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Undeveloped Potter Farm lands to be conserved, protected


May 12, 2010
NORTHUMBERLAND — The New Hampshire chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) plans to purchase the undeveloped portions of the Potter Farm, located on the Groveton-Maidstone Bends and running up the face of Cape Horn.

"The area became a high priority for us after TNC conducted a comprehensive analysis of floodplain forest sites along the entire Connecticut River," explained TNC executive director Daryl Burtnett in an e-mail exchange. "The stretch up and downstream of the Upper Ammonoosuc River stood out as the highest priority on the whole river."

Sandy and Mike Gagnon plan to sell the house and other buildings on about 15 acres, including remnants of historic Fort Wentworth, to a private buyer, and the remaining property to TNC, including approximately 76 acres on the lower floodplain, a field of approximately 10 acres on the east side of Route 3, and the over-200 acres of forest land up the side of Cape Horn.

The Potter Farm has been in Sandy Gagnon's family for four generations.

The Gagnon couple has recently leased the agricultural fields to others to farm. TNC plans to continue that practice, with haying to continue on field east of Route 3 as well as on upper and lower fields west of Route 3.

The state owns the 2,074-acre Cape Horn State Forest, and in 2007 the N. H. Natural Heritage Bureau completed a detailed ecological inventory and assessment of its significant biodiversity features. Geologists regard Cape Horn as an outstanding example of a ring dike formed on a long-defunct volcano.

On May 5, TNC's land protection specialist Jan McClure appeared before the Northumberland Planning Board to discuss a minor subdivision and a possible lot line adjustment. She expects to make a second appearance on Wednesday, June 9. If all goes as planned, TNC proposes to close the acquisition deal some time between June 15 and August 1.

TNC has submitted a proposal for mitigation funds to pay to restore a floodplain forest on the lower floodplain along Upper Ammonoosuc and Connecticut Rivers.

TNC plans to keep the state snowmobile corridor that runs though the forest tract open and also to keep the land open to public access for such activities as hiking, bird watching, nature study, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, and snow-shoeing.

As is the case with its other conserved properties, such as the 10,330-acre Vickie Bunnell Forest Preserve in Columbia and Stratford, TNC will also pay local property taxes, as now, under the current use program.

The plan to protect the Potter Farm is part of a conservation and protection effort on both sides of the Connecticut River.

About five years ago, the Vermont chapter of TNC purchased 71 acres just north of Guildhall Village, where the Upper Connecticut River makes a series of dramatic bends, creating the Maidstone Bends Natural Area to protect some of the best examples of flood plain forest remaining on the river. Since then, a conservation easement on a portion of Roger and Suzy Irwin's farm has protected additional acreage along this stretch of river.

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