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For immediate release: February 7, 2020
New Ipswich, NH – The Northeast Wilderness Trust bought 47 acres of forest and wetlands from Shirley Sawtelle, safeguarding the last remaining unprotected shoreline of Binney Pond and a section of the Wapack Trail. The Wilderness Trust will manage this land as a forever-wild addition to its Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, which it purchased in 2016.
The Sawtelle addition connects the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve to the Wapack Wilderness—a property owned by the Hampshire Country School and legally protected by Northeast Wilderness Trust.
“The Sawtelle Addition, while relatively small in size, is mighty in its impact,” said Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of Northeast Wilderness Trust. “It protects the final puzzle piece of Binney Pond’s shoreline, and is a critical linkage between two Wilderness Trust-conserved properties.”
In total, a 1,963-acre landscape of unbroken wilderness is conserved by the Northeast Wilderness Trust in New Ipswich and Rindge. These Wilderness Trust lands abut a network of other private and public conserved lands, creating interconnected, diverse natural habitats that are needed by far-ranging species like moose and bobcat, both of which have been observed on the Sawtelle Addition.
“Northeast Wilderness Trust’s ongoing conservation of forever-wild lands in southern New Hampshire is part of a larger vision to secure a resilient New England landscape,” added Mr. Leibowitz. “In this region, wildlands and well-managed woodlands complement one another for the benefit of nature and people.”
Mrs. Sawtelle wanted to preserve her property for its values to wildlife, including the beaver, heron, waterfowl, and amphibians that rely on the pond and its surrounding wetlands and forest.
“Nature is very important to my family,” said Mrs. Sawtelle. “We came to love it here because of the wildflowers and the animals…we’ve enjoyed the Wapack Trail tremendously.”
The 21.5-mile Wapack Trail, which leads from Mt. Watatic to North Pack Monadnock, the recently conserved property. The trail is maintained by the Friends of the Wapack, who partner with organizations like the Wilderness Trust to protect the lands surrounding it. Rick Blanchette, president of the Friends, has volunteered with the organization for 30 years.
“As a teen, I would climb Pratt and New Ipswich Mountains and wander the Wapack,” said Mr. Blanchette. “Adding this piece with the Binney property is huge—it’s just terrific to have it all done.”
In 2001, Jacob Varney and the Ashby Boy Scout Troop built boardwalks on Mrs. Sawtelle’s property. The boardwalks were Varney’s Eagle Scout project to improve the hiking experience without disturbing the natural flow of water or the fragile wetland soils. “That was just the best thing,” said Mrs. Sawtelle. “Everyone always uses them because the trail is so wet there.”
“From the boardwalks, one can see beautiful mountain laurels and herons in the summer,” said Mr. Blanchette. “I’ve encountered signs of moose on this land while hiking alone.”
The Friends of the Wapack are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Only five miles of the Wapack Trail remain unprotected, and the Friends hope to accomplish this goal in the upcoming years. As for Mrs. Sawtelle, her 2020 goal is to hike from her house to Mt. Watatic for a picnic, crossing the newly protected trail en route.
About the Northeast Wilderness Trust
Founded in 2002, the Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people across New England and the Adirondacks. The Wilderness Trust owns Wilderness Preserves and Sanctuaries, and also protects land through legal means such as conservation easements. The organization currently safeguards more than 35,000 acres of wildlands in six states.