Northeast Wilderness Trust is a non –profit organization that protects wilderness throughout the New England and the Adirondacks. The unique aspect of Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT) is that it is the only organization in the Northeast focused exclusively on forever-wild conservation. This group currently cares for more than 41,000 acres of wildlands across the six states. The Wilderness Trust owns some of their land and protects others through legal means including conservation easements.
At the end of March NEWT purchased 3,415 acres of mountain slopes on Mount Redington where some peaks are more than 4000 feet high. The Sanctuary sits between Bigelow Preserve and Saddleback Mountain, just west of Rangeley, ME. (Another NEWT acquisition, the 1,155 –acre Lone Mountain Wilderness Sanctuary is located just southwest of Redington). Both properties are located within the Northern Appalachian/Acadian Forest Ecoregion—the largest and most intact temperate forest in North America.
The Western Maine Mountains extend from the Mahoosuc Range at Maine’s western border northeasterly to the hundred mile wilderness and Mt. Katadin There are many conserved forests in Maine’s high peaks but unlike the lands that NEWT acquires most are protected as working woodlands; they are managed and logged.
Keeping our mountainous forests interconnected is among the most widely cited strategies for ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. The Redington Wilderness Sanctuary will never be logged and eventually will become an old growth forest. Additionally Northeast Wilderness Trust will donate a forever – wild easement to the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust that borders this purchase increasing its wilderness.
Let’s think about what it means for nature that Northeast (NEWT) has purchased this land.
“ Forever wild conservation is about freedom for wildlife, natural processes, and the untrammeled evolution of the landscape. This sort of conservation offers land the opportunity to heal and rewild, often after centuries of hard use. In a wild landscape, trees grow old and store massive amounts of carbon. Trees also fall and remain in place, providing shelter to diverse species and adding richness back into forest soils. On forever-wild land, management is minimal to non-existent. Light restoration may occur at the beginning phases of conservation. Recreation, when permitted, is limited to quiet enjoyment of the land without any motors or mechanization. There is no timber harvesting, in perpetuity.
The many gifts offered by untamed forests inevitably spill over into the human world. People receive pristine water, birdsong, fresh air, spring flowers, dark nighttime skies, snowy tracks, and quiet places to escape the clamor of everyday life. Stepping into the wild, we can feel that land does not belong to us, but that we belong to the land.”
The acquisition of this Redington property also launches NEWT’s first project in the wild carbon program. People who buy wild carbon credits will know that none of the trees on these properties will ever be harvested for timber. “We are proud that every property enrolled in our carbon project will support old-growth forests in the future. This is a win for biodiversity and for long-term carbon storage,” says Sophie Ehrhardt, the Wildlands Partnership Coordinator for the Wilderness Trust. “We are pleased to bring to market high-quality offset credits for organizations and businesses with serious sustainability goals.” Perhaps just as important is knowing that all revenue from this program will go towards long term care of wild and resilient landscapes and towards conserving more of them.
President Biden committed us to a global initiative last January. 30 by 30 calls for 30 percent of the earth to be conserved by the year 2030. Attaining this goal is necessary to protect biodiversity and existing ecosystems. Conserving land as wilderness is a critical component for saving species from extinction during climate change. NEWT’s purchase of the Redington Sanctuary and others like it puts us on the path to meet the President’s goal.
Redington Sanctuary is made up of a thriving and rare sub-alpine forest which begins at about 2,600 feet and extends to the tree line. This ecosystem supports birds like Spruce Grouse, Blackpoll warblers, Bay breasted warblers, Black – backed woodpeckers, and the threatened Bicknells thrush. It also provides habitat for the endangered lynx, American marten, coyotes, black bears and moose. The headwaters of many streams and brooks begin on the Redington property. Beyond the Sanctuary’s boundaries, Oberton brook provides critical habitat for Atlantic salmon.
Fir waves are an ecological phenomenon that only occurs in the Northeast and Japan. A fir wave begins when a balsam forest ages and begins to die back. The remaining up wind trees are vulnerable because they are now exposed to the elements and so they begin to die back slowly. Meanwhile new growth begins on the other side of the gap. This process, which can occur over hundreds of years creates bands of differently aged forests that stretch across the mountainsides. From a distance these appear as serpentine silver snakes against forest green..
The other notable aspect of the Redington forest is that although fir dominate, Heart –leaved birch also thrive here. Heart – leaved birch were once considered to be a variety of paper birch. But the species is distinct because of its heart shaped many veined leaves, its pinkish –brown bark, and the fact that it only occurs in high elevation Appalachian and northern habitats.The fact that this tree’s leaves are really heart shaped brings out the poet in me. In this exceptional Sanctuary ‘the wild heart of the forest’ also comes to life as a tree.