Forest Society Seeks to Conserve Five Miles of Upper Connecticut River Frontage
Concord, N.H.,—The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests hopes to permanently conserve 2,100 acres on the upper reaches of the Connecticut River in Clarksville that features five miles of pristine river frontage and extensive views from U.S. Route 3, a designated National Scenic Byway.
The Connecticut River Forest, as the project is being called, would continue to be managed as working forest under Forest Society ownership, and it would remain open to the public for activities including fishing, hunting, hiking and snowmobiling—all key to the economy of New Hampshire’s north country. This would be the Forest Society’s largest reservation north of the notches and among its five largest forest reservations statewide, which include Mount Monadnock.
The Forest Society must raise $2.75 million by June 30, 2008 to acquire the property from private owners who have held and managed it for decades. The owners recently considered a large scale development plan, but welcomed the opportunity to see the property permanently protected through a sale to the state’s oldest and largest land conservation and forestry organization. The Forest Society owns and manages 154 reservations statewide totaling nearly 43,000 acres.
The Forest Society submitted an application to the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) seeking a grant to fund a portion of the purchase. Should the grant be awarded, it would leverage additional grants and private fundraising.
“This is certainly a major project for the Forest Society,” said Susanne Kibler-Hacker, vice-president of development. “But given the spectacular nature of the river frontage, renowned angling opportunities, and adjacent forestland, we’re confident that the campaign to permanently protect it will attract support from a range of sources – individuals, businesses, foundations and grant programs in New Hampshire and across the nation.”
The stretch of river included in this project is highly valued by fly fishermen in particular. Located just south of Lake Francis and the fly-fishing only “Trophy Stretch” of the Connecticut, this part of the upper Connecticut River watershed contains the highest percentage of documented high-quality intact wild brook trout habitat in the state, according to the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.
This 2,100-acre property includes nearly the entire eastern shoreline of the Connecticut River from Clarksville to Pittsburg, at the gateway of the Connecticut Lakes region. The wooded property sits directly opposite the extraordinarily scenic Amey Farm located at the confluence of Indian Stream with the Connecticut River. The Amey Farm is protected through conservation easements held by the State of New Hampshire. The property is also in close proximity to the 146,000-acre Connecticut Headwaters conservation easement that was completed in 2003. The Connecticut River was designated a American Heritage River in 1998, and the Connecticut River Forest is highly visible from Route 3, the Connecticut River National Scenic Byway.
“The Connecticut River Forest has been identified by several key entities as a prime target for conservation, especially since its location along the gateway to the Connecticut Lakes makes it ripe for second-home development,” said Paul Doscher, vice president for land conservation at the Forest Society. “The conservation effort is supported by NH Fish & Game and Trout Unlimited, among other organizations.”
“The essence of what people treasure about the north country is all here at the Connecticut River Forest: access to top notch fishing, a working forest with recreation trails, significant bird and wildlife habitat, and five miles of natural buffer along the Connecticut River,” observed Sharon Francis, executive director of the Connecticut River Joint Commissions (CRJC). “Protection of the Connecticut River Forest offers a remarkable opportunity to achieve many of the central objectives of the CRJC’s Connecticut River Management Plan for safeguarding water resources and providing high quality outdoor recreation.”
The 2,100 acres of forestland is identified in the NH Wildlife Action Plan as a high priority for conservation, as it contains extensive Tier 1 wildlife habitat. Wintering bald eagles use this land for feeding and roosting, and the NH Department of Fish & Game considers the property prime habitat for fisher, mink, otter, moose, and state-threatened pine marten. The riparian forest is a known deer wintering area.
The property is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Silvio Conte National Wildlife Area’s Focus Area 43. This stretch of river is important nursery and rearing habitat for juvenile Atlantic salmon and provides spawning habitat for adult salmon. The property also falls within a BCR14 Waterfowl and Waterbird focus area of the Atlantic Northern Forest Bird Conservation Initiative/Atlantic Coast Joint Venture.
To complete the project, the Forest Society must raise $2.75 million by June 2008. For more information contact Susanne Kibler-Hacker, vice-president of development, at 224-9945.