New England Forestry Foundation

Climate Initiatives

Mountains of the Dawn

Conserving one of the last, vast U.S. forests

From the High Peaks of Maine, the day’s first rays illuminate the largest undeveloped ecosystem east of the Mississippi. These are the Mountains of the Dawn. So named to honor the original Abenaki people of the northeast who call themselves People of the Dawn, the Mountains of the Dawn are the first American mountain range to greet the rising sun.

They form the northern pathway of the ancient Appalachian range that stretches sinuously for 1,500 miles south to Georgia. They are the backbone of a spectacularly intact region that encompasses more than four million acres of forests, thousands of pristine lakes and streams, vast wetlands, the headwaters of great rivers, and hundreds of miles of alpine ridges supporting unique boreal habitats.

The Mountains of the Dawn have long been a recreational paradise, with places remarkably wild and remote for the eastern U.S. It is paradise too for wildlife, a vital part of the vast Maine forest that is home to the threatened Canada lynx, the largest moose population in the lower 48 states, and a globally significant breeding habitat for many species of birds.

With its varied ecosystems and sweeping elevation gradients, the Mountains of the Dawn will become an increasingly critical corridor for plant and animal species as their ranges shift in response to a changing climate.

A Landscape at Risk

Millions of acres of this region have long been owned by a few large landowners, including paper companies, and more recently, timberland investors. These large owners have upheld longstanding traditions of multiple use, where the land—managed for timber supply—is available for hunting, fishing and backcountry recreation, while supporting critical wildlife habitat for species that need large forest areas. But global economic forces are bringing profound change to the forest products industry and traditional ownership patterns. Millions of acres have been bought and sold. More is expected, bringing great uncertainty about the future of this unique mountainous forest corridor. The challenge is to keep this vast undeveloped forestland intact and unfragmented. The future of this region’s character, forest-based economy, and ecological integrity is at stake.

The Maine Mountain Collaborative

In partnership with The Trust For Public Land, the Forest Society of Maine, and the Appalachian Mountain Club, New England Forestry Foundation is working to protect this vast forestland through the Maine Mountain Collaborative. The Collaborative brings a shared focus and innovative financing to accelerate the pace and scale of conservation in one of the world’s most intact temperate forests. Our goals are to:

  • Bring attention to the region’s national ecological significance
  • Highlight its critical role as a corridor for wildlife and plant communities as the climate changes
  • Illustrate the region’s exceptional recreational, economic and cultural importance
  • Work together to identify critical parcels, and conserve both well-managed forests and ecological reserves that provide landscape-level connectivity
  • Increase philanthropic support and conservation-minded investment through traditional and innovative approaches