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Joyce Endee

SPNHF meets $850,000 goal for Balsams' conservation easement

A potential Northern Pass route blocked

January 16, 2012
DIXVILLE NOTCH — The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) raised the $850,000 needed to conserve the working forest surrounding the historic Balsams Grand Resort Hotel by its deadline, Jan. 15, thanks to more than 1,500 donors sending small donations to a whopping $150,000 to the campaign.

"Given what a special place Dixville Notch is, we felt from the start that people would respond to our call to conserve it," said Jane Difley, SPNHF president-forester. "But to be honest we had no inkling that the public interest is protecting these 5,800 acres would be so strong. I can't thank everyone enough, including the Tillotson Corporation for choosing to work with us to conserve the land. We believe, as they do, that this outcome is in the best interests of the North Country and, indeed, all of New Hampshire."

"Interest in the Balsams conservation project ballooned when Northern Pass, LLC, attempted to interfere with the transaction, arguing that siting its proposed private, commercial HVDC overhead transmission line project was a better fit," noted SPNHF communications director Jack Savage in a Monday e-mail exchange.

"Based on the notes and comments we've received along with donations, it's evident that many people saw the Balsams' landscape campaign as a referendum on Northern Pass," Difley said. "Our success is one more strong statement by those who understand the true value of New Hampshire's forested landscape: the proposed Northern Pass transmission line is not wanted and offers little or no benefit to the state."

"The Forest Society is really pleased to be working the new owners — Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert — of the Balsams hotel," Savage said. "They've been very supportive of our conservation goals, and we have established a good working relationship. I think that the success we had was reflective of how people far and wide feel about the Balsams, and it bodes well for them once they reopen the Grand Hotel and Resort."

A recent posting by Northern Pass, the proposed $1.1 billion project to bring HydroQuebec electricity to New Hampshire and the New England Grid pointed out that that the Tillotson Corporation had retained "a perpetual easement in favor of each of the (two) Wind Farm parcels for pedestrian and vehicular access ... and also a perpetual easement over the entire Property as necessary in the Grantor's (seller's) reasonable judgment to transmit electricity generated on the Wind Farm parcels to third party purchasers or users."

Asked to comment on this provision in deed, Savage replied, "It is Northern Pass that represents the clear and present danger to the New Hampshire landscape. To the extent that the Balsams' transaction frustrates their attempts to erect more than 1,100 towers across 180 miles of New Hampshire against the will of the people, we are pleased.

"Northern Pass and PSNH, through their attempts to interfere with the Balsams transaction, have shown themselves to be contemptuous of public opinion and quick to use any legal means to bully private landowners," Savage continued. "Unlike PSNH, New Hampshire does not need to kiss the ring of Northeast Utilities nor genuflect to Hydro-Quebec, and we shouldn't."

Savage concluded his e-mail comments by pointing out, "There may be a way to bring hydropower from Canada to the southern New England market, but Northern Pass as proposed is not right for New Hampshire."

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray has repeatedly said that other routes are still under consideration that would allow the High-voltage Direct Current line to cross upper CoŲs County where is now no existing right-of-way on which it could be located.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Garnett HIll
Varney Smith
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