NORTHEAST WILDERNESS TRUST
17 STATE STREET, SUITE 302
MONTPELIER, VT 05602
info [@] newildernesstrust.org
Northeast Wilderness Trust now owns 5,900 acres, a critical milestone in establishing Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve. The purchase was made possible by more than 130 generous individual donors and foundations…thank you!
The Wilderness Trust must still raise about $615,000 to cover the costs of conserving this land for generations to come, including stewardship and placing an easement on the land. This Preserve is now the largest non-governmental wilderness area in the state of Vermont. We need your help to bridge the funding gap that will ensure the land’s forever-wild status.
You can be a part of this wild legacy by making a tax-deductible gift at the bottom of this page. Thank you!
Opportunities to protect thousands of acres as wilderness are rare in the Green Mountain State. Rarer still is the chance to preserve the headwaters of two major rivers, regional wildlife connections, and honor the legacy of multiple generations of sound land stewardship.
The Preserve includes stunning northern hardwood forests, a diversity of wetlands, and 39 miles of headwater streams.
The land sits directly at a crossroads for far-ranging wildlife. To the west lie the Worcester Mountains—the only remaining undeveloped mountain range in Vermont. To the north is Vermont’s Northeastern Highlands, also called the Northeast Kingdom. The area between them is known as the ‘Worcester to Kingdom’ linkage. The Preserve lies at the heart of the linkage sandwiched between three intact forest blocks that total 85,000 acres just north of Vermont’s capital city.
This area also falls within Vermont’s only ‘Important Bird Area’ of global significance, according to Audubon and BirdLife International. Preserving a large core wilderness within this largely-managed landscape will ensure birds like Winter Wrens and Blackburnian Warblers, who thrive in large blocks of old forests, continue to find good homes in the Green Mountain State.
Mark Anderson, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Center for Resilient Conservation Science
Beyond its significance to the broader landscape context, the Preserve stands out for its varied natural communities.
This land is critical habitat for a variety of animals, from wide-ranging predators like bear, fisher, and bobcats down to tiny salamanders and fingernail clams. It contains topographically diverse and resilient habitat for beavers, moose, martens, turtles, fish, frogs, birds, and countless insect species. Sections of the forest have high concentrations of American beech and black cherry, which are critical sources of food for wildlife preparing for winter. The proposed Preserve also hosts numerous rare and special natural communities such as twelve Red Spruce-Cinnamon Fern Swamps. This is an uncommon type of swamp, and is the preferred breeding habitat of saw-whet owls and yellow-bellied flycatchers, the latter of which are uncommon and vulnerable in the state of Vermont.
Water is a key feature of the proposed Preserve. There are four vernal pools of statewide significance and eight streams of highest priority for aquatic habitat conservation. Within them are occurrences of rare, threatened, and endangered species. The land falls at the watershed divide between the Lamoille and Winooski Rivers, both of which drain into Lake Champlain. Maintaining old forest cover at their headwaters is an incredibly effective, cost-efficient solution to maintain the long-term health of the Lake.
Most protected wild areas in Vermont (and the Northeast) are at higher elevations. Low-elevation lands tend to not be given such protection because of their utility for farming and logging. Yet low-elevation habitats host much greater biological diversity than mountaintops and they serve as key connecting habitat as wildlife move and adapt in response to a rapidly changing climate. Even at a seasonal timescale, animals such as moose rely on connections between low-elevation habitat for summer forage and high-elevation evergreens for winter shelter. The proposed Preserve will serve as a critical lowland habitat connector to the neighboring Worcesters, with an average elevation of just 1550’. This will be the largest privately protected, low-elevation wilderness preserve in Vermont.
The forest is in excellent condition thanks to the thoughtful multi-generational management by the Meyer family, who run the E.B. Hyde timber company. Hugo Meyer bought forest land in Woodbury, Elmore, Hardwick, and Worcester in the 1950s and together with his wife, Elizabeth Hyde Meyer, managed the property both for sustainable yield of high-quality hardwood timber and other ecological values. In the late 1970s their son, consulting forester John Meyer, took over the management responsibility of the land and enrolled the property in Vermont’s Current Use Tax Program thus ensuring its economic viability. For the past forty years management has stressed optimizing timber stocking levels appropriate for varying site qualities, protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat, and encouraging hunting and other non-motorized recreational opportunities.
As E. B. Hyde Company transitions toward the future, it is working to ensure its timberlands are either conserved as working forests or preserved as wildlands forever as determined by the particular attributes and suitability of each parcel. The Woodbury Mountain/Eagle Ledge parcel is a prime candidate for protection as a wilderness preserve due to its dramatic and varied topography, unique and remote ecological sites, and potential for old-growth forest stands.
The Meyers have shared stories of the land with one another for years—about special natural features, encounters with wildlife, and hidden remnants of farmsteads and cellar holes where the town of East Elmore once stood. Forever-wild protection will afford people the opportunity to experience a wild forest first hand and to create their own wild memories to pass on to future generations. Decades down the line, future residents of Central Vermont will be able to know what an old-growth forest looks, feels, and sounds like—just beyond their own backyard. The proposed Preserve will be open to the public for on-foot exploration such as hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and hunting.
E.B. Hyde Company, Landowner
Vermont Conservation Design is a conservation plan to sustain Vermont’s natural areas, forests, waters, wildlife, and plants. A primary goal of the plan is to have at least 9% of Vermont’s forested landscape be comprised of old forests. Old forests harbor unique habitats largely absent from managed land, store and sequester immense amounts of carbon, and are incredibly resilient. Today, only about 3% of Vermont is legally protected in a way that will ensure it reaches maturity and stays that way. Permanent conservation of large landscapes like Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve will help meet this important goal and by partnering with Vermont River Conservancy to hold a forever-wild easement on the land, we will ensure it will remain wild forever—for nature and people.
“Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve will mark a huge step forward in meeting the goals of Vermont Conservation Design,” said Liz Thompson, Director of Conservation Science at Vermont Land Trust and a co-creator of the Conservation Design. “These few thousand acres, protected as forever wild, will complement the hundreds of thousands of acres in the region that are carefully managed for the production of timber and to support our vital forest products industry. Vermont Conservation Design calls for protection of 9% of Vermont’s forests as wild, set up to become old forest in the future through passive (hands-off) management.”
Old forests not only store immense amounts of carbon, but they also remove considerably more carbon from the atmosphere than recently harvested forests. Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve currently stores at least 546,000 metric tonnes of carbon, and has the capacity to sequester an additional 1,155 metric tonnes annually. Most importantly, if this land is protected as forever-wild, its stored carbon would never be lost to resource extraction.
You can be a part of protecting Woodbury Mountain and its lowlands as forever-wild. While Northeast Wilderness Trust has successfully acquired the lands to make this Preserve possible, a large fundraising gap remains to cover all costs of its conservation. There is more than $600,000 left to raise, and your gift of any amount will help! These funds will help cover fees associated with acquiring the land (closing costs, surveys, and appraisal). They will seed the long-term stewardship of the land including staff time, signage, and trail infrastructure. And, they will fund a forever-wild conservation easement on the land to protect it in perpetuity. The easement will be held by Vermont River Conservancy.
There are many ways that you can be a part of this conservation effort:
Autumn wetland and canopy by Zack Porter | Summer hillside, pink lady slipper, and stream with beaver dam remnants by Natalia Boltukhova | Woodbury Mountain summit and hemlock by Sophi Veltrop