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Sweet Water Trust Begins a New Chapter as Sweet Water Fund in Partnership with Northeast Wilderness Trust

Sweet Water Trust, a charitable trust founded in 1992 to protect wilderness lands in the Northern Appalachians, is announcing a new chapter in its history. Starting in 2022, it will become the Sweet Water Fund, a donor-advised endowment fund at Vanguard Charitable, in order to continue its mission of funding wilderness land protection in as permanent a way as possible.

Over three decades, Sweet Water Trust has made more than 650 grants in support of forever-wild land conservation and small grants promoting wilderness values. Sweet Water has had a direct role in 178 land protection projects conserving over 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 by land trusts or state or federal conservation agencies and the vast majority are further protected with forever-wild conservation easements. Sweet Water was an early and forceful champion of this essential method for ensuring that a high level of secure and permanent protection is achieved to conserve land in its wild natural state—often times called “the Belt and Suspender” 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”).

In creating the Sweet Water Fund, Sweet Water Trust is partnering with Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT), a land trust headquartered in Vermont that is exclusively dedicated to the protection of wilderness throughout the Northeast. Instrumental in NEWT’s founding in 2002, Sweet Water Trust has been an essential partner in over 90% of the 41,000 acres of wilderness land NEWT now protects. Over two decades, Sweet Water helped fund eleven of NEWT’s major projects, including NEWT’s 7,000-acre Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in Maine; two Nature Conservancy preserves over which NEWT holds forever-wild easements: the 10,000-acre Bunnell Mountain Preserve in New Hampshire and 5,000-acre Burnt Mountain in Vermont (pictured above); and NEWT’s 2,400-acre Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve in the Adirondacks, all areas of significant ecological value and important climate resiliency.

Under the terms of the Sweet Water Fund, Northeast Wilderness Trust will receive annual grants to further its wilderness land protection projects and to help support its Wildlands Partnership program, through which NEWT encourages and supports the forever-wild protection work of other land trusts.

“Sweet Water Trust has been side-by-side in partnership with Northeast Wilderness Trust since our founding twenty years ago,” said Northeast Wilderness Trust Executive Director, Jon Leibowitz. “We both share a vision for a wild future. With the creation of the Sweet Water Fund, that vision just got a momentous boost. We are thrilled and honored to be carrying on Sweet Water Trust’s legacy as the designated recipient of the endowment fund as we work to protect more wild nature in the face of a rapidly changing climate and threats to biodiversity. Visionary philanthropic actions like this make all the difference in land conservation.”

For project inquiries or to learn more about the Sweet Water Fund, please email Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director, at jon [@]

Photo: Burnt Mountain by Zack Porter