Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve

Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve, Vermont’s newest wildland, is permanently storing carbon and supporting the movement of wild species as they respond to climate change.

Northeast Wilderness Trust has established Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve, approximately 2,716 acres at the center of the binational wildlife movement corridor, “Northern Greens to Canada.” This wildland is a much-needed wild core area embedded within thousands of acres of managed timberlands in northern Vermont.

Returning to Nature

This Preserve was acquired in two parcels. Together they comprise 2,716 acres of contiguous wildlands. Portions are considered old forest, hosting trees over 150 years old.

“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

A pathway for nature, from the Green Mountains to Quebec

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 wildlife corridor, but there’s still a long way to go. Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve is one of the largest privately protected wildlands in Vermont.

The 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.

“Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve 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

An array of trees 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. Bear, deer, grouse, and small mammals dine on this cornucopia, and carnivores such as fox and owls hunt well-fed rodents, snowshoe hare, and more.

Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve gets its name from plentiful beech trees where a number of “bear nests” are found. These are made when a bear sits in a tree and pulls branches closer to eat beech nuts, breaking them until they resemble a large bird nest at the tree’s crown—but they do not sleep here.

Cliffy areas and strewn boulders at higher elevations provide safe denning habitat for porcupines and bobcats. Deer overwinter beneath sheltering balsam fir and red spruce. Montane Spruce-Fir and Montane Yellow Birch-Red Spruce Forests, both uncommon forest types in Vermont, thrive in the higher elevations. Mountaintop forests like these are the preferred nesting habitat for the rare Bicknell’s Thrush.

Large streams and ephemeral brooks make up the headwaters of Alder Brook, and several streams converge to flow into the Missisquoi River, eventually entering Lake Champlain. Several seeps and seepage forests, where groundwater surfaces and keeps the soil wet, are found below the ridgeline. These unique forested wetlands provide amphibian breeding habitat and early spring forage for bears and porcupine.

Forever-wild conservation ensures wildlife and nature always have a home here.

“Bear’s Nest Wilderness Preserve is an exciting addition of wildland 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 forever-wild protection. 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 protecting 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.