Burnt Mountain

Eden, Belvidere, Montgomery, Westfield, and Lowell, VT
Forever-Wild Easement; Completed Project

Standing atop Burnt Mountain, a great arc of the northern Green Mountains embraces you in soft-shouldered beauty stretching from horizon to horizon.  From the open ledges where you stand, the main spine of the Greens, including the dramatic cliffs of Hazen’s Notch, are nearly close enough to touch across the headwaters of the Trout River.  To the south, the forest appears unbroken all the way to the summit of Mt. Mansfield.  To the north, the bulky massif of Big Jay stands guard over the Missisquoi River Valley with Quebec just beyond.  This is big, wild, country, and you are standing within the largest privately conserved, forever-wild preserve in the state of Vermont.

The view towards Hazen’s Notch from the summit of Burnt Mountain.

Spanning 10 miles of the Long Trail from VT Route 118 near Belvidere Pond to Hazen’s Notch, the nearly-5,500-acre Burnt Mountain forever-wild easement is one of the most significant conservation achievements in Vermont in the last decade.  Jointly purchased by The Nature Conservancy in Vermont (TNC) and Vermont Land Trust (VLT) in 1997, TNC purchased VLT’s stake in the property in 2018.  In early 2019, TNC donated a forever-wild easement on the property to Northeast Wilderness Trust to ensure the property’s perpetual status as an ecological preserve.

Burnt Mountain is an important link in the chain of public and private conserved lands along the narrow spine of the northern Green Mountains linking Vermont with Quebec. Burnt Mountain is outlined in red. Click to enlarge.

Along with neighboring lands conserved by the State of Vermont and the Green Mountain Club, the Burnt Mountain property creates an 11,000-acre complex of protected land in one of the most remote and undeveloped portions of the Green Mountains.  The sheer breadth of the property makes it exceptional core habitat for a variety of forest-dwelling species, from brook trout seeking refuge from summer heat, to black bear searching for safe denning sites for the winter.  Meanwhile, its north-south orientation and diversity in elevation (from 1,175’ to 2,821’) make it a key parcel for connectivity and climate change resiliency, allowing plants and wildlife to move freely across the landscape as they adjust to a warming future.

“Though many consider Vermont to be a rural, wild place, only about 3% of the state is currently safeguarded as forever-wild,” says Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Wilderness Trust.  “It’s an underrepresented land use designation in the Green Mountain State.  The intentional act of setting aside an area as forever-wild is one in which we step aside and let nature direct the ebb and flow of the land.  We allow it be self-willed, or ‘untrammeled’—for the benefit of both wildlife and people.”

Burnt Mountain sits at a key crossroads of the Northern Appalachian Ecoregion, one of the most ecologically intact temperate broadleaf forests on earth, extending from northern New York to Nova Scotia and Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula.  The Burnt Mountain property is a key link in a chain of protected areas in the northern Green Mountains that provide safe passage for wildlife from Vermont to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and beyond.

Fall in the Northern Hardwood Forests of Burnt Mountain.

Although the forest of Burnt Mountain—like nearly all forests of New England—was managed for timber production for nearly 200 years, several pockets of old-growth, Rich Northern Hardwood Forest were spared on inaccessible slopes, and much of the remainder of the forest is rapidly maturing.  Old forests like these are home to the greatest diversity of plant and animal species, owing to the mix of old and young trees and the large variety of habitat types, from areas shaded by dense canopy to sunlit openings, with a large amount of downed, woody debris.

Bicknell’s Thrush is imperiled due to loss of breeding habitat in high-elevation forests of the Northeast. Photo: Larry Master.

The quality and scale of the property’s habitat, and its location along the forested spine of the Green Mountains, make it exceptional bird habitat.  The Northern Hardwood Forest is home to among the greatest diversity of breeding bird species in the continental United States.  Species including the black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli), and others have in some cases up to 90% of their global population breeding in the Northern Appalachian Ecoregion.

The Burnt Mountain property is open to foot-based recreation including hiking, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing.  Additional information can be found by contacting The Nature Conservancy in Vermont.

In addition to being the largest privately conserved forever-wild preserve in the state of Vermont, Burnt Mountain is also now the state’s largest carbon project, and will be enrolled in the California Air Resources Board Compliance Offset Program.

Burnt Mountain marks the second joint project of The Nature Conservancy in Vermont and Northeast Wilderness Trust.  In 2017, the Wilderness Trust accepted the transfer of a forever-wild easement on the 1,170-acre West Mountain Inholdings for permanent safekeeping.  Likewise, Northeast Wilderness Trust has also partnered with The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire, where we hold the Granite State’s largest forever-wild easement on the Vickie Bunnell Preserve, a 10,330-acre property in the northern White Mountains.

Calavale Brook in winter at the southern end of the Burnt Mountain property.

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