The Eddy Foundation is a non-profit environmental foundation that purchases and preserves wildlands in the eastern Adirondacks of northern New York State. Founded “in 1996 with a focus on supporting a sustainable interface between humans and the ecosystem” (Lakeside School), the organization also works to integrate “ecologically sustainable small-scale farming with wildlife and wilderness values” (Wiser.org) and serves as a key ally in helping related local organizations that are concerned with the same conservation issues.
The organization was funded originally by the Eddy Trust, which has helped fund other projects such as the ongoing restoration of the old Willsboro, NY, school into a retirement facility. Repurposing the abandoned building instead of demolishing it simultaneously preserves the historically significant landmark, ensures environmentally responsible recycling in lieu of unnecessary consumption, and creates an essential resource for our elderly which is something our community needs.
Jamie Phillips, the founder and president/director of the Eddy Foundation, launched the organization to “try to make a difference in the world.” His profound connection with nature and the dream of preserving that “feel of the wild” within the community that we share with a diversity of animals struck him and continues to compel and guide the mission of the Eddy Foundation.
There is a balance in nature, Phillips explains, and knowing our sense of place in our own community including nature is very important. Everyone should develop a level of respect for nature, and we need to establish a “harmony” that allows us to coexist symbiotically with nature.
America’s culture is very out of line with how many resources we use. We are accustomed to having too much. According to Phillips, if every person lived like the average American, then we would need 7 planets worth of resources to survive! We need to be aware of this overindulgence and correct it.
Phillips says that “it hurts to see people go against nature when it is so joyful.” When we see something that makes us feel bad, like a clear-cut forest or someone killing a bear or garbage polluting the ocean, then we need to think about it instead of just dismissing it from our minds. There are always more sustainable alternatives that we can turn to or develop if they do not already exist.
Phillips is very pleased with the people of the Champlain Valley, and he is glad to be part of our community. He believes that we help each other in times of need, and a large majority embrace nature in their daily lives.
“Farming is the economic engine of our community,” Phillips believes, and the majority of farmers in this region of the Adirondacks practice environmentally conscience farming practices. He mentions both Full and By Farm and Essex Farm as good examples. Sara Kurak and James Graves who own and run Full and By Farm actually purchased the land from the Eddy Foundation. Phillips especially enjoys the fact that both CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms use draft horses to power many of their tools. This practice is a beautiful glimpse into the past of farming, but it is still an effective and environmentally friendly method.
Sail Trade on Lake Champlain
Speaking of the past, the Eddy Foundation is currently developing a project that Phillips calls “Sail Trade.” In the past Lake Champlain was part of a major waterway for trade and commerce. With the advent of trains, highways, and planes, much faster shipment is now available, and trade through inland waterways has died down. Any shipping that does occur by waterway is now done by motor-powered boats that run on fuel. The Eddy Foundation is harkening back to the past when ships traveled by a much more natural method: wind.
Sail boats have been relegated to history except for leisure use. The Eddy Foundation wants to renew the sail trade on Lake Champlain. Phillips envisions a viable commercial venture which can be enjoyed by participants and benefit the natural environment by reducing pollution. Shipping cargo along the lake by sail is an environmentally responsible opportunity for local businesses, and a chance for them to be some of the first to take advantage of this new (old-fashioned) system. Also I am really looking forward to just seeing ships quietly pass by on the lake.
I don’t know how this venture will succeed in this fast-paced modern market, but I think it is a wonderful idea! This is an exciting project only the Eddy Foundation is doing. Though perhaps interest will grow in the future and this will become a more popular way to trade again?[Update] Learn more about the success of what became known as the Vermont Sail Freight Project.
Split Rock Wildway
The site known as Split Rock is located in Essex, NY. Phillips mentions that it is a “joy to be working with people who care a lot” and devote so much to protecting the wilderness and the animals that we share it with. One reason the Eddy Foundation decided to locate in Essex and the surrounding area was because of the strong work ethic involved in creating the Split Rock Wildway and the sheer importance of the project. The Wildway was created to allow the free movement of animals throughout the Split Rock Wild Forest along the shores of Lake Champlain to other blocks of public land in the high peaks of New York’s Adirondacks (Northeast Wilderness Trust).
Another member of the Eddy Foundation, John Davis, serves as a land steward for the organization. He was one of the original motivators behind the creation of the Wildway.
“The idea of a Coon to Split Rock wildlife corridor occurred to me [John Davis] in 1994, when I climbed a big tree on my land (Hemlock Rock Wildlife Sanctuary) and saw a swath of forest linking Coon Mountain with the Split Rock Range. Gary Randorf of the Adirondack Council, Jamie Phillips of the Eddy Foundation, and Tom Butler of Wild Earth and other colleagues expanded the idea to take in Boquet Mountain and places beyond.”
The Wildway is still expanding! Davis estimates that they have “protected about half of the 12,000 or so acres needed to complete the wildway. Protections have been put on various lands by the NY department of Environmental Conservation, Northeast Wilderness Trust, Adirondack Nature Conservancy/Adirondack Land Trust, Eddy Foundation, Champlain Area Trails/Champlain Valley Conservation Partnership, Open Space Institute, and many other conservation-minded individuals and families.”
More conservation deals are also being planned for the future. There is still much to be done, and there is also the hope that one day the wildlife corridor will be expanded into Vermont as well (Northeast Wilderness Trust).
Davis lists several obstacles that have affected the development and effectiveness of the Wildway including:
- Lack of money to purchase and preserve wildlands
- High property taxes
- Unsutainable logging on unprotected lands
- Roadkill on busy highways (safe wildlife crossings and lower night time speed limits are needed)
- A general lack of awareness on the part of many people about the importance of big wild interconnected habitats. If people are unaware of the issue, then they can’t care about it and can also unintentionally add to the ruination of wildlife habitats.
How You Can Help
This is an issue that we should all be concerned about. Davis claims that local people and visitors can help in many ways. “Be eyes and ears on the ground, looking for threats to wildlife habitats–such as invasive species, timber theft, poaching, roadside dumping–and opportunities to better protect wildlife and habitat.”
Tell your friends and family about the importance of Split Rock Wildway and other habitat connections. You can also write letters to local and regional publications calling for maintaining and restoration of habitat connections.
Of course, donations are always needed, and can be sent to any and all of the above groups listed by Davis as being affiliated with the Wildway.
Davis made one final comment that should be recognized. Protecting and reconnecting wildlife habitats will help wildlife, yes, but it will also help people. “We will all fare better in areas with healthy natural lands and waters.”
Champlain Valley’s Waldorf School
Lakeside School is a Waldorf school in Essex, NY that encourages its students to develop a strong understanding and connection with nature. The Eddy Foundation has been a major asset to the school. Phillips mentions what a joy it is to see kids at home in the forest as much or even more than they would be in a classroom.
“Lakeside School is fortunate to lease Black Kettle Farm from the Eddy Foundation. […] The foundation purchased the 213-acre Black Kettle Farm in 2000 as part of a wildlife corridor connecting Lake Champlain with the High Peaks. Over the years, the farm provided a variety of educational programs and opportunities. At the same time, it has always operated as a “wildfarm,” where wildlife and farming can coexist harmoniously.
Lakeside is honored to continue the stewardship of this land as we develop the farming component to our school at Black Kettle. From our beginnings in 2006, the Eddy Foundation has been hugely supportive of Lakeside. Their generosity allowed us to gain momentum early on and we are so grateful for their continued support!” (Lakeside School)
Champlain Area Trails
Our local trail system Champlain Area Trails that has extensive hiking and walking trails all across the Champlain Valley has benefited from the Eddy Foundation. The organization has donated acres of land to CATS for the creation of more trails. This announcement was made when the collaboration began:
“’Protecting wildlife habitat and connecting people with nature is part of the Eddy Foundation’s mission,’ said Jamie Phillips, president of the foundation and a member of the CATS board of directors. ‘We are pleased to make our land available for this segment of the trail network. The trails provide residents with a nearby place to hike and offer visitors non-motorized outdoor recreation opportunities.’” (Champlain Area Trails).
Small Steps Toward Sustainability
In combination with preserving wilderness and wildlife the Eddy Foundation works with and supports these local organizations to ensure that the Champlain Valley remains an environmentally minded and beautiful place. Just remember that we all share our planet with other people but also with billions of animals.
We must be mindful of our actions and realize that what we do to the the earth can have lasting and far-reaching repercussions. We have to try to ensure that those effects are of the good variety, and we must minimize our negative actions to lessen the detriment and suffering we cause to our planet and its inhabitants.
As Phillips said, “with small steps we can turn the corner with sustainability and live more simply and in harmony with the rest of the planet.”
- Best Kept Secret in Essex (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- One Music (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- $80k Awarded Locally (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Champlain Valley’s Waldorf School (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Turtle Crossing (essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Reminder of Special CATS Event (essexonlakechamplain.com)