Trust seeks to conserve 50 acres adjacent to Wapack Trail

  • An aerial view of a property the Northeast Wilderness Trust is in the process of raising funds to preserve on Binney Hill in New Ipswich.  Courtesy photos by Zack Porter—

  • Wetlands actively used by moose and beaver are part of the addition to the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve.  Courtesy photos by Zack Porter—

  • A boardwalk on the Wapack Trail follows the Binney Pond shoreline in the Sawtelle addition.  Courtesy photos by Zack Porter

  • Kassia Randzio hikes on the Wapack Trail boardwalk in the Sawtelle Addition. Courtesy photos by Zack Porter—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/1/2019 6:08:56 PM

The Northeast Wilderness Trust is working to conserve 47 acres, including the entire Binney Pond shoreline and a quarter-mile of the Wapack Trail.

The property, located near the southern border of New Ipswich, includes portions of Binney Hill Brook, and Binney Hill Pond. The property belongs to Shirley Sawtelle, who purchased it with her husband Kenneth in the 1970s. After Kenneth’s death in 2018, Shirley Sawtelle approached the Northeast Wilderness Trust to see if the organization was interested in conserving the majority of property.

The cost of purchasing the property, as well as the legal costs associated, is about $110,000. The organization is already about half-way to its goal. 

The property is valuable from a conservation standpoint on its own – it is a known habitat for black bear, moose, bobcat, deer, beaver and waterfowl and amphibian species. It also has forest of hardwood and mixed conifer and wetland habitat.

“With this conservation, the entire shoreline of Binney Hill Pond will be preserved,” said Northeast Wilderness Trust Executive Director Jon Leibowitz. “It also has stunning wetland that is actively used by bobcat, beaver and moose. From an ecological perspective, it’s an important piece to conserve.”

But one of the main attractions of conserving the area is its connection to other, already-conserved properties. 

The Northeast Wilderness Trust already owns two other large conserved parcels along the Wapack Trail. The first is a 1,428-acre Wapack Wilderness, which the Wilderness Trust partnered with the Hampshire Country School to preserve in 2008, and a 488-acre parcel now known as the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve which was conserved in 2016. The Binney Hill Preserve is adjacent to the Sawtelle land.

It’s also part of a long corridor of other conserved lands – creating a contiguous protected area of thousands of acres of wilderness.  

It also protects a further piece of the historic Wapack trail, which stretches from Mt. Watatic in Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in New Hampshire. 

Leibowitz said the Northeast Wilderness Trust practices “forever wild” conservation, which means the property will not be used for agricultural uses or be harvested for timber, as is allowed under some types of conservation, but will simply be allowed to grow into old forest. The property, as with other Northeast Wilderness properties, will remain open to the public for recreation, such as hiking on the Wapack Trail.

“We look at forever wild properties as a piece of the puzzle,” Leibowitz said. 

Unmanaged forests are valuable for capturing carbon, and also to use as a baseline when comparing other, managed lands, Leibowitz said. There are also wildlife benefits. But the bottom line, Leibowitz said, is “Wilderness has an inherent right to exist.”

As part of its wilderness preservation, this past Saturday, Northeast Wilderness Trust, along with Wapack Trail stewards, Friends of the Wapack, met on Saturday on Binney Hill to help to re-forest a piece of the land Northeast Wilderness purchased in 2016. 

The group met to do a tree-planting project to help re-forest an old log landing used by the prior owners on the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve in celebration of Arbor Day. 




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