When people imagine places with spectacular reptile and amphibian diversity, they are unlikely to think of the extreme northeastern North America. Yet, despite lacking the species diversity of many other places, the Great Northern Forests are home to some of the rarest turtles in North America, and during spring rains, the vast numbers of frogs and salamanders that can be seen greatly exceeds those observed in other places that attract far more attention by herpetologists. Northern New England and the surrounding areas lay right at the edge of a major ecological transitional zone, with northern hardwood forests to the south and boreal forests to the north. As such, it is home to unique combinations of species found nowhere else in the world and contains some of the most remote wilderness on the east coast.
Through our Great Northern Forests Initiative we work to protect the unique species and landscapes that call this place home. To launch this initiative, we are focusing on research and conservation of Wood Turtles and vernal pools in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (NEK). The NEK contains a diverse mosaic of truly wild and pristine places, but is also rich with small-scale agriculture and is under increasing development pressure. The same fertile riparian floodplains best-suited for agriculture, however, are also the preferred habitat of the Wood Turtle. Wood Turtles are in sharp decline across their range due, in part, to mortality caused by mowing equipment. Thankfully, a series of conservation programs exist to help find innovative solutions that not only help stabilize Wood Turtle populations, but also help farmers by promoting agricultural sustainability. As we work to better understand the distribution of Wood Turtles in the NEK, we will also work with farmers to restore riparian habitat in ways that protect Wood Turtles while balancing the needs of the farm-to-table agriculture the region depends on.
Through the Great Northern Forests Initiative, we partner with other organizations to conserve the ecosystems and landscapes critical to rare reptiles and amphibians in the places most important to their conservation.