Acreage would expand wildlife corridors in Southern Champlain Valley
By Mike Lynch
The Northeast Wilderness Trust is (NEWT) planning to buy 1,775-acres in the southern Champlain Valley to create the Moriah Wilderness Preserve.
The Vermont-based nonprofit land trust has a contract with New Timber, LLC, and hopes to purchase the property for $1.8 million by early July.
Located in the town of Moriah, the land is south of the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor between Lake Champlain and the High Peaks region, and could serve a similar function.
“As you get down towards the Moriah property, you’re really starting to look at connectivity to the Green Mountains, because the lake is a lot narrower there,” said Shelby Perry, wildlands ecologist for NEWT. “So you can connect Vermont and New York over the lake. Sometimes it does freeze solid and animals could move across it.”
The land connects to the Hammond Pond Wild Forest on the western side and the Eddy Foundation’s 800-plus-acre Parch Pond property on the eastern side. Hammond Pond abuts the High Peaks Wilderness.
NEWT Conservation Director Bob Linck said the proposed Moriah Wilderness Preserve land has been heavily logged, but his organization will allow it to return to a more natural state.
“It is something we would love to see return to wild lands and old forest conditions many years down the road,” he said.
NEWT will develop a recreation management plan for the property, and it will be open to the public. Hiking will be allowed on the property, and so will hunting of popular prey species, such as deer and turkey, with permission. Motorized activities won’t be allowed.
“If somebody wants to hunt, they just have to fill out a form and get acquainted with our rules,” Linck said.
John Davis is a rewilding advocate for the Adirondack Council and board member of the Eddy Foundation. He applauded the purchase because it will provide more protected lands to allow wildlife to move from the Champlain Valley to the High Peaks region.
“It’s another part of the relatively low elevation part of the Adirondack Park that generally has less protection than the higher country,” he said.
He said the Eddy Foundation hopes to eventually sell its Parch Pond property to the state.
The Moriah Wilderness Preserve will be protected as a wilderness property by NEWT, but Linck said it will be afforded additional protection because his organization plans to donate a forever wild easement to a partnering land trust within the next year or so.
“We do believe that it’s important to have that second layer of legal protection, so we have another entity that keeps us honest essentially, although there’s very little risk of us shifting mission,” he said.
The land has some northern hardwoods, including many oak trees, particularly in the hills. Armstrong Mountain and some nearby peaks have plenty of red pine and white pine seedlings and early successional species such as birch and poplar.
Linck said there is evidence of common Adirondack wildlife, such as beaver, porcupines and bobcats on the property, and the habitat is suitable for other species such as lynx, which aren’t known to be in the Adirondacks, and marten.
Armstrong, and the smaller peaks, offer views of the High Peaks.
The property also contains frontage on the eastern side of Crowfoot Pond.