Opportunities to protect thousands of acres as wilderness are rare in Vermont. Rarer still is the chance to preserve northern hardwood forest, a critical wildlife corridor and the headwater streams of two rivers: the Winooski and the Lamoille.
In December, Northeast Wilderness Trust accomplished all of that and more when the accredited land trust acquired 5,900 acres of private forestland to establish Woodbury Mountain Wilderness Preserve just north of Vermont’s capital city. The preserve—a crossroads for wildlife moving between the undeveloped Worcester Mountains and the rugged splendor of the Northeast Kingdom— is Vermont’s largest nongovernmental wilderness area.
“The site contains some of the most climate-resilient land in the Northern Appalachian region and is recognized for its biodiversity value by The Nature Conservancy,” says Mark Anderson, director of The Nature Conservancyʼs Center for Resilient Conservation Science and NEWT’s board chair.
NEWT purchased the land through a fundraising campaign that included an 80-mile “walk for wilderness” by Wildlands Ecology Director Shelby Perry. The epic four-day trek through the Worcester-to-Kingdom wildlife corridor was captured in a story map on NEWT’s website that generated donations to the cause.
The majority of the newly acquired land was previously stewarded for multiple generations by the Meyer family, who runs the E.B. Hyde timber company. The preserve will be managed with passive rewilding, which allows the forest to return to old-growth status. NEWT is currently fundraising to support the land’s long-term stewardship and protection, including a forever-wild conservation easement held by the Vermont River Conservancy.