Blue Mountain
Wilderness Sanctuary

Northeast Wilderness Trust is working to conserve more than 800 acres in Ryegate, VT, including the summit and ridgeline of Blue Mountain and low-lying wetlands and forest along the mountain’s base. We need your help to raise the $1.4 million necessary to save this land as wilderness by December 2022.

Springtime at Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain, the namesake of the local high school and grange, is the scenic backdrop of much of Ryegate Corner. From its 2364’ rocky summit down to a low-lying Northern White Cedar Swamp (known as Ryegate Corner Swamp) at 970’, the proposed Blue Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary has an impressive diversity of habitats.

The landowner has amassed several smaller parcels over time to create this 800-acre forest block with the intention of devoting this land to wildlife habitat in perpetuity. He has never harvested trees on these lands, some of which he has owned since the 1990s, giving these forests a jump-start on their journey to a distinguished old age. If Northeast Wilderness Trust can raise the necessary funds, the Blue Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary will be permanently conserved and will someday be home to an ancient forest of tomorrow.

Situated at the nexus of three watersheds and spanning a 1,300’ elevation gradient, the Sanctuary sits at a moment of transition in the landscape. It lies at the transition zone between ecosystems typical of northern New England and those of southern New England. Protecting transition areas like this one as forever-wild will be of utmost importance as climate change becomes more severe. As wilderness, the Blue Mountain lands will continue to build resilience and foster the micro-climates needed by species rapidly losing ground due to climate change.

Wildlife at Blue Mountain and the surrounding landscape

These characteristics make Blue Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary a worthy candidate to advance Vermont Conservation Design, a state-endorsed vision that calls for at least 9% of Vermont’s forests to be allowed to grow old. The Design prioritizes protecting properties that are well-connected to other intact forests with healthy interior conditions (also known as ‘core habitat’)—Blue Mountain is a spectacular property that meets these high standards.

The lower elevation forests are second growth, likely with a history of agriculture, and are a mix of white pine, red spruce, balsam fir, red maples, and more. Slightly higher on the flanks of Blue Mountain forest shifts to a more standard Northern Hardwood assemblage, with more mature American beech, yellow birch, and sugar maple. On the steepest and rockiest slopes of the mountain, many red oaks stand tall. Along with the beech, they provide considerable forage for wildlife through acorns and beech nuts. The mature forest includes several large decadent snags and some remarkably clean large beech trees despite the presence of beech bark disease in the surrounding forest.

The property encompasses five streams that form headwaters for the Connecticut and Wells Rivers, Manchester Brook, and McLam Pond. There are four wetlands along the streams, which contribute to clean water and biodiversity. Some of these streams include suitable habitat for brook trout that need cold, clean waters.

Wildlife sign abounds, from antler scrapes by deer or moose on trees, to squirrel midden piles and food caches, to small animal dens. Tracks of coyote, raccoon, porcupine, moose, deer, red fox, and squirrel are readily seen after a snowfall, and claw marks on beech and cedar trees tell the stories of bears searching for a hearty autumn snack or marking a corner of their territory. Steep slopes with ledges and boulders may support bobcat given that nearby stands of conifers provide cover for one of their prey species—snowshoe hare. The property likely has vernal pools tucked away in its undulating topography. These seasonal shallow pools dry up each summer, allowing amphibians to lay their eggs in the springtime without fish predation.

You can make a difference for Blue Mountain and all the beings who live here, from beech to beetles, from birds to bears. Your gift to create Blue Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary will leave a lasting legacy in Vermont. Thank you!

Photography: Blue Mountain beyond springtime farm fields by Tom Kester