The Wild Heart of
Maine’s High Peaks
At the heart of the largest, most intact temperate forest in North America lie the Western Maine Mountains. The remote range sits at a crossroads, connecting the forests of northern Vermont and New Hampshire to those of northeastern Maine and New Brunswick. Protecting and rewilding habitat here is imperative for wildlife’s survival, movement, and adaptation as climate change accelerates. Redington Wilderness Sanctuary is 3,415 acres of rewilding forestland on the slopes of Mt. Redington, owned by Northeast Wilderness Trust and further protected with a forever-wild easement held by Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust.
The Western Maine Mountains extend from the Mahoosuc Range at Maine’s western border northeasterly to the Hundred-Mile Wilderness and Mt. Katahdin. While there are many conserved forestlands in Maine’s High Peaks, the vast majority are protected as “working woodlands,” meaning they are managed and logged. Additionally, the State of Maine has protected a number of nearby Ecological Preserves.
The new Redington Wilderness Sanctuary dramatically builds upon the existing values of this network of protected lands, while expanding a wild habitat core that can continue to grow in size.
The Sanctuary sits between Bigelow Preserve and Saddleback Mountain, just west of Rangeley, ME. It is a part of a contiguous 170,000-acre forest block. The 1,155-acre Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary, gifted to Northeast Wilderness Trust in 2018 by George Appell, is just southwest of Redington.
“The higher mountain zones and associated ecological communities are indeed regionally rare ecological features of the Study Area and worthy of special and immediate attention and protection.”
Peter McKinley, Ph.D.
An Ecological Study of the High Peaks Region of Maine’s Western Mountains
Water & Wildlife at Redington
The value of this land for clean water and wildlife is impressive. There are 2.7 miles of mapped streams across the property, which are headwaters to critical habitat for Atlantic salmon. Three of the six streams are likely to be habitat for native brook trout at their lower elevations.
Maine is home to more than half of the nation’s brook trout, and is the only place in the United States where natural populations of Atlantic salmon live. It is imperative to protect the resources that make this region a stronghold for these sensitive, indicator species.
All of Redington Wilderness Sanctuary is mapped as critical Canada lynx habitat. With the property’s keystone location between multiple ecological preserves, it is a necessary link for wide-ranging animals like lynx, moose, bobcat, and bear to have ample room to find territories, food, mates, and places to raise their young.
Redington Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary is blanketed with thriving sub-alpine forest starting at 2,600′ elevation and reaching just up to tree line. This ecosystem is home to an abundance bird life, as a diversity of migrating birds depend on the Western Maine Mountains for nesting grounds. In addition to supporting Spruce Grouse, Blackpoll Warbler, Blackbacked Woodpecker, and Bay-Breasted Warbler, the entire property is potential Bicknell’s Thrush nesting habitat. Bicknell’s Thrush is in rapid decline and is a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Maine. This thrush prefers the natural disturbances of subalpine forests for their nesting grounds.
Redington Wilderness Sanctuary hosts a unique ecological phenomenon that only occurs in the Northeast and Japan: fir waves. A fir wave begins when a balsam fir climax forest experiences tree die-back in an area. Trees upwind of the gap are suddenly vulnerable as they are exposed to the elements, and die more quickly. Meanwhile, new young growth is beginning on the leeward side of the gap. This process creates bands of differently-aged forest with natural gaps, which can progress along a mountainside for hundreds of years. From a distance, they appear as undulating silver snakes across the otherwise green body of a mountain. Since fir waves happen over a long period of time, forever-wild conservation is a perfect fit for this property, so that this natural process can indefinitely unfold across the landscape, benefiting Bicknell’s Thrush and other species that have co-evolved with these conditions.
A rare type of forest, the Heart-Leaved Birch Sub-Alpine Forest, is found on this property. This special ecosystem is home to several rare species of plants and animals, including the northern commandra/false toadflax (Geocaulon lividum).
Climate Change and Redington:
Carbon Storage and Species Resilience
Rewilding the slopes of Mt. Redington offers great potential for sequestering and storing many tons of carbon. The property’s strategic central location in the Western Maine Mountains will also serve flora and fauna when their ranges change and move in response to climate change. Both the carbon storage capacity and the ecological resiliency of this property are important conservation factors, as the effects of climate change become more severe in the coming years and decades.
Portions of the property have been logged in the recent past, so the land harbors young and mid-aged forest that will continue to capture carbon for centuries to come. In addition, there are parts of the property that showed no signs of past logging; upon further inspection, these may be considered old-growth forest. Old forests such as these act as carbon sinks, holding vast amounts of carbon in its soil, trees, plants, and woody debris.
Redington Wilderness Sanctuary is part of Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Wild Carbon project. The Wilderness Trust is aggregating carbon credits on multiple properties it owns across the Northeast. This carbon project–comprised of exclusively forever-wild land across multiple states–will be the first of its kind. The success of this program will encourage and normalize future wilderness protection through the carbon market.
Many thanks to everyone who helped to protect Redington Wilderness Sanctuary! In addition to many generous individual donors and anonymous foundations, support for Redington Wilderness Sanctuary has come from:
Aerial landscapes by Jonathan Milne/LightHawk | Summit and wetland by Jon Leibowitz | Waterfall by Shelby Perry