November 28, 2012SUCCESS — The Conservation Fund (TCF), an Arlington, Va.-based national nonprofit land conservation organization, purchased 8,910 acres surrounding Success Pond on Nov. 16 from the Heartwood Forestland Fund IV, of The Forestland Group (TFG), LLC.
"Our next step is to hold this tract in the Unincorporated Place of Success in anticipation of putting a 'working forest' conservation easement in place, first raising the needed dollars to ensure that TCF can keep the promises it's made to citizens of the Androscoggin Valley," explained TCF's representative Nancy Bell of Shrewsbury, Vt. who works in the northern New England states: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. "The final results for which we are aiming with our partners in the region will maximize the benefits for everybody by keeping the lands intact and open for their traditional uses."
It is highly unusual for TCF to use bridge financing, but leaving this important low-elevation property available on the open market seemed unwise, Bell explained in a Sunday morning telephone interview and e-mail exchange.
"TCF doesn't usually talk about interim transactions like this because they're just one step of many in a long process," Bell said. "TCF has been working with local communities and numerous groups and individuals over the last three years to craft a conservation outcome for these lands by placing them under conservation easements. When the landowner indicated it was selling, however, it was important to us that we continue to work with the region toward fulfilling their hopes for the future of this land. Purchasing the property was a way to ensure this."
Bell envisions TCF setting up a recreational access advisory committee to ensure that the community involvement in which TCF believes so deeply is a sure thing. "TCF is well known for working to build relationships and strengthen communities as it conserves natural and cultural resources and enhances economic development opportunities, she explained.
"The Success Pond lands are a rich mosaic of working forest and wildlife habitat surrounding Success Pond," Bell said. "It's a very popular area for hunting and fishing; it hosts wild brook trout, a large deer wintering area, and several state rare, threatened and endangered species, including Canada lynx (also listed as federally Threatened), American marten, common loon and osprey."
The project is ranked first in New Hampshire for submission of an application for FY14 Forest Legacy Program funding — a competitive national process. Bell pointed out, "If attained, Legacy funding would ensure sustainable management of the woodlands and guarantee public recreational access to a variety of pedestrian and motorized activities currently enjoyed."
TCF and Bell were previously involved in conserving 4,777 acres in Coös when the National Park Service closed on a $2.48 million transaction in November 2010. That landmark project used two years' worth of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies to protect high-elevation watersheds and numerous brooks that flow into the Androscoggin River, conserving the north flank of the Mahoosuc Mountain Range.
TCF facilitated the National Park Service purchasing these lands from Thomas and Scott Dillon of Anson, Me., adding eight miles to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) along its north boundary plus the locally popular Carlo Col, Goose Eye and Success trails and access to them via Success Pond Road. TCF also facilitated acquiring a "working forest" conservation easement to cover 1,200 acres of land adjoining the AT in Shelburne, also from T. R. Dillon Logging Co.
The previous year, in 2009, TCF and its many local partners completed efforts to conserve the historic Philbrook Farm Inn and adjacent Croftie Farm in Shelburne. This project involved many local partners, plus the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and three landowners who donated conservation easements on their properties to leverage additional funding. With everyone working together, a permanent conservation easement was placed on these properties, totaling slightly less than 1,000 acres with a mile of frontage on the Androscoggin River.