Help Add 15 Acres
to Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve

Northeast Wilderness Trust has a unique opportunity to expand a wild habitat core along New Hampshire’s southern border, but only if we can raise enough money to buy and conserve these 15 acres.

At the center point of New Hampshire’s southern border, Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve serves as a keystone within an approximately 6,000 acre block of uninterrupted forestland. The Preserve is a bridge between surrounding protected forests including the Watatic Mountain State Wildlife Area (Ashburnham, MA), the Wapack Wilderness (New Ipswich and Rindge, NH), Binney Pond Natural Area (New Ipswich, NH), and, further north, the Wapack National Wildlife Refuge (Greenfield, NH).

Northeast Wilderness Trust has been protecting land here for more than a decade, gathering the pieces to realize a forever-wild link in this essential wildlife corridor. Back in 2008, Hampshire Country School conserved 1,428 acres as the Wapack Wilderness through a forever-wild easement with the Wilderness Trust. In 2016, the Wilderness Trust purchased 488 adjacent acres to the south, creating Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve. And just this year, Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve grew by 47 acres with the addition of the Sawtelle parcel, thanks to Shirley Sawtelle and many dedicated supporters.

When I learned about the Wildlands & Woodlands intiative, I thought ‘Wow, this is what we need!’

Virginia Steel, Landowner

Northeast Wilderness Trust now has the chance to add another 15 strategic acres to this sweeping forever-wild landscape. Though small in scale, the Steel Addition is large in impact. The land abuts the eastern edge of Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, on the northern side of Binney Hill Road.

For its small size, the property boasts an impressive amount of ecological diversity. A small wetland occupies the lowest elevations, forming the headwaters of a small stream. A second headwater stream skirts the southern boundary along Binney Hill Road.

Red oak and American beech offer up acorns and beechnuts in the fall to hungry wildlife. Sign of moose, deer, porcupine, and coyote have been found on initial site visits to the property, and it is likely that other wildlife like bobcat and bears also frequent this land. Since there are no visible signs of past logging, the forest has a good head start on its way to becoming old-growth.

With your help, wild nature will always come first on this land, and these 15 acres will join Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve as a rewilding forest of today…and an old-growth forest of the future.

Northeast Wilderness Trust has the opportunity to protect this land thanks to two women who cared deeply for it.

In the spring of 1980, Margaret Gunn moved from Ohio to join her daughter, Virginia Steel, in the outskirts of Boston. Yet she missed having land. Inspired by the woodstoves in her and her daughter’s homes, she bought a small woodlot in southern New Hampshire to supply her family with firewood. Virginia bought a utility trailer frame and built a box for it that would perfectly fit their firewood. Upon their first harvest of downed trees after an ice storm, however, the weight of the full load caused the trailer to sag and rub against the tires. They retired the idea in favor of foraging downed branches in their suburban neighborhood.

“But my mom loved the land anyway,” said Virginia. “She loved the ability to walk anywhere she wanted. After she couldn’t drive any longer, I would bring her up to visit it often.” Both avid naturalists, the mother and daughter duo loved finding signs of animals and identifying plants. In the springtime they would inventory the wildflowers, in wintertime they would have picnics together, and on hot summer days they would drink from the land’s “spring” with a long-handled dipper that Margaret had fashioned from an enameled measuring cup and a long wooden handle.

When Margaret could no longer hike, she would sit in a chair in her woodlands as Virginia explored with her dog, returning with treasures from the land. Photos courtesy Virginia Steel.

Near the end of Margaret’s long life, when she could no longer walk at all through the forest, her New Hampshire neighbors took her on a snowmobile ride to experience the land.

Eleven years ago, Margaret passed away and Virginia inherited her land. “I’ve always been interested in conservation of any type,” she said regarding the future of the woodlot. Virginia had been involved in her local conservation commission and trails groups, and her daughter now works in the conservation field. At her retirement community, she leads the Nature Program, writes a Naturalist Newsletter, and cares for the trails. When she attended a talk on the Wildlands & Woodlands initiative (wildlandsandwoodlands.org) last winter, she says she immediately thought, “Wow, this is what we need!” The Wildlands & Woodlands vision calls for 70% of New England’s forested land to be permanently protected by 2060, with 10% of those forests conserved as wilderness.

Inspired to protect her family’s land, Virginia connected with Northeast Wilderness Trust. “I hadn’t known about Binney Hill, so it was remarkably good news that this land is important to protect” said Virginia. “I’ve been very happy to think this could be the outcome for the land.”

From here, the rest can be history…with your help. Will you support the Steel Addition to Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve with a gift today?

You can donate securely online (select “Steel Addition” from the drop-down menu below) or by sending a check to Northeast Wilderness Trust with “Steel” in the memo line to:

Northeast Wilderness Trust
17 State St., Suite 302
Montpelier, VT 05602

And thank you!

Photography by Shelby Perry