Saving the Wild Heart of
Maine’s High Peaks
At the heart of the largest, most intact temperate forest in North America lie the Western Maine Mountains. The remote range sits at a crossroads, connecting the forests of northern Vermont and New Hampshire to those of northeastern Maine and New Brunswick. Protecting and rewilding habitat here is imperative for wildlife’s survival, movement, and adaptation as climate change accelerates. Northeast Wilderness Trust is working to conserve approximately 3,300 acres to create the Redington Wilderness Sanctuary. With the help of supporters like you, this Sanctuary will safeguard a wild core to this forest at the highest degree of protection possible.
Will you help us protect this landscape as forever-wild? To make this new wilderness a reality, Northeast Wilderness Trust must raise just $337,000 more to meet the total conservation cost of $915,000. Please help us rewild this essential wildlife habitat with a gift today!
The Western Maine Mountains extend from the Mahoosuc Range at Maine’s western border northeasterly to the Hundred-Mile Wilderness and Mt. Katahdin. While there are many conserved forestlands in Maine’s High Peaks, the vast majority are protected as “working woodlands,” meaning they are managed and logged. Additionally, the State of Maine has protected a number of nearby Ecological Preserves.
The new Redington Wilderness Sanctuary dramatically builds upon the existing values of this network of protected lands, while expanding a wild habitat core that can continue to grow in size.
The proposed Sanctuary sits between Bigelow Preserve and Saddleback Mountain, just west of Rangeley, ME. It is a part of a contiguous 170,000-acre forest block. The 1,155-acre Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary, gifted to Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2018 by George Appell, is just southwest of the land we are currently working to protect as forever-wild.
“The higher mountain zones and associated ecological communities are indeed regionally rare ecological features of the Study Area and worthy of special and immediate attention and protection.”
Peter McKinley, Ph.D.
An Ecological Study of the High Peaks Region of Maine’s Western Mountains
Water & Wildlife at Redington
The value of this land for clean water and wildlife is impressive. There are 2.7 miles of mapped streams across the property, which are headwaters to critical habitat for Atlantic salmon. Three of the six streams are likely to be habitat for native brook trout at their lower elevations.
Maine is home to more than half of the nation’s brook trout, and is the only place in the United States where natural populations of Atlantic salmon live. It is imperative to protect the resources that make this region a stronghold for these sensitive, indicator species.
The entire 3,300 acres of the future Redington Wilderness Sanctuary are mapped as critical Canada lynx habitat. With the property’s keystone location between multiple ecological preserves, it is a necessary link for wide-ranging animals like lynx, moose, bobcat, and bear to have ample room to find territories, food, mates, and places to raise their young.
Redington Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary is blanketed with thriving sub-alpine forest starting at 2,600′ elevation and reaching just up to tree line. This ecosystem is home to an abundance bird life, as a diversity of migrating birds depend on the Western Maine Mountains for nesting grounds. In addition to supporting Spruce Grouse, Blackpoll Warbler, Blackbacked Woodpecker, and Bay-Breasted Warbler, the entire property is potential Bicknell’s Thrush nesting habitat. Bicknell’s Thrush is in rapid decline and is a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Maine. This thrush prefers the natural disturbances of subalpine forests for their nesting grounds.
The proposed Redington Wilderness Sanctuary hosts a unique ecological phenomenon that only occurs in the Northeast and Japan: fir waves. (Watch the video above to get an aerial view of this landscape-scale natural disturbance!) A fir wave begins when a balsam fir climax forest experiences tree die-back in an area. Trees upwind of the gap are suddenly vulnerable as they are exposed to the elements, and die more quickly. Meanwhile, new young growth is beginning on the leeward side of the gap. This process creates bands of differently-aged forest with natural gaps, which can progress along a mountainside for hundreds of years. From a distance, they appear as undulating silver snakes across the otherwise green body of a mountain. Since fir waves happen over a long period of time, forever-wild conservation is a perfect fit for this property, so that this natural process can indefinitely unfold across the landscape, benefiting Bicknell’s Thrush and other species that have co-evolved with these conditions.
A rare type of forest, the Heart-Leaved Birch Sub-Alpine Forest, is found on this property. This special ecosystem is home to several rare species of plants and animals, including the northern commandra/false toadflax (Geocaulon lividum).
Climate Change and Redington:
Carbon Storage and Species Resilience
Rewilding the slopes of Mt. Redington offers great potential for sequestering and storing many tons of carbon. The property’s strategic central location in the Western Maine Mountains will also serve flora and fauna when their ranges change and move in response to climate change. Both the carbon storage capacity and the ecological resiliency of this property are important conservation factors, as the effects of climate change become more severe in the coming years and decades.
Portions of the property have been logged in the recent past, so the land harbors young and mid-aged forest that will continue to capture carbon for centuries to come. In addition, there are parts of the property that showed no signs of past logging; upon further inspection, these may be considered old-growth forest. Old forests such as tese act as carbon sinks, holding vast amounts of carbon in its soil, trees, plants, and woody debris.
Redington Wilderness Sanctuary will be part of Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Wild Carbon project. The Wilderness Trust is aggregating carbon credits on multiple properties it owns across the Northeast. This carbon project–comprised of exclusively forever-wild land across multiple states–will be the first of its kind. The success of this program will encourage and normalize future wilderness protection through the carbon market.
A Landscape-Scale Opportunity
Rarely does the opportunity for a new Wilderness Sanctuary across more than 3,000 acres in a high-priority conservation region occur. With your help, we can take a grand step forward in rewilding the Northeast. The future Redington Wilderness Sanctuary will protect irreplaceable wildlife habitat and clean water sources. Its forests and soils will store vast amounts of carbon, helping mitigate the rapidly increasing burdens of climate change on nature and people. In a world where deforestation and environmental destruction seem to march on unchecked, there is hope in rewilding the lands that we can…but only if we protect them today.
Will you be a part of this journey to rewild the Northeast? Please consider a gift to help create new wilderness in the heart of this critical eco-region. You can make a donation through our secure online giving platform (click here or see above), or mail a check with ‘Redington’ written in the memo line to Northeast Wilderness Trust at 17 State Street, Suite 302, Montpelier, VT 05602. Thank you!
Aerial Photos: Jonathan Milne/LightHawk | Summit and wetland by Jon Leibowitz | Waterfall by Shelby Perry
The site of the nation’s second-longest running collection of atmospheric carbon data, Howland Research Forest is a site of invaluable scientific study made possible by its wild state.
In November 2007, the Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased and permanently protected the 550-acre Howland Research Forest. Initially established as a research site in 1987 by the University of Maine in cooperation with International Paper, the Howland Forest has hosted scientists from around the world for studies on forest health and climate change. These scientists now have one of the longest records of carbon intake and output (flux) in the world. The Howland Forest is characterized by old-growth spruce and hemlock and provides habitat for species such as moose, black bear, bobcat, and bald eagle.
More than a decade ago, Howland scientists established three meteorological towers on the land to examine how the forest stores carbon and helps stabilize our planet. In 2004, however, Howland Forest was purchased by a timber investor as part of a larger land transaction and was scheduled to be logged. Concerned about the fate of their research, scientists from the University of Maine, Woods Hole Research Center, and the United States Forest Service contacted the Northeast Wilderness Trust to develop a solution. The Northeast Wilderness Trust, with the support of conservation partners, raised the necessary $1 million to purchase and preserve the forest in perpetuity and thereby ensure continuity for the research program there.
“The trees should be protected for their own sake.”
Shawn Fraver, Howland Forest Researcher
A short distance from Maine’s Penobscot River and the route Thoreau followed north to Mount Katahdin in the summer of 1846 (an adventure chronicled in “The Maine Woods”), I recently stood in an unassuming wooden shed at the 550-acre Howland Research Forest. Protected as forever wild in 2007 by Northeast Wilderness Trust, the Howland property – unknown to nearly everyone outside a small circle of climate scientists – has led a double life as one of the wildest and, simultaneously, most closely studied patches of ground in the United States.
Hidden under the canopy of a rare old-growth forest of hemlock and white pine, some of which were already middle-aged when Thoreau passed by, University of Maine researcher and Howland site manager John Lee has been quietly churning out groundbreaking data about climate change and carbon sequestration. Lee and partners at the U.S. Forest Service, NASA and other institutions have created one of the world’s best records of atmospheric carbon flux, or “forest breathing,” as he likes to call it.
Flashing across a computer monitor, the Earth’s atmospheric carbon pulses up and down with the daily and yearly rhythms of Howland Forest’s carbon intake and output. “When I started here in 1988, we were at about 360 parts per million on average of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” says Lee. Today, the screen flashes 412 ppm, measured in real time by sensors placed above the treetops. Four hundred ppm had been the clear red line scientists used to symbolize a new danger zone of climate change. It was surpassed in 2016. The numbers on the screen are a sucker punch to the gut. This is the future that our children will inherit.
But the story of Howland is one of hope. Just as carbon measurements at Howland confirm that the Earth’s atmospheric chemistry is in trouble, the research also demonstrates the unparalleled capacity of old, wild forests to reverse that trajectory and help stabilize the climate. In fact, research conducted at Howland shows that there is perhaps no more effective or cost-efficient way to mitigate the effects of human-caused climate change than to allow forests to grow old, wild and remain undisturbed. Setting aside ancient forests naturally stores large amounts of carbon in both the soil and vegetation, and preserves unique biodiversity often found only in untrammeled, unmanaged landscapes. The latest science from Howland Forest confirms that the “miracles of technology” alone cannot save us from the dual threat of climate chaos and extinction catastrophe. One of the most cost-effective and rapidly scalable solutions to both of these crises is startlingly low-tech: Conserve more wild forests.
But the story of Howland is one of hope. Just as carbon measurements at Howland confirm that the Earth’s atmospheric chemistry is in trouble, the research also demonstrates the unparalleled capacity of old, wild forests to reverse that trajectory and help stabilize the climate. In fact, research conducted at Howland shows that there is perhaps no more effective or cost-efficient way to mitigate the effects of human-caused climate change than to allow forests to grow old, wild and remain undisturbed. Setting aside ancient forests naturally stores large amounts of carbon in both the soil and vegetation, and preserves unique biodiversity often found only in untrammeled, unmanaged landscapes.
The latest science from Howland Forest confirms that the “miracles of technology” alone cannot save us from the dual threat of climate chaos and extinction catastrophe. One of the most cost-effective and rapidly scalable solutions to both of these crises is startlingly low-tech: Conserve more wild forests.
Canopy and lichen by Shelby Perry | Mossy forest by Zack Porter
Grey and red fox, bobcat, coyote, fisher, bear, weasel, deer, moose, bald and golden eagles, woodcock, flying squirrel, reptiles, amphibians, and all kinds of songbirds have been observed at Earthrest.
In November of 2013, Northeast Wilderness Trust was the recipient of a generous gift from Pat Foley of Hiram, Maine. This small town is about an hour’s drive northwest from Portland and less than an hour from the White Mountains. Ms. Foley, a retired retreat center owner who has lived on this land for about 20 years and has come to love its wild character, donated 265 acres to Northeast Wilderness Trust.
Because Pat recognized this land’s importance as wildlife habitat and felt a responsibility to protect it from the threat of development, she sought out the Wilderness Trust to help her protect Earthrest as forever wild.
Earthrest Wilderness Sanctuary is part of a large block of undeveloped forest within the Sebago-Ossipee Hills region and includes a mostly forested rocky hill over 1,000 feet in elevation. Earthrest Preserve has high value for rare plants, including at least one endangered breeding population.
“The Earth’s undeveloped wild land is our capital.”
When asked about her reasons for choosing to donate her property, Pat says, “The Earth’s undeveloped wild land is our capital. If we maintain enough of it intact, it will provide us with interest, both now and in future years. The interest includes clean water, fresh air, sequestered carbon, a safe place for forest plants, fish, and wildlife to regenerate, a place where we humans can go to find peace and restoration. I would like to do my part to be sure these things, tangible and intangible, are available to future generations.” We are delighted to have helped Pat protect this extraordinary place for all to enjoy, and to see that it remains wild and natural in perpetuity.
When asked about her reasons for choosing to donate her property, Pat says, “The Earth’s undeveloped wild land is our capital. If we maintain enough of it intact, it will provide us with interest, both now and in future years. The interest includes clean water, fresh air, sequestered carbon, a safe place for forest plants, fish, and wildlife to regenerate, a place where we humans can go to find peace and restoration. I would like to do my part to be sure these things, tangible and intangible, are available to future generations.”
We are delighted to have helped Pat protect this extraordinary place for all to enjoy, and to see that it remains wild and natural in perpetuity.
Earthrest Wilderness Sanctuary landscapes by Shelby Perry | American toad by Zack Porter
Lone Mountain Wilderness Preserve is part of a 170,000-acre forest block that contains numerous ongoing conservation projects by partner organizations, most of which protect lands for timber production and recreational uses.
In 2018, Northeast Wilderness Trust accepted a generous gift of land from lifelong wilderness advocate George N. Appell of Phillips, Maine. In honor of his late wife Laura W. R. Appell (née Reynolds), George gave the Wilderness Trust 1,155 acres to create Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary. “Laura loved the wilderness, the rural areas and the forest of Maine’s North Woods,” he reflected when conserving the land. George passed away peacefully in 2020, and the Appell family legacy lives on in Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary’s namesake summit, 3,280’ Lone Mountain, falls just to the south of the property. The preserved land buffers nearly two miles of the Appalachian Trail corridor, managed by the National Park Service. It is also protected by a conservation easement held by the US Navy, as part of an earlier transaction.
The Lone Mountain Wilderness Preserve compliments this impressive patchwork of conserved lands and adds another much-needed wilderness core area – safeguarding habitat for sensitive species and views from the Appalachian Trail.
The majority of the Lone Mountain Wilderness Preserve is mid-elevation spruce-fir forests and forested wetlands. Other conservation lands belonging to the state border the property on the north and east sides, making the preserve a critical link in connecting the network of already conserved lands in the area.
“Lone Mountain is a keystone for the region. We wanted to turn it into refugia for biodiversity.”
The Lone Mountain Wilderness Preserve lies at the heart of the largest undeveloped ecosystem in the east, known as the Mountains of the Dawn. Spanning more than 5 million acres from the Maine-New Hampshire border to Mt. Katahdin – an area larger than the state of Connecticut – Mountains of the Dawn encompasses an incredible diversity of lowland and upland habitats, from the rocky summits and high elevation bogs of the loftiest peaks in Maine, to floodplain forests nestled in deep river valleys. The Lone Mountain Wilderness Preserve protects habitat for moose, black bear, Canada lynx, and Bicknell’s thrush, among other species.
Conservation of the Lone Mountain property, much of which has been logged in the past, promises a wilder future for this special place. In due time, Lone Mountain’s forests will grow older and the scars of past logging and road building will fade away. The Preserve is open to quiet, muscle-powered exploration and is best approached via the Appalachian Trail.
Conservation of the Lone Mountain property, much of which has been logged in the past, promises a wilder future for this special place. In due time, Lone Mountain’s forests will grow older and the scars of past logging and road building will fade away.
The Preserve is open to quiet, muscle-powered exploration and is best approached via the Appalachian Trail.
Photography by Shelby Perry
Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, created from many parcels protected over the past decade, stretches out over nearly 7,000 acres of remote wetlands and forest in central Maine.
In remote central Maine, a roughly 20,000-acre complex of protected lands is being assembled by various conservation groups including the Northeast Wilderness Trust. These protected lands border Alder Stream and the Piscataquis River, and contain mature American chestnut trees, expansive wetlands, and Atlantic salmon habitat. The Trust is working actively with local partners to expand and further connect this network of protected lands, which includes partner holdings devoted to sustainable forestry, and organic farming. As of fall 2015, Northeast Wilderness Trust owns more than 6,800 acres under forever-wild protection.
The Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve project area contains one of the largest, most varied, and intact freshwater wetland systems in Maine. Recognized as vital at multiple scales, it is embedded within: (1) a Species-at-risk Focus Area identified in Maine’s Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan; (2) a larger 88,000-acre area identified by The Nature Conservancy as a high priority Tier 1 Matrix Forest Block due to its unfragmented, high quality forest and wetland characteristics; and (3) the Piscataquis-Penobscot Rivers Focus Area of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
The Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve project area contains one of the largest, most varied, and intact freshwater wetland systems in Maine.
Threats of fragmentation and loss of public access are high, and the wilderness recovery potential of the region is extraordinary—fertile ground for creative conservation action by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and its partners.
Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve is open to quiet recreation and limited hunting, but requires a permit for hunting access. A summary of access rules is provided below. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions.
- No ATV’s, dirt-bikes, 4x4s, other motor vehicles, or bicycles.
- No dogs or other pets are permitted.
- Day use access only. No camping or campfires.
- No disturbing soil, littering, cutting or damaging vegetation is prohibited
- No tipping or commercial collecting of fiddleheads, mushrooms, berries or any other items.
- Snowmobiles are only allowed on posted, club-sponsored trails.
- Respect the natural environment, show consideration to hunters, wildlife,
and neighboring landowners, and know and obey the law.
- Hunting on the preserve requires a permit, available here.