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Wilderness Preserve protects 1,400 acres next to Adirondack Park

Russell, New York — Northeast Wilderness Trust, a regional land trust based in Montpelier, Vermont, purchased 1,400 acres in Russell to establish Grasse River Wilderness Preserve. The purchase is the most recent conservation success within the Algonquin-to-Adirondack (A2A) wildlife corridor, and New York’s newest forever-wild preserve. The land will be open to the public for on-foot, backcountry exploration.

Located just outside the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line, Grasse River Wilderness Preserve will be managed with a hands-off approach, also known as passive rewilding. Northeast Wilderness Trust allows natural processes to unfold on the lands they own, meaning that the forest at Grasse River Wilderness Preserve will someday become old-growth. The new Preserve abuts Downerville State Forest and Degrasse State Forest, and links them together. The Preserve also directly abuts forever-wild land just over the Blue Line: the 1,300-acre Lampson Falls section of the Grass River Wild Forest.

This land is poised to play an important role for biodiversity and climate resilience because of its low elevation, its location within an important wildlife corridor, and the prevalence of diverse water features.

Wild forests are a key component of connectivity efforts across the region and also play a critical yet underutilized role in absorbing and storing carbon—a key priority of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act).

“The Adirondack Council celebrates this exciting expansion of New York’s ‘forever wild’ forest preservation tradition into the St. Lawrence River Valley, north of the Adirondack Park,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the park’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “Permanently protected forests are vital to New York’s climate stabilization goals. By absorbing and storing carbon while also shading soils and waters from sunlight, forests keep us cool. This new privately protected Preserve will help to connect Adirondack wildlife with suitable habitat to the north, where some species will need to move as temperatures rise in the decades ahead. Creating a life-sustaining pathway from the Adirondacks to Canada will also make it easier for wolves to come south and repopulate their former Adirondack range.”

Water is the defining feature of this preserve. It protects a mile and a half of frontage along the beautiful Grasse River and more than 250 acres of wetlands. More than seven miles of streams and 20 freshwater ponds, largely created by an active beaver population, dot the landscape. Wilderness preservation will help maintain excellent water quality for this part of the Grasse River, which is home to one of just three known healthy populations of New York’s imperiled freshwater Eastern Pearlshell mussel.

Grasse River Wilderness Preserve is open to the public for non-motorized and non-mechanized exploration including walking and hiking, nature study, photography, and hunting of abundant prey species.  The land will be further protected by a forever-wild conservation easement, which the Wilderness Trust will donate to St. Lawrence Land Trust.

“The St. Lawrence Land Trust is proud to work with Northeast Wilderness Trust to ensure this land is protected forever, with access for public use, and to prevent deterioration of our natural landscapes,” said Dr. Jessica Rogers, Board President of St. Lawrence Land Trust.

The Preserve lies directly within the A2A corridor, which is considered one of the most important large-scale forest and wetland linkages remaining in eastern North America. It is recognized globally through two designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: The Frontenac Arch Biosphere and the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve.

“Like most biological corridors in the eastern U.S., the majority of the land in the A2A is privately owned,” stated Kate Cleary, Board Member of the Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative, a U.S., Canadian, and First Nations partner working to protect and enhance the A2A. “The work of organizations like Northeast Wilderness Trust is vitally important in these corridors, because purchasing land or establishing conservation easements is one of the only ways to guarantee that critical habitat linkages will be protected.”

For more information about this new wilderness area, visit

About the Northeast Wilderness Trust: Founded in 2002, the 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 73,800 acres of wildlands across six states.

Photography: Brendan Wiltse