Alder Stream
Wilderness Preserve

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 shelby@newildernesstrust.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.

Piscataquis River Part I

The Alder Stream watershed is a focus of the Northeast Wilderness Trust’s conservation efforts because of its biological richness, recreational opportunities and wilderness character. The Trust acquired the 1,500-acre Piscataquis River I property—located in the heart of the watershed in Milo and Atkinson, Maine—in 2006. The Piscataquis River I parcel is characterized by cedar swamps and rich bogs, conifer and northern hardwood forest, and a remote, wild character. The property contains extensive frontage on the Piscataquis River, an important river for Atlantic salmon recovery, and a significant section of the Alder Stream.

These watersheds are home to a great diversity of plants, birds, fish, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. The permanent preservation of the Piscataquis River I property is vital to the ecological health of the watershed and ensures that the watershed’s woods and wetlands stay intact for future generations of wildlife and people. The Trust’s acquisition of the Piscataquis River I property is also an important step in advancing larger conservation efforts within the region.

Piscataquis River Part II

The Piscataquis River II Preserve, a 1,200-acre tract of conifer and deciduous forest, wetlands, and riparian habitat in Atkinson, was acquired by the Northeast Wilderness Trust in December 2010. The Piscataquis River II Preserve provides a critical link in the matrix of already conserved lands in the area and is adjacent to the 1,500-acre Piscataquis River I property that the Trust has protected since 2006.

With three miles of frontage on the Piscataquis River, extensive adjacent and nearby conservation lands, crucial habitat for rare and endangered species, and a one-of-a-kind grove of American chestnuts, the Piscataquis River II Preserve offered a rare opportunity to create a wild legacy for Maine and the nation. Complementing the Wilderness Trust’s other holdings in the area, the Piscataquis River II parcel extends the contiguous riverfront protection to roughly six miles.

Piscataquis River II encompasses 245 acres of “high value habitat” wetlands, which serve as an important stopover for migratory waterfowl. The greater Piscataquis River Preserve area acts as a vital habitat linkage for many species, including wide-ranging mammals such as bear, marten, ermine, fisher, and possibly even the federally endangered Canada lynx. It will be conserved for the benefit of the multitude of creatures that call this landscape “home.”

Home to what is thought to be the largest grove of wild, reproducing American chestnuts in existence, anywhere, the Wilderness Trust’s acquisition of this special property ensures that this stand of trees will remain a seedbed of recovery—and a vital scientific resource for researchers with the American Chestnut Foundation for years to come.

Alder Stream

In remote, central Maine lies 1,760 acres consisting of a patchwork of wetlands and untamed forest.  Moss carpets the ground beneath towering trees and open peat lands offer a veritable buffet for inland wading birds and water fowl.  These parcels, part of a growing network of conserved lands, offer outstanding wilderness recovery potential. Here, nature will direct the ebb and flow of life, and the plants, animals, and natural processes will be sustained in perpetuity.

In 2012 the Wilderness Trust, with the help of our longtime partner Sweet Water Trust, accepted the fee ownership of these rich and biodiverse acres in Atkinson and Orneville, growing the total acreage owned by Northeast Wilderness Trust at the time to 4,460 acres.

Since that time the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve has grown an additional 2,300 acres with the addition of the West Branch Dead Stream Property, completed in 2014.  All of the 3Wilderness Trusts holdings in the area are also protected by a forever-wild easement held by the Forest Society of Maine.

West Branch Dead Stream

Northeast Wilderness Trust purchased approximately 2,300 acres in Atkinson and Charleston to add to the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in 2014. Protection of this key parcel significantly advances the ecological recovery of the area and brings the total acreage of the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve to just over 6,800 acres.

The West Branch Dead Stream Property contains extensive wetlands that provide exceptional habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, as well as approximately 15 miles of frontage along Levensellor Brook and Dead Stream, critical habitat for imperiled Atlantic salmon. In a bird survey of the property, 41 bird species were recorded; one highlight was a singing clay-colored sparrow—a species that has been confirmed breeding in Maine only once.

According to then Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust, Daryl Burtnett, “The protection of this land as forever wild ensures that the forest that has been cut will recover, and that the woods and wetlands will stay intact for future generations of wildlife and people. We can rest assured that this wild place is protected from the threats of habitat fragmentation and loss of public access.”

On a landscape scale, the Alder Stream addition plays a crucial linkage role and prevents the fragmentation of the surrounding protected landscape. The addition connects the Alder Stream Preserve to the adjacent 6,500 acre Bud Leavitt Wildlife Management Area and fills in the largest unprotected gap in the approximately 22,000-acre Piscataquis River-Alder Stream project area. Additional phases of conservation are envisioned in the future, including protection of key inholdings, adjoining parcels, and various ecological hotspots providing habitat for rare and sensitive species.

Entrance and Parking Area

In 2019, Northeast Wilderness Trust added 12.9 acres to the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, thanks to the support of Sweet Water Trust. The parcel sits along a well-traveled road and is the new entrance to the Preserve. The land was owned by the Town of Atkinson, which used an acre to store sand and salt for road maintenance. The remaining 12 acres are forest surrounded by the Preserve.

In August, the Wilderness Trust created a small parking lot encircled with boulders on the old sand and salt storage area. As the Wilderness Trust’s Ambassador Landscape for Maine, the Preserve will have a kiosk at its entrance illustrating the re-wilding process.

The property lies just upslope from a large wetland complex in the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve. For years heavy rain would wash salt and sand from this lot into the wetland. Northeast Wilderness Trust added berms of mulch and soil, keeping runoff out of the wetland. The Wilderness Trust will host a native tree and wildflower planting in 2020 to facilitate rewilding on the remaining open areas.

The Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, at nearly 7,000 acres, is open to quiet backcountry exploration. It contains one of the largest and most varied freshwater wetland systems in Maine, and lies within a 20,000-acre complex of conservation land.

This Preserve helped launch the Wilderness Trust’s Wild Carbon program in 2010, generating more than $400,000 for wilderness conservation. The recently launched Wildlands Partnership takes the Wild Carbon program a step further by using the voluntary carbon market to generate long-term revenue for land trusts who add forever-wild restrictions to their land.

Photography by Shelby Perry