Sweet Water Trust has worked throughout the Northern Appalachian region to protect ecologically significant wildlands since its founding in 1992. Since that time, Sweet Water Trust has funded more than 150 separate land protection transactions undertaken with over 80 partners. Those partners have been largely national, state, regional, and local land trusts, but have also included government agencies. A list of Sweet Water’s land protection projects by state can be found on these pages: ME | NH | VT | NY | MA | CT | RI | CAN
|Debsconeags Wilderness Area, Maine|
All told, these projects have helped protect a total of over 400,000 acres in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. The vast majority of the acres Sweet Water Trust has helped its partners acquire are further protected in their natural state through the imposition of “forever wild” conservation easements. These easements are perpetual restrictions on the land’s title that prohibit further human manipulation and disturbance of the landscape, including activities such as timber cutting, the building of structures or roads, mechanized recreation, and the like, but that allow for ecological management when necessary to restore natural conditions. These forever wild conservation easements are “held” (that is, monitored and enforced), by qualified conservation organizations or agencies that are separate from the non-profit or government owner of the property itself.
In several places in northern New England and the Adirondacks, Sweet Water has played an even more active role by taking on the ownership of land or easements where that was necessary or appropriate at the time. Gradually, as our regional wilderness partner, Northeast Wilderness Trust, and other non-profit partners develop the capacity to take on the oversight of these lands, Sweet Water is turning over its long-term stewardship responsibilities to them.
The following are areas where Sweet Water currently has or has in the past had stewardship responsibilities (either ownership of the land itself [often called “fee ownership”] or the role of “grantee” or “holder” in forever wild conservation easements over lands owned by others):
Alder Stream Preserve
|Alder Stream, Maine / Jim Northup|
The extensive Alder Stream/Piscataquis River wetland complex is located in the towns of Atkinson, Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Milo, and Orneville, Maine, about an hour’s drive northwest of Bangor. Comprising over 20,000 acres, including the state-owned Bud Leavitt Wildlife Management Area, this significant natural area has been protected through the efforts of Sweet Water Trust, Northeast Wilderness Trust, a private landowner, Charles Fitzgerald, Maine Farmland Trust, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Efforts by these partners continue, with the goal of linking and consolidating the various ownerships in order to enhance the ecological integrity and long-term viability of the landscape as a whole. For example, Northeast Wilderness Trust, with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation program, is currently working to protect additional lands along the Piscataquis River, into which Alder Stream flows. Read about the various phases of this project on their website at Greater Alder Stream / Piscataquis River Project.
At the heart of the preserve along Alder Stream is an unpatterned stream drainage fen ecosystem about 1,700 acres in size that contains over eight natural community types. The Maine Natural Areas Program has identified this ecosystem occurrence as “exemplary” based on its size, condition, and landscape context. Detailed biological inventories of the larger Preserve area have documented 370 plant, 128 bird, 20 fish, 27 mammal, 6 reptile, and 14 amphibian species, including rare species like the American chestnut, wood turtle, rusty blackbird, olive-sided flycatcher, and rare natural communities like the riverside terrace forest. The Preserve contains a variety of landscape-level priority conservation features identified by Maine’s Beginning with Habitat program, The Nature Conservancy’s Northern Appalachian-Acadian Ecoregional Assessment, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A portion of the Preserve was also recently designated as a “Focus Area” under Maine’s State Wildlife Action Plan.
Fourth Machias Lake & Fifth Machias Lake and Stream Ecological Reserves
Sweet Water Trust has worked extensively with conservation partners to protect the pristine waters and surrounding uplands at Fourth and Fifth Machias Lakes and Fifth Machias Stream in Downeast Maine. In 2004, as part of its grant to the 3,560-acre Fourth Machias Lake Ecological Reserve owned by Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Sweet Water assumed a forever wild easement on the property from the New England Forestry Foundation. In 2006, Sweet Water made an additional grant to the Maine Department of Conservation (Bureau of Public Lands) for the acquisition of 7,662 acres of land, including areas surrounding 5th Machias Lake and Stream and additional areas along 4th Machias Lake, all of which became part of Maine’s Ecological Reserve system of protected lands. The properties also abut Maine’s Bureau of Public Land’s 3,870-acre Duck Lake Ecological Reserve. The Machias reserve properties contain twelve state listed species and several exemplary ecosystems and natural communities, including peatland and natural lakeshore communities not represented in other reserves in the region. The extensive forested and wetland areas help maintain the ecological integrity of the Machias River, which contains the healthiest population of the Federally Endangered Atlantic Salmon in the country. See the Downeast Lakes Land Trust website for additional information on the Fourth Machias Lake Ecological Reserve.
The town of Stoddard is a nexus of conservation efforts in southwestern New Hampshire. Over 22,000 more or less contiguous acres have been protected in Stoddard and the surrounding towns of Washington, Windsor, Antrim, Hancock, Nelson, Sullivan, Gilsom, and Marlow. Land protection projects in this area include The Nature Conservancy’s Loverens Mill Cedar Swamp Preserve, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ Peirce, Williams, and Holland properties and Pickerel Cove Preserve, and other lands protected by the Harris Center for Environmental Education, the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, Monadnock Conservancy, Humane Society of United States – Wildlife Land Trust, and the State of New Hampshire, as well as private landowners who have created nearby Otter Brook Preserve, Andorra Forest, and Allison Nims Piper Forest.
Included in these protected lands is the Pioneer Lake Preserve, a 732-acre property purchased by Sweet Water Trust in the mid-1990s at the request of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (the “Forest Society”). Ownership of this property will soon be transferred to a partner organization and will be subject to a forever wild conservation easement held by the Forest Society.
Closely studied by Dr. Rick Van de Poll and students at Antioch New England, the Pioneer Lake Preserve and the surrounding Peirce, Williams, and Holland properties support old-growth forests, over 387 animal and 451 plant species, and numerous vernal pools and other significant wetlands. Wide ranging animals such as moose, bobcat, fisher, and mink roam this extensive mosaic of protected lands. The Stoddard lands also contain conservation priority areas identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan, The Nature Conservancy’s Lower New England Ecoregional Assessment, and the Quabbin to Cardigan Initiative (Q2C). Because of the significant work of all the partners in the area, landscape level conservation is a goal being achieved in this part of southwestern New Hampshire.
Vickie Bunnell Preserve
The rugged, mountainous 18,680-acre Vickie Bunnell Tract is located in the towns of Stratford and Columbia, near Colebrook in northwestern New Hampshire (not far from the Connecticut River). Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the tract is subject to two conservation easements: one, a working forest easement held by the State of New Hampshire, and the other, a forever wild easement held by Sweet Water Trust on 10,500 acres, known as the Vickie Bunnell Preserve. Other conservation groups safeguarding land within the immediate area include the New England Forestry Foundation and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The Bunnell tract adds 15 square miles of high quality wildlife habitat to a region of protected lands extending from West Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Vermont to the Connecticut Lakes Region in the north, and from the White Mountain National Forest and Nash Stream State Forest in the south to Dartmouth College's lands and the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in the east.
The Preserve contains exemplary “high elevation montane spruce-fir forests” that are considered the best remaining example of this forest type north of the White Mountains. Four thousand acres of high quality mature and old-growth forest have been documented on the property, which includes the 3,723-foot Bunnell Mountain and 12 other peaks over 3,000 feet, 28 miles of streams, the Cranberry Bog wetland complex, and several rocky outcrop cliffs that provide potential habitat to peregrine falcons. Several rare plants and rare birds (such as the Bicknell’s thrush), as well as pine marten, have been found here. More information on the Vickie Bunnell Preserve is available from The Nature Conservancy's website.
In 2002, Sweet Water Trust helped the Vermont Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchase the West Mountain Properties, four tracts of land totaling approximately 1,490 acres within the township of Brunswick, Vermont in the Northeast Kingdom. Sweet Water Trust currently holds a forever wild conservation easement on these properties. The Trust also made grants to remove old logging roads and abandoned structures on the properties.
The West Mountain Properties fill gaps within a 12,500 acre “Ecological Core” area of the larger 22,000-acre West Mountain Wildlife Management Area owned and managed by the State of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources. The West Mountain Properties and Wildlife Management Area are, in turn, part of a much larger conservation block in northern Vermont consisting of over 156,000 acres of conserved lands (state forests, parks, wildlife management areas, town forests, and private easements), an assemblage that provides important habitat for the sustenance and movement of wide-ranging species such as moose, black bear, and possibly Canada lynx and eastern wolf.
The West Mountain Properties and the West Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMWMA) sit in the Dennis Pond and Wheeler Stream watersheds of the Connecticut River basin within an extensive area of northern lowland forest that is part of the only large ecosystem in Vermont with characteristics related to the boreal forest of Canada. Geologically and ecologically, these lands are more related to New Hampshire and western Maine landscapes than to the Green Mountains. While much of the West Mountain Properties was heavily logged in recent years, the wetlands and aquatic systems are in excellent condition and represent some of the most significant and interesting natural areas in Vermont. Notable ecological features include 17 rare plants, deer wintering areas, and rare wetland and lowland natural community types, including dwarf shrub bog and/or poor fen, northern white cedar swamp, black spruce woodland bog, lowland spruce-fir forest, and sweet gale shoreline swamp. Wildlife inventories on the surrounding WMWMA document 209 species including 23 mammals, 103 birds (93 breeding), 17 reptiles and amphibians, and 66 species of butterflies and odonates (dragonflies and damselflies). More information and a map of the West Mountain Wildlife Management Area is available from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website, under the District of St. Johnsbury.
Shingle Shanty / Thayer Lake Preserve, Adirondacks
A 15,536-acre preserve embedded in nearly one million acres of forever wild state and private lands in the western Adirondacks. The preserve, now known as the Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station, is subject to a conservation easement (recorded in 2003) guaranteeing the land’s protection as forever wild. That easement is currently held by Sweet Water Trust but may be assigned to another conservation organization in due course.
Notable for its high quality boreal wetlands, remote ponds, and extensive northern hardwood forests, the Preserve is home to loons, bald eagles, osprey, American bittern, numerous hawks, moose, many black bear, and other wildlife, including reports of the State Endangered spruce grouse. The property includes a rare sedge meadow (found in fewer than five locations statewide) and about 45 miles of headwater streams feeding the Beaver and Moose River watersheds.
The Research Station is currently conducting an ecological inventory to inform the development of a management plan. The Station is working with a number of research institutions and a Scientific Advisory Committee to solicit research proposals that will enhance the understanding of ecology in the Adirondacks. Inquiries about research should be directed to the Shingle Shanty Preserve and Research Station website.