Grand Lake
Reserve Easement

Indian River Lakes Conservancy partnered with Northeast Wilderness Trust to place a forever-wild easement on the Grand Lake Reserve in Theresa, NY.

With wilderness-level protection, 1,072 acres will perpetually be a wild refuge for nature and people alike. Indian River Lakes Conservancy chose to work with Northeast Wilderness Trust through the Wildlands Partnership to establish permanent wilderness protection here because forever-wild conservation aligns with their goals for Grand Lake Reserve.

Indian River Lakes Conservancy (IRLC) was created in 1998 to preserve, protect, and encourage the sustainable management of the unique features of the Indian Lakes and their watershed. Their focal area sits at the heart of a critical regional wildlife connection: the Algonquin to Adirondacks Corridor. This is a region Northeast Wilderness Trust is increasingly focusing on, as demonstrated with the recent creation of Grasse River Wilderness Preserve.

IRLC’s Grand Lake Reserve was established in 2003 with a generous land gift, and has grown in size over time. With its rugged and varied geography and lakeshore frontage on both Butterfield and Grass Lakes, this Reserve sports a wealth of biodiversity. What’s more, eight and a half miles of trails welcome community members to explore these mesmerizing and diverse lands.

In rich deciduous forests, Maidenhair fern and spring ephemeral wildflowers make their homes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks sing sweet melodic songs during warm months. In drier forests full of white pine, ironwood, and oak, the sparse understory contains carpets of sedges and hairgrass.

Grand Lake Reserve is home to several beings in need of conservation—from nine uncommon dragonfly and damselfly species, to the declining Whip-poor-will, to the threatened Blanding’s turtle and uncommon stinkpot turtle. Forever-wild conservation ensures that this land and all beings who depend on it will be free to survive, thrive, and evolve for generations upon generations.

Since the Indian River Lakes Conservancy’s mission includes education, Grand Lake Reserve has kiosks, interpretive signs, and trail maps to offer visitors a deeper understanding of natural and human history. Ancient geologic events resulted in bedrock of marble, gneiss, and granite overlain by occasional sandstone and sandy dolomite. Geology, climate, and topography shape which plants grow where, in turn influencing where animals choose to spend their time.

Marks of human history can also be seen. The Sugarhouse Trail goes past the stone foundation of a sugar shanty. Along the lakefront, what looks like a small cave is in fact the hole left behind by lead mining for ammunition during the War of 1812. In the same way that the Frontenac Arch has provided continental-scale migration routes for plants and animals, the St. Lawrence River was likely a trade route for early Indigenous peoples. The area has been inhabited by people more or less continuously since the recession of the glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.

The Wildlands Partnership, through which the Grand Lake Reserve forever-wild easement was created, is a regional initiative of Northeast Wilderness Trust. The Partnership supports local land trusts to adopt forever-wild conservation either on lands they currently own or places they are planning to acquire. To learn more, visit

Photography: Sunset and hiking group by Jacob Sell-Hicks; Tree and rock hugger by Penny Kring; Trail signs and Grass Lake by Mark Scarlett.