December 04, 2013CONCORD — If all goes as expected this morning, members of the Executive Council will vote to authorize the state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) to accept a federal grant of up to $9.1 million to pay the purchase price to acquire a conservation easement on 22,991 acres in Errol and the Unincorporated Places of Cambridge and Wentworth's Location, known as the Androscoggin Headwaters Forest Legacy Project.
Authorization will also be sought so DRED can accept these easement lands and to sign a Snowmobile Agreement to protect natural resource values and to ensure public access to these forested lands.
All funds will come through the US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, with the easements held and monitored by the state Division of Forests and Lands. No state monies are being used.
The land will continue to be owned by Plum Creek of Seattle, Wash., and will be managed for sustainable commercial timber production. Public pedestrian access will be guaranteed, as is the case with all state-held Forest Legacy conservation easements.
The backup information provided by state forester Brad Simpkins of the state Division of Forests and Lands points out that conserving nearly 23,000 acres of working forest will protect "a significant conservation and woodland resource," that contains productive forest soils, valuable wildlife habitat including high-elevation forest and deer-wintering area, and important water resources including over a half-mile of frontage on the 296-acre Akers Pond."
These lands provide "traditional public recreational opportunities, including pedestrian public uses, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing, and state-designated snowmobiling trails," Simpkins points out. "This property is part of the Mahoosuc Region Initiative to build landscape-scale connectivity for wildlife habitat and migration and secure upland and lowland forest lands. The 22,991-acre Androscoggin Headwaters Property helps connect the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, 13-Mile Woods Community Forest (also a Forest Legacy project), Pingree Easement, and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands holdings around Grafton Notch and the Richardson Lakes."
This action will complete a five-phase 31,271-acre project that has been facilitated by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL), under the aegis of Rodger Krussman, state director of Vermont and New Hampshire that maintains an office in Montpelier, Vt.
The project included a 938-acre fee acquisition earlier this year by the state Fish and Game Department that created the Greenough Ponda Wildlife Management Area, home to native trout.
A 7,492-acre fee acquisition by the Umbagog Refuge was completed in two steps: nearly 3,000 acres was purchased in June 2011, and another 4,532 acres in Sept. 2012.
Krussman said that these final two phases of the five-phase effort in which conservation easements will serve to protect nearly 23,000 acres from development will provide many benefits for New Hampshire residents: sustainable commercial timberland; ensuring public recreational access for hiking, fishing, hunting, and snowmobiling on designated trails; and protecting wildlife habitat.