The Split Rock Wildway is an ambitious effort to create a wildlife corridor connecting Lake Champlain the high peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.
The goal of the Wildway is habitat connectivity—making sure wild creatures have room to roam. As of summer 2016, the Northeast Wilderness Trust has protected eight parcels in the Split Rock Wildway, and is actively working with area landowners to conserve additional properties. Within the Wildway project area, roughly 6,000 acres are permanently conserved already; existing conservation lands include areas in public ownership as part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and tracts secured by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and other nonprofits. This is a promising start toward restoring and protecting the rich biological diversity and wildlife habitat of this area, while also supporting local communities.
The Trust is currently leading a multi-partner effort to develop and implement a strategic conservation action plan for the Wildway, including an expansion of the Wildway to Vermont. This expanded, transboundary effort aims to conserve a critical landscape linkage in the Northern Appalachian-Acadian ecoregion as a strategy for conserving biodiversity and adapting to climate change.
NWT’s Split Rock Wildway Preserve is open to quiet recreation and limited hunting. If you are interested in hunting on NWT’s Split Rock Wildway Preserve, please check out our Hunting Program for rules and permission.
“The goal of the Wildway is habitat connectivity—making sure wild creatures have room to roam.”
To date, the Northeast Wilderness Trust has protected nine properties within the Split Rock Wildway focus area. The Wilderness Trust owns six of these properties, and holds forever-wild conservation easements on the other three. Explore each property’s unique history and features below!
In May 2016, Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased the Goff Preserve in Essex, NY for permanent protection as a small but key piece in the heart of the Split Rock Wildway. These 27 acres are in the vicinity of other NWT-protected lands and advance the vision of a connected wildway from the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to Lake Champlain.
A place of complex terrain, diverse woodlands, and superb wildlife habitat, the Goff Preserve also protects part of a regionally significant landscape. The preserve is suitable habitat for the sharp-shinned hawk (a species of special concern in New York State), whose long tail and short, rounded wings enable it to dart through woodlands in pursuit of prey. Several large eastern hemlocks on the property are home to porcupine; the hemlock stands are also outstanding winter habitat for white-tailed deer. The Goff Preserve contains a pocket ravine, numerous seeps, and a tributary of the North Branch of the Boquet River.
“My family feels that the transfer to Northeast Wilderness Trust was a positive action, protecting the woodland area for the future, and allowing it to become part of the Split Rock Wildway,” says Norma Goff. “As such, we are hopeful that trails can be developed in the future, providing better public access. Thank you for making this possible.” We thank the Goff family for their vision of a wild future for this land. One more puzzle piece secured!
Thanks to the Sustainable Future Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and The Eddy Foundation for significant support, as well as to the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, which provided a conservation transaction grant for the Goff Preserve.
The Brookfield Headwaters tract is one of dozens of relatively small parcels spread across several towns in the Split Rock Wildway. The property has an ecologically rich, older forest of beautiful hardwoods and pines, and a large interior wetland teeming with birds and wildlife. Acquisition of Brookfield Headwaters enables the Wilderness Trust to stop unauthorized motorized use along an old, abandoned road and to establish a pedestrian trail in its place. The parcel links conserved properties on three sides, including lands owned by the Wilderness Trust on the north (Rowe) and east (Boquet Flats and Northwest Boquet Mountain), and a parcel owned by the Eddy Foundation on the south.
This 81-acre property was purchased in 2010 from Steve Patnode and his brothers. The former landowner was very pleased to learn that a sale to the Trust meant that the land wouldn’t be logged and that he would continue to have access to the property. “Working with the organization was very easy,” said Steve, “and I’m glad I can still walk the land and enjoy it.”
The Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased this parcel in March 2008 with the help of local partner The Eddy Foundation. The property is part of the Split Rock Wildway and The Nature Conservancy’s Boquet Mountain Matrix Area, which is a priority conservation target in The Nature Conservancy’s St. Lawrence-Champlain Valley Ecoregional Plan. This 90-acre property is located just west of the Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Boquet Flats and Northwest Boquet Mountain properties. This tract was an important addition to the Split Rock Wildway because of its largely intact northern hardwood forest, strategic proximity to other protected lands, and development threats.
Northwest Boquet Mountain
In January 2007, the Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased Northwest Boquet Mountain property in Essex, New York. The parcel is centrally located in the Split Rock Wildway; its acquisition was a priority because the land was imminently threatened with subdivision and development. Moreover, this 108-acre property is located on the flanks of Boquet Mountain, an area that conservationists proposed for addition to the publicly owned Adirondack Forest Preserve some two decades ago. Significant forest fragmentation and residential development in the area would likely foreclose future options for a substantial addition to the Forest Preserve in the future. Characterized by transitional hardwood forest, the conserved land offers habitat for a variety of species and is adjacent to Boquet Flats, which the Trust purchased in 2006. Its protection marked the Trust’s fifth conservation success in the Wildway.
In May 2006, the Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased Boquet Flats, a critical property located in the Split Rock Wildway in Essex, New York. The Boquet Flats property is 95 acres located on the northeast flanks of South Boquet Mountain. The land is primarily northern hardwood forest and provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife typical in the area, including deer, black bear, fisher, and many songbirds.
Photography by Shelby Perry
Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve is home to pristine ponds, extensive wetlands, and dramatic cliffs, each offering unique habitat to a wide variety of species.
Gaze out from the summit of Eagle Mountain after a strenuous bushwhack, and the scale is difficult to comprehend. Follow the arc of a peregrine falcon into the distance, and the vastness of this low-elevation, biologically rich landscape is unveiled, the canopy unfurling at your feet, stretching unbroken towards the High Peaks of the Adirondacks to the west.
The Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve, northwest of Essex, New York, encompasses 2,434 acres of glacial-carved topography and unique water features in the foothills of the Northeastern Adirondacks, in a landscape that is underrepresented in protected areas in the Adirondack Park and across the Northeast. This densely forested property consists of northern hardwood and conifer forests, with patches of cliffs and talus, pristine undeveloped ponds, miles of clear running brooks, vernal pools, and wetlands. Peregrine Falcons (a New York State endangered species) have been consistently nesting on the property for at least five years.
“This area has seen considerable logging over the decades but its wild character is strong and vital—and in the decades to come, if we can protect it now, it will be a jewel of the eastern Adirondacks, a place of beauty, integrity, and wildness for future generations of people to enjoy.”
Tom Butler, Conservationist
Since 2003, the transition lands between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack High Peaks have been a focal area for Northeast Wilderness Trust. In the Split Rock Wildway to the south, the Wilderness Trust has completed nine transactions to protect an important “sea-to-sky” wildlife corridor. Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve protects a critical wildlife corridor to the north. Surrounding conservation areas include New York State’s Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest (home to the local landmark, Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain), as well as privately conserved lands. This Wilderness Preserve protects just over 1.25 miles of Durgan Brook and its tributary (Trout Pond Brook) and 2.45 miles of Doyle Brook. Both of these brooks are cold, clear, and support native Brook Trout habitat. Miles of smaller brooks and over 155 acres of wetlands provide diverse habitat for a multitude of species. Seepage wetlands thaw first in the spring and provide some of the earliest browse for energy-strapped wildlife (such as bears, moose, and deer—all present on the property) at the end of a long winter. The exceptional water quality of this stream system is demonstrated by the presence of the Eastern Pearlshell, a rare freshwater mussel found in only a few locations in New York State and at risk throughout its range due to water pollution and dams.
Since 2003, the transition lands between Lake Champlain and the Adirondack High Peaks have been a focal area for Northeast Wilderness Trust. In the Split Rock Wildway to the south, the Wilderness Trust has completed nine transactions to protect an important “sea-to-sky” wildlife corridor. Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve protects a critical wildlife corridor to the north. Surrounding conservation areas include New York State’s Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest (home to the local landmark, Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain), as well as privately conserved lands.
This Wilderness Preserve protects just over 1.25 miles of Durgan Brook and its tributary (Trout Pond Brook) and 2.45 miles of Doyle Brook. Both of these brooks are cold, clear, and support native Brook Trout habitat. Miles of smaller brooks and over 155 acres of wetlands provide diverse habitat for a multitude of species. Seepage wetlands thaw first in the spring and provide some of the earliest browse for energy-strapped wildlife (such as bears, moose, and deer—all present on the property) at the end of a long winter. The exceptional water quality of this stream system is demonstrated by the presence of the Eastern Pearlshell, a rare freshwater mussel found in only a few locations in New York State and at risk throughout its range due to water pollution and dams.
In addition to the fish and wildlife that depend on clean water in the Lake Champlain Basin, approximately 145,000 people rely on the lake for drinking water. With warming temperatures and agricultural runoff threatening the lake’s water quality, protecting headwater streams is an insurance policy for a healthier future.
The Eagle Mountain property ranks as ‘Above Average Resilient’ on The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Landscapes dataset. The core area surrounding the ponds and the elevated region surrounding Eagle Mountain itself ranks as ‘Far Above Average.’ Resilient sites like Eagle Mountain are defined as having “sufficient variability and microclimate options to enable species and ecosystems to persist in the face of climate change and which will maintain this ability over time.” Eagle Mountain’s unique, low-elevation habitat will only prove more valuable with the onslaught of climate change, assisting wildlife as they stair-step across this large landscape.
Building on years of partnership in the Split Rock Wildway, Northeast Wilderness Trust will team up with Champlain Area Trails (CATS) to develop a loop footpath on the property to minimize impacts to plants and wildlife while connecting people to the peace and beauty of the land. Seasonal closures, monitored by the Wilderness Trust, will protect nesting peregrine falcons.
Adirondack Land Trust, a longtime conservation leader in the region, holds a forever-wild easement on the property.
Photography by Brendan Wiltse