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Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund: Spring Project Highlights (2022)

Image Credit: Jerry Monkman / EcoPhotography

As the climate changes, the essential role of the Appalachian Mountain region grows ever more apparent. 

Home to the world’s largest temperate broadleaf forest, this region absorbs one million tons of air pollution each year. These lands are especially “climate resilient,” meaning they provide an essential refuge for plants and animals. And, they are home to tens of millions of people who rely on the region’s forests and waters for health and wellbeing.

Recognizing the region’s critical importance to so many, OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF), capitalized by donors including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, aims to protect 50,000 acres along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. Below are the first six ALPF land conservation projects. The completed projects total $820,000 and protect 10,550 acres in seven states. Each ALPF grant dollar was matched by four additional public and private dollars.

Image Credit: Jerry Monkman / EcoPhotography

Grafton Wilderness Preserve

Northeast Wilderness Trust, Grafton Township, ME

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In March 2022, Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT), with $175,000 in support from the ALPF, closed on 6,000 acres in Maine’s Mahoosuc Mountains as “forever wild.” The land is part of the larger, 21,300-acre Grafton Forest partnership in which the Forest Society of Maine (FSM) purchased a working forest conservation easement on 16,000 acres and NEWT preserved 6,000 acres as wilderness with a conservation easement is held by Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (MATLT). NEWT’s component of the project includes two distinct parcels: 1,300 of high elevation land that includes the western slope and ridgeline of Mahoosuc Mountain and 4,700 acres of low elevation forest and wetlands that feed into the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. The property has good resilience values including approximately 450 acres of an geology type that is highly correlated with biodiversity and “underrepresented” among conserved lands in the region.

This project provides the opportunity for good carbon sequestration and ecological recovery: the land lies within a nationally important northern Appalachian landscape that includes extensive state and federal holdings, including a rugged section of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

NEWT will own and manage the land as forever wild — precluding active forest management and intensive recreational uses.

"Climate change and biodiversity loss will impact every single living thing on this wondrous planet we call home. The level of urgency to deal with these crises can’t be overstated, though there is something immediate that can be done to avoid the worst of both: protect wild nature. As a complementary strategy to the continued protection of managed woodlands and ag lands, wildlands store and sequester immense amounts of carbon, harbor unique and rich biodiversity, and provide solace for the human spirit. Grafton Forest Wilderness Preserve is such a place. In the Western Maine Mountains and in tandem with the neighboring Grafton Forest woodland easement, the successful project demonstrates how collaborative conservation results in a win for people and a win for wild nature. We are grateful for OSI’s leadership in supporting resilient land conservation across the Northern Appalachians. " 

—Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director, Northeast Wilderness Trust

Lily Pond Highlands 

Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association, Athens, Brookline & Townshend, VT

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In May 2022, volunteer-run Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association (WHPA) conserved 615 acres with a $100,000 ALPF grant in southern Vermont with strong climate resilience and forest carbon attributes. The land lies in a rugged, forested landscape of steep slopes, rocky outcroppings, and ravines. The property itself contains vernal pools, the headwaters of a cold-water trout stream, abundant bear habitat and shoreline of a remote beaver pond. The forested and wetland habitats on the tract support numerous state-listed species as well as wildlife that require large undeveloped areas.

Image Credit: Jerry Monkman / EcoPhotography

The land adds to a network of 3,400 acres of conserved lands, including three parcels totaling 811 acres which OSI previously supported. WHPA owns and stewards the land subject to a conservation easement co-held by Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. WHPA’s stewardship promotes old-growth forest conditions that will enhance forest carbon storage and habitat for wildlife.

The land, which includes a portion of locally treasured 26-mile ridgeline trail, will be managed to encourage low impact public access.

“Lily Pond Highlands, the latest and largest project of the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association, is already mitigating climate change. This tract includes the high-altitude pristine Lily Pond, unusual for this area, a brook with native trout, and 34 wetlands which support rare and unusual species of plants and animals. Variations in altitude, exposure and soil types all provide a variety of ecological communities with habitat for species ranging from moose, bear, and beaver to tiny creatures. Now conserved in an easement co-held by the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the forest will continue to sequester carbon, hold groundwater and produce oxygen for generations of life to come."

—Libby Mills, Board Member, Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association

Gray Mist Farm

The Nature Conservancy, New Hampshire, Northumberland, NH

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In February 2022, OSI gave a $75,000 ALPF grant to support TNC’s protection of 486 acres of the Gray Mist Farm project, part of a larger two state effort to restore and protect expansive floodplain forests.

The property lies within the Upper Connecticut River’s Maidstone Bends, a critical floodplain ecosystem that supports riparian forests and rich farmland. Maidstone Bends is situated at a key east/west wildlife linkage across the Connecticut River and provides pathways along rivers and between rivers and uplands. This sinuous river system – with its oxbows, wetlands, and floodplain forests – attracts bald eagles, over 35 species of migratory birds, and large mammals such as moose and bear.

TNC is restoring buffers along 6 miles of river frontage, planting thousands of silver maple, elm, and other native trees and shrubs to improve wildlife habitat and water quality and increase and enhance forest carbon. It is also leasing less ecologically sensitive areas for farming, to continue support of the local agricultural economy.

Image Credit: Courtesy The Nature Conservancy.

The State of New Hampshire will hold a conservation easement over Gray Mist Farm. OSI’s support for Gray Mist builds on our previous grants to protect four parcels, totaling 615 acres, just downstream.

“The conservation of Gray Mist Farm as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Maidstone Bends Preserve offers a unique opportunity to address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change in a priority focus area. This system-scale project focuses on priority land protection and management outcomes in the Northern Appalachians, including enhancing connectivity along an important wildlife corridor, safeguarding drinking water resources, restoring floodplain forest habitat, and protecting prime agricultural soils with enhanced buffers that protect from erosion. This multi-year protection and restoration project will support the nature, and people, who call the Northern Appalachians home."

—Elizabeth Bergquist, Associate Director for Land Conservation, The Nature Conservancy-New Hampshire

Yards Creek Preserve, Phase V

The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, Blairstown Township, Warren County, NJ

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In December 2021, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey (TLCNJ), with the support of a $57,820 ALPF grant, acquired 57 acres on the eastern flank of the Kittatinny Ridge. The property lies within Lenni-Lenape lands.

The property is about 94% forested with varied topography including flat and sloping areas, cliffs, and shale outcrops. It includes mature upland forest of red oak, beech and hemlock and lowland forest of ash, pin oak, hickories and black gum with some wetland areas and vernal pools. The property is also above average for resilience and for sequestering forest carbon.

TLCNJ will own and manage the property as mature woodland with no timber harvest. It is the parcel to be added to the Yards Creek Nature Preserve which now totals 285 acres. TLCNJ’s Yards Creek Nature Preserve located just north of the property.

Yards Creek Preserve has been a very exciting place to put together, and we have literally been putting it together one piece at a time.

“It is less than a mile from the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, within a quarter mile of an active bald eagle nesting area at Yards Creek Reservoir, within the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail, and it sheds to the Paulins Kill three miles from its terminus at the Delaware River. This water rich land is exactly the kind of place that we need to invest in preserving. Forestland where terrestrial carbon can be captured, the tree canopy should remain unbroken, and habitat and species remain diverse. The preserve serves as a hibernaculum for northern long-eared bats, because they love the outstanding mature hickory trees found here. And it should also serve as a little peace of mind for everyone who will visit it.”

—Sandy Urgo, Vice President, Land Preservation, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey

Penrose Swamp

Wildlands Conservancy, Foster, Hazle, Lausanne, Banks & Packer Townships & Weatherly Borough, PA

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In November 2021, Wildlands Conservancy (WC), with a $200,000 ALPF grant, acquired a 2,736-acre property located west of the Kittatinny Ridge in the Central Appalachian Forest ecoregion.

The property is 99% forested and wooded wetlands and includes three streams — Penrose, Hazle, and Beaver Creeks. The property also lies within the lands of the Lenni-Lenape.

The land is mostly flat lowland and contains a mixed oak, hemlock and pitch pine savannah containing several hundred acres of Mesic Scrub Oak – Heath – Pitch Pine Barrens, a globally rare natural community. It supports several plants of state special concern, including Hartford climbing fern and fly-poison. The property scores above average for resilience and contains 1,637 acres of Low Elevation Moderately Calcareous geology an underrepresented geophysical setting.

WC transferred the property to the PA Bureau of Forestry (BOF) as an addition to Weiser State Forest.

Much of the forest on the Penrose Swamp Barrens property contains species that are adaptable to a warming climate, and therefore more resilient to climate change. Natural communities of this type have been found to support multiple species of plants and animals listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Near Threatened. Bureau of Forestry Management of this property will help to insure long term forest health and carbon sequestration. The permanent protection of wetlands and forests at Penrose are also key for sustaining clean, healthy water for drinking, fishing, and recreation in surrounding reaches of the Lehigh River watershed. These lands protect a core Natural Heritage Area and an Important Bird Area, along with Penrose Creek and sections of Beaver and Hazle Creeks.”

—Dawn Gorham, PhD, Director of Land Preservation, Wildlands Conservancy

Piney River Bluffs

TennGreen Land Conservancy, Rhea County, TN

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In February 2022, TennGreen Land Conservancy, with the support of an $213,600 ALPF grant, conserved 368 acres in Rhea County, TN, to be owned and managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) as part of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park (CTSP).

Much of this rugged, forested, and resilient property overlies geologies important for conservation. CTSP is the state park system’s top priority for acquisitions. The property also provides a critical connection, protecting an existing trail portion of the Cumberland Trail adjacent to another property that OSI helped protect.

Image Credit: Alan Cressler

The Cumberland Trail, TN’s latest long-distance trail, will provide a nearly continuous climate and recreational corridor atop the Cumberland Plateau running 330 miles from southwest to northeast across the state.

“As an important expansion of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, the acquisition of Piney River Bluffs represents one of our state's great examples of conservation land – climate-resilient forests, clean waters, and scenic hiking trails. We are proud of our role in conserving this beautiful property with our partners and look forward to continued work along the Cumberland Trail, Tennessee’s signature linear park stretching along the Cumberland Plateau.”

—Christie Henderson, Director of Land Conservation, TennGreen Land Conservancy

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