Maine Land Trust Network to ensure that local land conservation provides benefits to all Maine communities. Get involved at

Photography: Tidal Bends Wilderness Preserve, Shelby Perry