Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve expands for wildlife and people
Location New Ipswich, NH
Size 47 acres
Habitat Hardwood and mixed conifer forest; riparian and wetland habitat
Creatures Moose, black bear, bobcat, white-tail deer, beaver, waterfowl, and a variety of amphibian species
Threat Timber harvest, motorized recreation, subdivision
Values Intact low-elevation wildlife habitat, rich in biodiversity, that is underrepresented in protected areas across the region and the US
This land protects:
- The remainder of the undeveloped Binney Pond shoreline in conjunction with the State of NH’s Binney Pond Natural Area
- Safeguard high quality wetland habitat for amphibians and birds
- Protect a quarter-mile of the historic Wapack Trail, a long distance hiking route stretching 21.5 miles from Mt. Watatic in Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in New Hampshire.
- Expand a critical North-South wildlife corridor in the Quabbin to Cardigan conservation focus area.
In the summer of 1922, Allen Chamberlain, who would later become president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, met Marion Davis of New Ipswich, NH and Frank Robbins of Rindge and together envisioned a skyline trail from Mt. Watatic to North Pack Monadnock. A year later, the Wapack Trail was open. The name “Wapack” was creatively derived from the route’s bookend summits.
Though the trail was used by many in its early days, it fell into disrepair by World War II. The rebirth of the Wapack Trail was championed by Friends of the Wapack, founded in 1980. Although the Friends rehabilitated the trail and helped it regain popularity, much of it remained vulnerable to development. Over the years, protections have been added along the length of the 21.5-mile Wapack Trail to safeguard both habitat and access.
In 2008 the southern reach of the Wapack Trail got a lot wilder when Northeast Wilderness Trust partnered with Hampshire Country School and protected the 1,428-acre Wapack Wilderness with a forever-wild easement. Then in 2016, responding to a threat of a new suburban subdivision just south of the Wapack Wilderness, the Wilderness Trust stepped in to purchase 488-acres, now known as the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve.
The Sawtelle Addition geographically links the forever-wild forests of Binney Hill to the Wapack Wilderness. It holds a beautiful section of the Wapack Trail and serves as a critical migration route for wildlife. Alongside the State of New Hampshire’s Binney Pond Natural Area, the protection of this tract means that now, the entire Binney Pond shoreline is safe from development.
The Sawtelle Addition is in a location where the movement of species in response to climate change is concentrated through a narrow area. Game cameras on the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve confirm that a variety of species use this corridor regularly, including moose, bobcats, coyotes, and other mammals. In 2015, the State of New Hampshire identified this area as the highest ranked habitat in the region in its Wildlife Action Plan.
This parcel wasn’t always slated for conservation. Ken and Shirley Sawtelle purchased the property on Binney Hill Road in the 1970’s for recreation and a source of firewood. They enjoyed hiking on the Wapack Trail, taking in the view of Binney Hill Pond, and in the spring, the wildflowers put on breathtaking shows of mountain laurel, trailing arbutus, lady slippers and trillium. In 1986, they built their dream home and settled in with the wildlife. After Kenneth’s passing in 2018, a portion of the land was offered for sale to the Northeast Wilderness Trust. The Wilderness Trust officially purchased the property in early 2020, adding it to the neighboring Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve.
The family of beavers that Shirley has come to love on her property have been making travel difficult on West Binney Hill Road, one of the primary ways to access the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve. History shows us that when beavers interfere with roadways, the beavers often lose. As part of this proposed conservation project, the Wilderness Trust will install wildlife-friendly structures to allow the beavers to continue living on both sides of the road, while regulating the water depth to maintain access to the Preserve.
Securing a forever-wild future for this strategically-located parcel has benefits that far outweigh its modest size of 47 acres. Since it sits exactly between the Wapack Wilderness forever-wild easement property, and Binney Hill, it creates a contiguous protected area of more than 2,000 acres of wilderness. It also safeguards the historic Wapack Trail for future generations, since the trail meanders past the pond over beautiful boardwalks built by the Ashby Boy Scouts in 2001. The boardwalks afford a pleasant hiking experience above the wet terrain, views of the pond, and protection for the fragile wetland soils and natural water flow.
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