Acquisition creates Grasse River Wilderness Preserve to boost wildlife corridor
By Mike Lynch
The Northeast Wilderness Trust has purchased 1,400 acres in St. Lawrence County just outside the Adirondack Park to create the Grasse River Wilderness Preserve, protecting a key parcel in an international wildlife corridor.
The property contains 1.5 miles of shoreline along the Grasse River, just south of Lampson Falls, a popular waterfall destination, and is located near several protected other lands.
The eastern section of the property abuts the Adirondack Park, and the preserve now links Downerville and Degrasse state forests.
The Vermont-based land trust bought the acreage from Boyd Pond Timber, LLC for $825,000.
The acreage falls within the Adirondack to Algonquin corridor, a wildway that connects the the Blue Line with the Ontario provincial park. It is the focus of the A2A collaborative of U.S, Canadian and First Nation conservation organizations and scientists.
“Like most biological corridors in the eastern U.S, the majority of the land in the A2A is privately owned,” said Kate Cleary, board member of the Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative, in a press release. “The work of organizations like Northeast Wilderness Trust is vitally important in these corridors, because purchasing land or establishing conservation easements is one of the only ways to guarantee that critical habitat linkages will be protected.”
Jon Leibowitz, executive director at Northeast Wilderness Trust, said A2A is “one of the most important wildlife corridors in the eastern United States.”
The corridor has gained attention recently after the discovery that a hunter killed a wolf in Central New York, about 25 miles south of the Adirondack Park. Wildlife advocates have pointed out that the corridor is perhaps the best path for wolves to re-enter the Adirondacks.
Before the discussion of wolves recolonizing New York, the story of Alice the Moose brought the corridor into the public’s eye. The state Department of Environmental Conservation captured this 700-pound animal in Western New York in 1998, put a tracking collar on her and released her in Newcomb. The moose then walked and swam northward to Algonquin Provincial Park, where she died in 2001, having traveled more than 200 miles. That story has been retold countless times in recent years as the A2A Collaborative has gained momentum.
Northeast Wilderness Trust considers habitat connectivity a key part of its mission and its past purchases in New York reflect that. In the past 20 years, it has acquired numerous parcels in the eastern Adirondacks in the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor from Lake Champlain to the High Peaks.
“We’re focused on the exact same things as the Split Rock and that is connectivity in and out of the Adirondack Park,” Leibowitz said.
Additionally, Northeast Wilderness Trust said in a statement that “water is the defining feature of this preserve.” It not only protects land along the Grasse River, but also preserves more than 250 acres of wetlands, more than seven miles of streams and 20 freshwater ponds, largely created by an active beaver population.
This section of the Grasse River is also home to freshwater eastern pearlshell mussels, an endangered species in New York.
The Grasse River Wilderness Preserve will be open to the public for non-motorized recreation, including hiking and photography. Hunting will also be allowed, but only for deer, turkey and some other popular game species. Predator hunting will be banned.
The land will be protected by a forever-wild conservation easement held by the St. Lawrence Land Trust.
Leibowitz said Northeast Wilderness Trust’s approach to managing land is to take a passive approach and let it rewild itself, which is beneficial in many ways, including fighting climate change.
“The greatest technology that we have at our disposal to address climate change is a tree,” Leibowitz said. “By allowing trees to continue growing old, and maturing, and forests to become more complex, we are storing and sequestering immense amounts of carbon by taking this passive approach to management.”