Where the road ends and the adventure begins
Two authors reflect on the intersection of New England’s hunting and fishing traditions and the importance of protecting wild habitat.
Northeast Wilderness Trust is proud to publish the following two blog posts as a celebration of a new partnership with New England Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (NEBHA), the local chapter of a national non-profit organization whose mission is to “ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.” Both organizations, while approaching conservation from different angles, share common values rooted in protecting more wild places and fostering a wilderness ethic across the region. The Wilderness Trust looks forward to partnering with NEBHA to protect wildlands and outdoor traditions throughout the Northeast.
In Pursuit of a Wilder Northeast
By Shelby Perry
I came to love wild places at a very young age; raised in a family with a long tradition of hunting and fishing in the woods of Vermont. As far back as I can remember I marked the passing of seasons by watching the wildlife around me. We went on long rambles through wild orchards scouting before deer season in fall, looked for dropped antlers and interesting tracks in winter, visited the hatchery in spring to stock our pond with rainbow trout, and then watched enraptured through binoculars every summer as otters showed up and ate them all.
Over my life and professional career, my love of wild places has developed into a passion for protecting wilderness, and I am not the only one who has followed this trajectory. Since the earliest days of America’s conservation movement, hunters and anglers have figured prominently. With eyes and ears to the water and ground, sportswomen and men are often among the first to sound the alarm over policies and practices that lead to dangerous over-harvest, pollution of wild waters, and the mismanagement of forests.
I came to Northeast Wilderness Trust three years ago, impressed by their model of applying the concept of wilderness-level protections to private land conservation. Working throughout New England and the Adirondacks, the Wilderness Trust protects over 27,000-acres of self-willed, forever-wild land and water.
The Trust allows hunting (with some restrictions) on many of its preserves with permission. The permission process is quick, easy, and completely online. Hearing from hunters and anglers that spend time on lands we protect is one of the highlights of my job. I love to hear success stories, like the Boy Scout who bagged his first buck last year on the Binney Hill Preserve in southern NH. Or just stories of the land, like the hunters who called to say that they had found and removed a bunch of trash from the Alder Stream Wilderness Preserve in central ME.
Northeast Wilderness Trust looks forward to working alongside the members and volunteers of NEBHA in pursuit of a wilder Northeast. With NEBHA’s help, we can safeguard thousands of additional acres in the coming years for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the outdoor traditions that depend on them.
Shelby Perry is Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Stewardship Director and can be reached at and (802) 224-1000.
The Dance of the Wild
By Britt Lewis
The snow was blowing around violently on the New England mountain top. The predator moved slowly, taking each step deliberately to avoid spooking her quarry. Wind howling through the trees provided cover for any noise she made. The prey, bedded against a spruce blowdown and unaware of the pending drama he was a player in, chewed his cud calmly. The miles of woods surrounding his hiding spot gave him a measure of comfort, but he remained alert. With each step she looked around, knowing that he was close. She eased along his track, as she had all day. She traced his path through the snow with her own feet, in the same fashion her ancestors had for thousands of years when hunger gnawed at their bellies, too. Some of her kind fed themselves by trusting others to do the work, but she preferred to obtain her own food.
In the forest, the predator-prey dance never stops. The dancers change, spelling one another as time passes. The beat, tapped out by raging rivers and babbling brooks, may ebb and flow, but is always in the background. The wind, rain, snow, sunlight and darkness are all instruments that play their parts – sometimes a solo, other times playing in harmony.
In New England, the wild, natural habitat that I like to think of as the “dance floor” is becoming rarer, and because of that, more special. Some people have lost awareness of the drama that goes on around them; the relationship between all things twisting across the dance floor. Those that are unaware, knowingly or unknowingly, sit on the sidelines and are unable to feel the beat. Let the rhythm be absent for too long and the citizens of our modern world, trapped in cars and in cities, lose sight of the species and natural processes that make our forests unique. Those of us who love wild places and wild things that live there, know of the dance. But are we doing all that we can to keep nature’s dance going?
The hunter spotted her quarry and in doing so, saw food. Deep inside her, in a way she was unaware of, she was dancing to the music. Her current desires, along with her ancestral heritage, compelled her to yield to the choreography and continue the dance. Stalking closer, she shouldered her rifle and shot the buck, their paths crossing ever so briefly, yet circling intimately in the never-ending bond between their species. He feeds her family, and she works to protect wild places for his progeny to roam, even if she will never end up there again.
Many hunters, as thoughtful participants, care about wilderness as part of a healthy landscape and a resilient ecosystem. This is not a new idea. President Theodore Roosevelt, a hunter, worked to preserve wild landscapes by protecting 230 million acres of public land. He camped with renowned naturalist John Muir and, while they disagreed about hunting, they were unified on the idea of protecting the natural world.
Members of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) continue T.R.’s legacy today, with our mission to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. We realize that our freedom to hunt and fish depends on habitat. While many of us enjoy hunting and fishing on a range of landscapes, including farm fields and reservoirs, there is something special – even magical – about hunting deep in the backcountry or fishing on a remote river. Wilderness hunting and fishing delivers a sense of freedom, challenge and solitude that is increasingly trampled by the twin pressures of a growing population and increasing technology.
The New England Chapter of BHA hopes to work alongside Northeast Wilderness Trust to protect remote backcountry areas for their inherent value as well as for the benefit of predators and prey of all stripes. Hopefully we can all come together so that the dance continues unabated, with a strong beat, a beautiful harmony, and dancers that continue to waltz gracefully across the dance floor.
Britt Lewis is a member of the Vermont Leadership Team for New England Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Contact NEBHA by emailing
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