Forest Society Conserves Bound Tree Forest in Warner
After almost eight years of effort, the Forest Society and the Town of Warner’s Conservation Commission have succeeded in conserving the Bound Tree Forest in the Mink Hills. This property is a critical link to the surrounding conservation land in the Mink Hills, which is has been a conservation priority for the Forest Society, the Towns of Warner and Henniker, the Quabbin-to-Cardigan (Q2C) Initiative, and the NH Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Action Plan.
The 374-acre Bound Tree Forest is dominated by red oak, white pine, beech and maple and includes excellent forest soils, indicating that it has a promising future as a productive working forest.
The property also directly abuts the Contoocook Village Precinct’s Bear Pond water supply lands, a drinking water source for Contoocook Village. Portions of the property are within the Water Supply Protection Area.
The Bound Tree Forest gets it name from the large white oak that marked the boundary between the towns of Henniker, Hopkinton, and Warner for more than 250 years.
The Warner Conservation Commission and Forest Society staff worked for a number of years to conserve the Bound Tree Forest. Despite several near victories, these efforts were unsuccessful. Last year the land was sold to a timber liquidator, who aggressively harvested the property before placing it back on the market a few months later.
The Town of Warner Conservation Commission and Forest Society staff worked to find a conservation buyer with the hope of placing the land under conservation easement.
A Rhode Island couple, Jonathan and Sarah Stone, heard about the sale through a local cousin. “We ideally wanted to be next to conservation land,” said Jonathan Stone. “We love working in the woods, and we wanted land that we could keep in a wild state.”
The Bound Tree Forest abuts more than 3,000 acres of conservation land in the Mink Hills – a 14,000-acre area of regional importance for forest products, wildlife habitat, and public recreation. Coyote, bobcat, deer, fox, and other creatures depend upon the property’s forests, wetlands and seasonal streams for survival.
Upon taking ownership of the Bound Tree Forest, the couple has had a forestry plan drawn up and cleared downed trees from the trails that cross the land to make it more accessible.
“I’ve always been a big believer in the traditional New England Right of Way ethic of walking around on your neighbor’s land,” said Jonathan. “We want people in the community to enjoy it, too.”
To make the project financially feasible, the conservation-minded couple sold a conservation easement on the land at far less than the easement’s appraised value. To purchase the easement, the Town of Warner provided $100,000 from its Conservation Fund, and the Forest Society raised the final $65,000 needed to complete the project.
“More than 200 people throughout the area made personal contributions to ensure the land’s protection,” said Forest Society President/Forester Jane Difley. “The Forest Society gratefully thanks these individuals, as well as the residents of Warner for their generous contribution of funds through the Town’s Conservation Fund. This support was critical to ensuring this project’s success.”
“This project has been a long time coming,” said Nancy Martin, chair of the Warner conservation commission. “Lots of people in the community visit the Bound Tree property for recreation purposes.”
The Forest Society will hold the conservation easement on the land, and the Town of Warner will hold the executory, or backup, interest.
Now the Bound Tree Forest’s three prominent hilltops, visible from several public roadways in the surrounding communities, will always be green. The easement also guarantees public access – including a section of snowmobile trail. Residents and visitors will continue to enjoy hiking, bird watching, hunting, and other outdoor recreational activities on the land, as they have for decades.
“I see us as custodians of the land,” said Jonathan Stone. “It will be around long after we are.”
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. Supported by 10,000 families and businesses, the Forest Society’s mission is to perpetuate the state’s forests by promoting land conservation and sustainable forestry. For more information, visit www.forestsociety.org.