Forest for Learning

A forever-wild community forest in Putney, VT

In the small town of Putney, Vermont is a beloved 167-acre forest. Located next to Putney Central School, generations of students have visited and enjoyed the Forest for Learning as an outdoor classroom space, providing the opportunity to study ecology and other natural sciences where they ought to be studied—in the forest!

In spite of this history and the property’s important role in the community, the Forest for Learning is not currently legally protected. The property was previously owned by the Town of Putney, before transferring ownership to Forest for Learning, Inc., an independent 501c(3), in 2019. Northeast Wilderness Trust is now working with the landowner to establish permanent legal protection in the form of a forever-wild conservation easement.

Wild forests are home and refuge for many species, including some that rely on old and intact forests to survive and thrive. But, wildlands offer something for people, too. In a region where most protected wildlands are remote and difficult to access, forever-wild conservation of the Forest for Learning is an opportunity to create a wildland in a setting that allows for easy public access enjoyment and emphasizes elementary-age educational experiences.

view of the forest for learning land from the side of a hill

Forever-wild forests, streams, and wetlands

The Forest for Learning is home to large areas of wetlands, several streams, and intact upland forests, all of which result in a property that today is highly diverse and able to support a wide range of species. No logging has occurred here in many decades, resulting in a forest that already demonstrates some regionally uncommon characteristics of a mature forest.

beautiful waterfall running through a forest surrounded by mossy rocks
closeup of a mossy tree

Several streams cross the property, including Sacketts Brook, which flows through a large wetland complex in the low-lying western side of the property. Including areas just beyond the property’s boundaries, this wetland spans a total of 118 acres and is recognized by the State of Vermont as a high priority class II wetland. An active beaver population has created several ponds and dams along Sacketts Brook and contribute to the habitat diversity found here.

At a broader scale, the Forest for Learning is located within a 5,800-acre habitat block identified by the State of Vermont as a high priority for conservation. Forever-wild conservation of this property addresses statewide conservation priorities and also strengthens habitat connections within the immediately surrounding region.

mushroom closeup in a tree branch

A future old-growth community forest

An important part of the Forest for Learning’s stewardship will be continuing its use as an educational resource for the Town of Putney and the Putney Central School in such a way that embraces forever-wild conservation. As on all properties under NEWT’s care, logging and motor vehicle access will be prohibited to allow the forests here to grow older, wilder, and more complex—and store more carbon.

Once protected as forever-wild, the Forest for Learning will present a new and unique opportunity for students and community members to benefit from an area of accessible wilderness, on the model of a community forest. Wilderness is not simply a special kind of place; it’s a special kind of commitment we make to a place. That commitment is freedom—for the creatures at home there, and for the natural processes that create the integrity, beauty, and diversity of the land and its inhabitants. Students and community members will be able to visit and learn from a rewilding landscape, one that already demonstrates some characteristics of old forests, and have the opportunity to experience wild beauty first hand.

The purpose of creating accessible wildlands like the Forest for Learning is twofold: for the unique benefits that being in wilderness can offer people and for the opportunity to grow public understanding of the importance of wilderness in the Northeastern landscape.

In addition to their intrinsic value, at Northeast Wilderness Trust, we believe that wildlands should not be limited to people who have the ability, time, and means to travel to remote locations far from home. Access to wild Nature should be available locally, in every town, to the many species who will benefit, including humans. The Forest for Learning is an ideal opportunity to achieve this goal, while also finally providing permanent legal protection to property that has been a central part of the Putney community for generations.

Forest for Learning at a glance

forest for learning map in putney, vermont

Forest For Learning is part of a pilot program at Northeast Wilderness Trust connecting human communities to protected wild natural communities—offering the chance for more people to feel, breathe, and experience wildness close to home. In 2023, the Wilderness Trust protected Children’s Woods & Carey Park, in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, also as part of this pilot.

Size: Approx. 167 acres

Context: Located within a 5,800-acre habitat block identified by the State of Vermont as a high priority for conservation.

Location: Putney, Vermont

Objective: Forever-wild conservation of this property addresses statewide conservation priorities—including the goal set by Vermont Conservation Design to protect at least 9% of the state as wildlands—and also strengthens habitat connections within the immediately surrounding region.

forest for learning path

The Forest for Learning needs your help

Will you help Northeast Wilderness Trust permanently protect this special place as forever-wild?

Help protect this special forest as forever-wild . You can help by:

Thank you!

Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people.

outline of a bird perched on a tree against a sunset

Photography by Josh Fields.