Alder Stream
Wilderness Preserve

In remote central Maine, Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve covers 7,296 acres bordering Alder Stream, West Branch Dead Stream, and the Piscataquis River in the unincorporated township of Atkinson. These wildlands contain mature American chestnut trees, expansive wetlands, and Atlantic salmon habitat.

In addition, Northeast Wilderness Trust holds an easement on another 6,500 acres in the vicinity of Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve. These lands are privately owned and were originally protected by the Sweet Water Trust in 2007. When the Sweet Water Trust transitioned to become the Sweet Water Fund in 2021, this forever-wild easement was transferred to Northeast Wilderness Trust. Cumulatively between this easement and Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, the Wilderness Trust safeguards more than 13,000 acres in the Piscataquis River watershed.

Threats of fragmentation and loss of public access are high in this area, and the wilderness recovery potential of the region is extraordinary. This landscape is fertile ground for creative action by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and our partners, with whom we work to expand and connect this network of protected lands—including for sustainable forestry and organic farming. Today, roughly 20,000 acres have been conserved in this complex.

The Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve protects part of Maine’s largest, and most varied and intact freshwater wetland systems. This ecosystem is vital for many reasons. It lies within:

  1. A Species-at-risk Focus Area of Maine’s Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan
  2. 88,000 acres identified by The Nature Conservancy as a forest block of high priority for conservation due to its unfragmented, high-quality forest and wetlands
  3. The Piscataquis-Penobscot Rivers Focus Area of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan

Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve is open to the public for backcountry exploration such as walking, birdwatching, paddling, nature study, and hunting and fishing by permission. A one-mile loop trail along Maple Street allows visitors to connect with this peaceful place and witness a landscape rewilding in real time. If you are interested in hunting or fishing permission for Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve, please visit our Hunting Program page. Contact hannah [at] with any additional questions.

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.

The Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve project area contains one of the largest, most varied, and intact freshwater wetland systems in Maine.

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 ownership of these rich and biodiverse acres in Atkinson and Orneville. All of the Wilderness Trust’s 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. 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 planted native wildflowers and shrubs in the remaining open areas in 2020.

Every Northeast Wilderness Trust Ambassador Preserve has a Rewilding Photo Point. The Alder Stream photo point is located at the entrance to the Preserve. The station engages passersby with the rewilding process, inviting people to take a photo and contribute to a timelapse that shows ecosystem changes as the land returns to nature’s reign. Learn more and view all our photo points here.

Ames & McCorrison Additions

The Ames Addition comprises 267 acres along McCorrison Road and Maple Road in Atkinson. It was purchased by Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2021. The addition abuts Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve on three sides, contains forest and wetlands, and protects frontage of Alder Stream itself.

The McCorrison Addition expanded Alder Stream by another 200 acres in 2022.

Northeast Wilderness Trust extends deep gratitude to the foundations who have contributed to the conservation of Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve. Sweet Water Trust has been a critical partner in the conservation of this landscape. We also thank the Byrne Foundation, The Entrust Fund, Davis Conservation Foundation, Horne Family Foundation, Wallace Genetic Foundation, George H. & Jane A. Mifflin Memorial Fund, Bafflin Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, The Betterment Fund, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Fields Pond Foundation, Open Space Institute, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, George & Miriam Martin Foundation, Helen & William Mazer Foundation, and many generous individual donors.

Photography by Jerry Monkman/Ecophotography; Video by Jerry Monkman/Reel Quest Films