Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve

Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve in Hubbardton, Vermont: 200 forever-wild acres in the Adirondack to Greens Wildlife Corridor

Just west of the Taconic Mountains as the forested terrain begins its descent towards the Champlain Valley, the young forest of the Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve has the opportunity to grow old with forever-wild protection. The White Pines and Red Oaks of Sargent Hill have been given a rare gift: time.

This Preserve can heal, grow older, and more complex—rewild—as a bastion of biodiversity and natural carbon storage. Within that wild forest, the wildlife who call the forest home will be able to raise their young here for generations to come.

Located just south of The Nature Conservancy’s High Pond Natural Area, the Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve is part of a much larger forest block identified as important for conservation that includes thousands of acres of already conserved land. The area is known as the Adirondack to Greens Wildlife Corridor because of its importance to east-west wildlife movement. As the climate changes and development continues, it is imperative to protect intact and connected wildlife corridors, or, wildways, so animals have the best chance to thrive long into the future.

Identified in Wildlands Network’s Eastern Wildway dataset as “Potential Core Habitat,” the Preserve provides safe homes for its animal residents, and respite for those passing through. Forever-wild protection of the preserve also aligns with statewide conservation goals, like those outlined in Vermont Conservation Design, which identifies Sargent Hill as in Highest Priority Interior Forest and Connectivity Blocks.

“The New York-Vermont connection is tenuous and fragmented for the wildlife that roam in search of critical habitat and food sources in this area. Northeast Wilderness Trust’s plans for forever-wild protection of the Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve removes a crucial pinch point for free-ranging carnivores. The Fergusons rescued this landscape from development just in time. Their commitment to keeping this land wild is exemplary as they understand that we must take care of the land we have and the species we love.”

Nancy Bell, retired Northeast Director for The Conservation Fund

A large beaver-influenced Alder Swamp greets visitors entering from Monument Hill Road, with smaller forested swamps and seepage areas dotting the forest.  Wetlands like these provide important early spring food sources for energy-strapped animals after a long north woods winter. Multiple headwater streams also begin on the property, eventually making their way to the Poultney River and then into the South Bay of Lake Champlain.

This rewilding forest is being protected thanks to the generosity of Hadley and Dick Ferguson. Dick passed away in 2023 soon after he knew the wild fate of their beloved land. Hadley has since continued working with Northeast Wilderness Trust to ensure its forever-wild protection. The Fergusons purchased the property in the spring of 2021 to protect it from being developed and have been committed to seeing it conserved since then.

“When Nancy Bell approached us about buying this land we didn’t hesitate—Dick said yes immediately. He loved this land and the idea of protecting it from development and then ultimately protecting it as forever-wild to give wildlife safe space and humans opportunities to experience the wonder of wilderness resonated for both of us. People need to see what is being lost, and Nature is best at figuring out how to heal itself. We were excited to find Northeast Wilderness Trust knowing they will safeguard this land for Nature’s sake.”

Hadley Ferguson

Much of Sargent Hill Wilderness Preserve is crisscrossed with old logging roads and cut-over areas, though some small areas of the property are more intact. Rewilding, as Northeast Wilderness Trust practices it, allows the land to recover and evolve freely, increasing its climate resiliency and ensuring the existing carbon remains where it belongs, in the soil and trees.  While the forest naturally grows older and more complex, it will continue to sequester more and more carbon over time.

Photography and video by Stephen Matter