West Mountain Inholdings
Forever-Wild Easement; Completed Project
In the heart of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a vast, bog-filled region visited by relatively few people. Moose, bear, bobcat, American marten, and many other wide-ranging denizens of the Northern Forest live a relatively secure life here in the Kingdom’s Nulhegan Basin—an area remote enough that perhaps Canada lynx and catamount may one day thrive again and bring a bit of wildness back to the Green Mountain State.
Politically, the area is made up of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service; West Mountain Wildlife Management Area, managed by the State of Vermont; Plum Creek Timberlands, owned by Plum Creek and protected from future development by The Nature Conservancy through a conservation easement, as well as other State-owned lands. Together, these areas total over 200,000 acres of conserved land.
From a more natural perspective, this is a region of bogs, wetlands, ponds, countless wild hills, and miles of unbroken forest. Consequently, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a stronghold for connectivity and climate resilience.
At the center of this mosaic of land is a 66,000-acre core block that remains unbroken by paved roads. Within that area are four tracts totaling 1,170 acres, which are protected as forever-wild through a joint partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Sweet Water Trust, and Northeast Wilderness Trust. These inholdings, within the West Mountain Wildlife Management Area, were originally purchased by The Nature Conservancy Vermont Chapter in 2005. At the time, Sweet Water Trust placed a forever-wild conservation easement on it. Now, a decade later that forever-wild easement has been transferred to the Northeast Wilderness Trust for permanent safekeeping.
The West Mountain Inholdings host 21 natural communities of statewide significance. Amongst those rare communities are 47 rare or uncommon plant species (including six listed as endangered or threatened) and 37 animal ‘Species of Greatest Conservation Need’ (including eight listed as endangered or threatened). One of those uncommon plants is the beautiful Rose Pogonia (below).
The protection of wilderness core areas is a central tenet of Northeast Wilderness Trust’s mission. These self-willed lands will forever anchor the surrounding landscape and be influenced by natural processes rather than human action. In this way, the West Mountain Inholdings will be a baseline to the larger landscape; a place where animals and the land itself will respond to environmental changes over time. Wildlife will live freely, forests will mature, and the environment will change over time on its own terms.
This project is the latest in a 15-year partnership between Sweet Water Trust and Northeast Wilderness Trust. Together, the Wilderness Trust and Sweet Water have protected the Alder Stream Preserve in Atkinson, Maine, the Wapack Wilderness in southern New Hampshire, and the Howland Research Forest in Howland, Maine. This project also continues a longstanding partnership between the Wilderness Trust and The Nature Conservancy and builds upon the forever-wild 10,000-acre Vickie Bunnell Preserve across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.
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