Northeast Wilderness Trust, a regional land trust based in Montpelier, Vermont, purchased 1,400 acres in Russell, St. Lawrence County, NY to establish the Grasse River Wilderness Preserve.
The purchase is the most recent conservation success within the Algonquin-to-Adirondack (A2A) wildlife corridor, and New York’s newest forever-wild Adirondack Forest Preserve. The land will be open to the public for on-foot, backcountry exploration.
Located just outside the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line, Grasse River Wilderness Preserve is planned to be managed with a hands-off approach, also known as passive rewilding. Northeast Wilderness Trust allows natural processes to unfold on the lands they own, meaning that the forest at Grasse River Wilderness Preserve will someday become old-growth. The new Preserve abuts Downerville State Forest and Degrasse State Forest, and links them together. The Preserve also directly abuts forever-wild land just over the Blue Line: the 1,300-acre Lampson Falls section of the Grass River Wild Forest.
This land is poised to play an important role for biodiversity and climate resilience because of its low elevation, its location within an important wildlife corridor, and the prevalence of diverse water features.
Wild forests are considered a key component of connectivity efforts across the region and also play a critical yet underutilized role in absorbing and storing carbon — a key priority of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act).
Water is the defining feature of this preserve. It protects a mile and a half of frontage along the Grasse River and more than 250 acres of wetlands. More than seven miles of streams and 20 freshwater ponds, largely created by an active beaver population, dot the landscape. Wilderness preservation will help maintain excellent water quality for this part of the Grasse River, which is home to one of just three known healthy populations of New York’s imperiled freshwater Eastern Pearlshell mussel.
Grasse River Wilderness Preserve is open to the public for non-motorized and non-mechanized exploration including walking and hiking, nature study, photography, and hunting of abundant prey species. The land is expected to be further protected by a forever-wild conservation easement, which the Wilderness Trust will donate to St. Lawrence Land Trust.
For more information about this new wilderness area, click here.
Photo of Grasse River by Brendan Wiltse.