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PRESS RELEASE, VERMONT, CARBON & CLIMATE CHANGE

New Addition to Largest Non-Governmental Wilderness in Vermont

Woodbury and Elmore—Northeast Wilderness Trust, a regional land trust based in Montpelier, VT, has purchased 160 acres of forestland surrounded on three sides by its 6,097-acre Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve. The Elmore Branch of the Lamoille River flows through the property, located on the Elmore side of the town boundary with Woodbury. The purchase marks an important addition to one of the largest swaths of protected wildland in Vermont and bolsters a critical wildlife corridor.

In December 2021, the Wilderness Trust purchased over 5,400 acres from E.B. Hyde Company, a multi-generational timberland business owned by the Meyer family, to establish the Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve. The Elmore Branch parcel is the third addition to the original 5,400-acre acquisition; each one has expanded core habitat or connected disparate portions of the preserve. “Northeast Wilderness Trust is always seeking strategic additions to the preserves that we safeguard. The Elmore Branch Addition is such a place, surrounded on all sides by the Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Its permanent protection adds to the integrity and beauty of Vermont’s largest non-governmental wilderness area,” said Jon Leibowitz, President and CEO of Northeast Wilderness Trust.

image of forest floor with shady canopy

Moreover, the forested Elmore Branch Addition strengthens a core area in the heart of an important wildlife corridor. The Addition sits within the approximately 1-million-acre Worcester Range to Northeast Kingdom Linkage, which has been identified by the Staying Connected Initiative as encompassing “some of the most wild, intact forested areas in the state.” Corridors of this type, which the Elmore Branch Addition expands, “protect pathways for plants and wildlife movement,” explained Shelby Perry, the Wilderness Trust’s Wildlands Ecology Director. “The Elmore Branch Addition has the added benefit of protecting aquatic connectivity within the watershed of the Elmore Branch of the Lamoille River. This is especially important for species like brook trout that rely on the cooling effects offered by intact tree cover, and the complex stream habitats supported by old-growth forest structures.”

mossy forest floor

Protection of Local Fish Species and Wetlands

A significant section of the Elmore Branch, as well as a series of associated wetlands, crosses through the property. This new acreage, coupled with the existing Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve, protects almost the entire watershed of the Elmore Branch below the Wilderness Trust’s northern property boundary. Shade provided by hemlocks and other tree species keeps the water clear, cold, and well-oxygenated. The stream’s diversity of habitat features, including cascading falls formed by exposed bedrock, benefit native fish species. Mapping by Vermont Fish and Wildlife, for example, indicates that this stretch of the Branch supports wild brook trout.

closeup of mushrooms and moss

Rewilding

Like the wider Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve, the Elmore Branch Addition will now enjoy permanent protection and a hands-off management approach. This stewardship method, also known as passive rewilding, will allow the surrounding forest to mature to old-growth. Old and mature forests play an essential yet underappreciated role in absorbing and storing carbon—a key priority of the Vermont Climate Action Plan released in December 2021.

“Forever-wild lands store and sequester large amounts of carbon, but as important, they conserve biodiversity, clean the air and water, and offer solitude and quiet to wildlife and people alike,” said Bob Linck, Conservation Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “With less than 4% of Vermont protected as wild, there is ample room on the landscape for increased wildlands conservation to complement the continued protection of well-managed woodlands.”

For more details on Woodbury Wilderness Preserve and the Elmore Branch Addition visit https://newildernesstrust.org/projects/woodbury-mountain-wilderness-preserve/

About Northeast Wilderness Trust:  Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for Nature and people and it envisions a landscape of connected, resilient wildlands shared by a human culture that recognizes the benefits of wild places. It accomplishes this work by acquiring land as well as holding forever-wild conservation easements on properties owned by other organizations or individuals. Northeast Wilderness Trust also champions wilderness in the public sphere. Across New England and New York, the Wilderness Trust secures wild places where Nature can thrive, wildlife can wander, and people can find beauty and quiet. Since its founding in 2002, Northeast Wilderness Trust has protected 81,372 forever-wild acres. Learn more at www.newildernesstrust.org.

Photography by Shelby Perry.