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Science and wonder at the Bridgewater Hollow BioBlitz

An aerial view of the proposed Bridgewater Hollow Bramhall Preserve. The Appalachian Trail follows the ridgeline in the background of the image. Photo: Harry White


…People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wilderness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully. Looking out on a clean plank of planet earth, we can get shaken right down to the bone by the bronze-eyed possibility of lives that are not our own.


— Barbara Kingsolver, in “Small Wonder”
Cascades along Bridgewater Hollow Brook

After 50 miles and two days of walking, Shelby Perry hung a left off of the Appalachian Trail and dropped into a quintessential New England landscape where time seems to stand still. Following the twists and turns of gin-clear Bridgewater Hollow Brook, hardwoods and hemlocks towering overhead, birdsong echoing down from the canopy, it was a peaceful conclusion to a one-woman protest march – a long-distance awareness-building and fundraising effort to shine a spotlight on the power of wilderness to address two of the greatest crises of our time: climate change and the planet’s sixth major extinction episode.

It was also the kickoff to a weekend of science and wonder at the Bridgewater Hollow BioBlitz, an effort to protect a mature, wild forest along the North Branch of the Ottauquechee River in Central Vermont.

On Sunday, June 23rd, Shelby and a half-dozen expert naturalists and landscape historians descended on the proposed Bridgewater Hollow Bramhall Wilderness Preserve to help identify the biodiversity harbored on the 360-acre property. Joining Shelby (NWT’s Stewardship Director) were Spencer Hardy and Nathan Sharp of Vermont Center for Ecostudies, ecologist Brett Engstrom, and Middlebury College landscape historian, Chris Fastie. So far, these pros – along with help from 15 participants who joined them for a variety of outings throughout the day – have identified nearly 200 different species from their field observations, and the list continues to grow.


Shelby Perry and the weekend’s youngest BioBlitz participant investigate slime molds on a fallen log.

While cataloging the plants and animals of this site increases our scientific understanding and improves the rational case for wilderness, it also fosters our wonder at the beauty and resilience of wild nature, and the sheer diversity of species with whom we share this planet.

Ecologist Brett Engstrom, left, leads a group of BioBlitz participants. Photo: Chris Fastie

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the BioBlitz and who donated in support of Shelby’s Walk for Wilderness, which raised over $6,000 to safeguard the Bridgewater Hollow Preserve.

There are still significant funds to raise to complete the purchase of this wild landscape at the heart of the Green Mountains.

You can join the Northeast’s community of wilderness supporters by donating to protect Bridgewater Hollow, today.

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