Mission & History
The mission of the Northeast Wilderness Trust is to conserve forever-wild landscapes for nature and people.
How and Where Does the
Wilderness Trust Work?
The Northeast Wilderness Trust uses various land conservation tools to protect wilderness areas and often works with conservation partners including other land trusts. Depending on the project, these tools may include acquiring land or conservation easements, accepting donated land or easements, or brokering land deals where the parcel in question is be conveyed to public ownership for permanent conservation. The Northeast Wilderness Trust bases its land protection priorities on science, wilderness potential, community vision, threat abatement, and opportunity. The Trust’s geographic purview includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
For more than a century, the northeastern United States has been regaining wildness. Where northern New England’s forests had been largely cleared in 19th century, the woods have returned. Where wildlife such as moose, bear, beaver—even deer—had been eliminated, these animals have rebounded. While cause for hope, this remarkable recovery is incomplete. The distinctive plants, animals, and landscapes of our region are increasingly threatened by population pressures, development, pollution, forest fragmentation, atmospheric and climatic changes, and unstable ownership. We are faced with the challenge of helping Nature continue to heal and flourish for future generations. The need to restore and protect wild lands and waters has never been greater.
Over the past century there has been tremendous conservation progress in the Northeast; however, less than four percent of the region is strictly protected wildlands. If one excludes the forever-wild public lands of New York’s Adirondack Park from the calculation, the percentage of wilderness land is even lower. Much of the land conserved in the Northeast has been for scenic, recreational, timber, and agricultural purposes. The need to complement these lands with wilderness areas is critical. Conservation science suggests that wilderness areas and ecological reserves are the crucial anchors of interconnected systems of conservation lands that can sustain biodiversity, support natural processes, and sustain human economies with a range of ecological services. The vast majority of land in the Northeast is privately owned; thus, to succeed in preserving wilderness areas across the landscape, private solutions are necessary.
The Northeast Wilderness Trust was founded in 2002 by a group of conservationists to fill an open niche in the regional conservation community. At the time, many local land trusts focused on open space protection, and some regional groups effectively conserved farmlands and managed timberlands. A few national conservation organizations developed conservation projects that variously emphasized sustainable logging or biodiversity protection, but no regional land trust focused exclusively on protecting wilderness areas. With a lean staff, low overhead, committed board, and clear mission, the Northeast Wilderness Trust has been remarkably effective for a small organization, having conserved more than 10,000 acres in its first ten years. The Trust now stewards nearly 25,000 acres of wilderness in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Connecticut.
In 2009, the Northeast Wilderness Trust was accorded the National Seal of Approval by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. A rigorous process of internal evaluation, followed by third-party assessment of the Trust’s policies and practices, established that the Trust is maintaining the highest standards of professionalism in its land conservation work. In 2009 less than 10% of the more than 1500 land trusts nationwide had gone through the accreditation process and received this distinction.
With an office in Montpelier, Vermont, and board members in four states, the Northeast Wilderness Trust has entered its second decade as an effective, respected player in the regional land trust community that has the organizational capacity to develop and complete innovative land conservation projects.