Bear’s Nest
Wilderness Preserve

With your help, Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve will become Vermont’s next wildland for trees, birds, and large mammals as conservation organizations collaborate to piece together a protected pathway for all of wild nature to travel, migrate, and shift ranges in response to climate change.

Piecing together a pathway for nature, from the Green Mountains to Quebec

Northeast Wilderness Trust is working to conserve Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve—730 critical acres at the center of the bi-national wildlife movement corridor, “Northern Greens to Canada.” If protected as wilderness, this land will serve as a much-needed forever-wild core area embedded within thousands of acres of actively managed conserved lands in northern Vermont.

“Protecting the Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve is a vital step in achieving the vision embodied in Vermont Conservation Design: to sustain an ecologically functional landscape where natural processes can prevail and where organisms can move freely about to feed, breed, and thrive, even in a changing climate. With old forest characteristics already developing on this land, it is ideally suited to meet the specific conservation goal of more old forests in priority landscapes.”

Liz Thompson, co-author of Vermont Conservation Design

The northern Green Mountains of Vermont are the wildest yet least protected area in the Northeast, according to the Staying Connected Initiative. Many conservation partners are working diligently to protect land in this identified wildlife corridor. There’s still a long way to go to ensure this vital connective habitat remains vast, healthy, and diverse.

Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve sits adjacent to Jay State Forest and falls within 32,000 acres of forest identified by Vermont Conservation Design as “highest priority” for conservation. Vermont Conservation Design is a statewide plan that prioritizes conservation areas for biodiversity protection and it suggests that “highest priority” forests are precisely the places where more old forest ought to exist. Forever-wild conservation naturally creates old forests. Given its surrounding landscape, protecting this land will be a significant win for the wild.

“The Bear’s Nest project falls in the Highest Priority area of Vermont Conservation Design and is important not only for the ecological features present on the parcel, but also for the larger landscape context in which it occurs. It is a Highest Priority Connectivity block and helps forms a critical backbone of connected habitat along the spine of the Green Mountains and up into the Sutton Mountains of Quebec. The Staying Connected Initiative is a public/private partnership focused on habitat connectivity across the entire Northern Appalachians region and considers this area part of a critical linkage called the North Greens to Suttons.”

Jens Hawkins-Hilke, VT Fish & Wildlife Department and coordinator of the VT Staying Connected Initiative

Bears, bobcats, beeches, and more

Thanks to thoughtful past management, the forests of Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve are in excellent condition to support wildlife, even as the rewilding process just begins. Like most of Vermont’s woodlands, this place has a history of forestry. A sugaring operation tapped the lower elevations until about a decade ago, and some light-touch logging occurred at higher elevations. Today, the former access roads are naturally reforesting with new saplings, and only the occasional stump and stone wall are small reminders of past human influence on the land.

The forest, especially at higher elevations, boasts many large, mature trees, as well as big downed logs and standing snags that support rich biodiversity. Portions of the forest floor have undulating hummock-and-mound topography created by trees and branches falling and decomposing over time. These uncommon finds are old-forest features that promote resilience and offer niche micro-habitats to tiny denizens of the forest such as invertebrates, amphibians, and fungi. These characteristics will only increase in prevalence over time as rewilding unfolds.

With an array of trees that provide ample forage for mammals and birds—from the seeds and nuts of hophornbeam, beech, and yellow birch to the fruits of elderberry, serviceberry, black cherry, pin cherry, and mountain ash—these woods support a diversity of charismatic fauna. Bear, deer, grouse, and small mammals dine on this cornucopia, and predators such as fox and owls hunt well-fed rodents, snowshoe hare, and more. Cliffy areas and strewn boulders at higher elevations provide safe denning habitat for porcupines and bobcats.

The Preserve gets its name from the large number of healthy mast-producing beech trees, where many “bear nests” are found.  These “nests” are not where bears sleep, but are made when a bear sits in a crotch of the tree and pulls branches closer to eat.

Large streams and ephemeral brooks with clear, cool waters cascading from pool to pool make up the headwaters of Alder Brook. These may support brook trout, a native species. A section of northern hardwood forest with rich soils supports uncommon plant species and beautiful spring ephemerals.

“The proposed Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve is an exciting prospect for our region. At Cold Hollow to Canada, we feel strongly that wild forests have an important and critical place within our greater matrix of working forest landscapes. The Bear’s Nest property has features that make it uniquely suited to become forever wild. The Montane Spruce Fir Forest, found at around 2500 feet, may already be considered old forest (never cleared, never logged). Almost half of the property has trees that are approximately 150 years old as well as other features which when found together meet the definition of old forest in the State of Vermont. The center and heart of the property forms a bowl where the source waters of Alder stream originate. The deep cut, upper elevation streams provide cool refugia for species under climate change stress, including wandering foresters. As a consulting forester, public service forester and co-founder of Cold Hollow to Canada I have had the privilege of walking this property many times in my many roles. I am grateful to Northeast Wilderness Trust for working to protect this forest for the future, letting nature be the manager, and allowing anyone to find refuge in this forest.”

Nancy Patch, co-founder of Cold Hollow to Canada (CHC)

CHC is a small conservation partnership with a goal to assist their partners in conserving 23,000 acres by 2030 across seven towns in the Northern Green Mountains.

Northeast Wilderness Trust needs your help

Will you make a gift to protect a critical wildland in Vermont’s Northern Green Mountains? Northeast Wilderness Trust must raise $1,100,000 by May 4, 2023, and we need your help to do it.

To support Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve you can:

  • Send a check made out to Northeast Wilderness Trust to 17 State Street, Suite 302, Montpelier VT 05602. Please write “Bear’s Nest” in the memo line.
  • Make a gift online below.
  • To make a gift of stock or other publicly traded securities, please contact Cathleen Maine, Development Director at or (802) 224-1000 ext. 105
  • Click here to give through a donor-advised fund. Please click indicate that the gift is for Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve in the designation line.

Thank you so much for supporting wild nature and our wild relatives here in Vermont!

Winter photography by Jerry Monkman/Ecophotography; spring photography by Shelby Perry