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Sweet Water Trust’s legacy lives on at Northeast Wilderness Trust

Montpelier, VT… In 2022 the Sweet Water Trust—a philanthropic organization dedicated to wilderness conservation—became the Sweet Water Fund, a donor-advised endowment fund that will continue wildlands protection in the Northern Appalachians in partnership with Northeast Wilderness Trust.

Sweet Water Trust was instrumental in Northeast Wilderness Trust’s founding in 2002 and was an essential partner in funding a dozen forever-wild land conservation projects over two decades with the Wilderness Trust.  Some of these projects include the 7,000+ acre Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in Maine, the 6,000+ acre Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve in Vermont, and the 2,445-acre Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in New York.  These preserves are three of the five ambassador preserves the Wilderness Trust established to foster connection to and compassion for wild Nature by welcoming visitors to share in the philosophy and experience of forever-wild conservation.

“Northeast Wilderness Trust would not be here today were it not for the vision of the founders of the Sweet Water Trust. We are honored to be trusted with the Sweet Water Fund to carry on this legacy. Visionary philanthropic actions like this make all the difference in land conservation,” Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, said.

Under the terms of the now established Sweet Water Fund, Northeast Wilderness Trust receives annual grants to further its wilderness land protection projects and to support the Wildlands Partnership—a grantmaking program that expands wilderness conservation in collaboration with land trusts across the Northeast. A new round of funding for the Wildlands Partnership is now available and land trusts are invited to apply by June 15, 2023.

A vision becomes a living legacy

Information about Sweet Water Trust’s legacy of wilderness conservation can now be found on the That legacy includes the Sweet Water Trust’s direct role in 178 land protection projects conserving more than 310,000 acres of wildlands across the Northern Appalachians—primarily in northern New England, the Adirondacks, and eastern Canada—working with close to 90 partners. These wildlands are now owned primarily by land trusts, or state or federal conservation agencies. The vast majority are further protected with forever-wild conservation easements.

“Wildlands are absolutely essential to the conservation of biodiversity. Just as people need large, quiet areas for solitude, there are species, natural communities, and ecological processes that need large areas with relatively little human disturbance in order to persist and express their full potential. Northeast Wilderness Trust’s work is guided by this fact,” Eve Endicott, a past Executive Director of Sweet Water Trust, said. “The Wilderness Trust is carrying on this conservation work to protect more places that literally embody the ancient English meaning of the word wilderness as self-willed land.”

Thanks to the vision of its founder, Sweet Water was an early and forceful champion of of forever-wild conservation to ensure that a high level of secure and permanent protection is achieved to conserve land in its wild natural state—often called “the belt and suspenders” conservation strategy. That protection is assured by imposing a second layer of protection on the property via a legally binding conservation easement (the “suspenders”) that must be monitored and enforced by a qualified conservation entity—usually a land trust—separate from the property’s non-profit or government owner (the “belt”).

The first grants to Northeast Wilderness Trust under the new Sweet Water Fund supported the creation of Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve in Vermont and the Bear Pond Forest in the Adirondack Park of New York.

“In the late 1990s, I attended a session on ‘Forever Wild Easements’, presented by Sweet Water Trust staff at a National Land Trust Alliance Rally. At that time, I thought they were onto something. No land trusts that I knew about were doing wildlands conservation at that time,” Bob Linck, Conservation Director at Northeast Wilderness Trust, reflected. “What they achieved, and what the Sweet Water Fund will help Northeast Wilderness Trust continue to achieve, is now central to biodiversity protection, carbon sequestration and storage, and resilience to climate change in the Northeast.”

About Northeast Wilderness Trust: Northeast Wilderness Trust is a regional land trust that focuses exclusively on protecting wilderness areas—lands permanently protected as forever-wild, where natural processes direct the ebb and flow of life. With its headquarters in Vermont, staff in multiple states, and board members across the Northeast, the Wilderness Trust ( protects more than 76,000 acres in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Photography: Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve (Maine) and Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve (Vermont) by Jerry Monkman/Ecophotography