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SPNHF creates 100-acre Tillotson Forest Reservation

allows "appurtenant" conservation restrictions

Paul Doscher, vice president, land conservation, of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF), recently discussed some of the details of how the Society conserved some 5,800-acres of land in Dixville, Colebrook, and Stewartstown surrounding The Balsams in a slide-talk on Wednesday evening at The Rocks. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2012
BETHLEHEM — Two law firms — Ransmeier & Spellman of Concord representing the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) and Boston-based Choate Hall & Stewart LLP representing the Tillotson Corporation — reached back to longstanding English common law and came up with a legal mechanism that allowed the Society to purchase conservation restrictions on some 5,800 forested acres surrounding The Balsams Grand Resort in Dixville.

Paul Doscher, vice president of land conservation for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) discussed details of the Society's conservation of some 5,800-acres of land in Dixville, Colebrook, and Stewartstown surrounding The Balsams at a slide-talk he gave on Wednesday evening in the barn at The Rocks.

Rather than going through what is often a lengthy process to draw up a conservation easement, SPNHF, as the buyer seeking to protect the land, and the Tillotson Corp., as the seller seeking to protect what it believed to be a plan congruent with what was in the best interests of the North Country that the late Neil Tillotson had wanted to preserve, decided to purchase outright a narrow 100-acre parcel on top of Keazer Ridge in Colebrook (Plan 3278 in Coös Registry of Deeds) that abuts Coleman State Park, Doscher explained.

This fee purchase will be named the Neil and Louise Tillotson Forest Reservation in honor of this very significant couple whose generosity played such an important role over the last decades and will continue to do so in perpetuity through the Trust that bears their name.

This small ownership allowed SPNHF to place restrictions on the abutting lands to enhance the new Reservation's conservation values by protecting the working forest, habitat, scenic views, and many miles of recreational trails and woods roads that the public and hotel guests have enjoyed for decades, Doscher said.

As part of the transaction, SPNHF also acquired a deeded transmission line right-of-way (ROW) that was sought by the proposed Northern Pass transmission line. By acquiring both the conservation restrictions and the transmission line ROW, SPNHF was able to remove the threat that the Northern Pass would cross the 5,800 conserved acres without the use of eminent domain, he said.

These new restrictions apply to the 78 parcels that the late Neil Tillotson owned for more than 40 years, all of which had to have completed title searches stretching back to 75 years. The typical 40-year title search would only have encompassed the Tillotson ownership itself, Doscher pointed out.

SPNHF raised an unprecedented $850,000 in just five weeks from 1,700 donors from 22 states and seven or eight foreign countries.

Today's latest social media techniques — blogs, Facebook, and GoogleWords — were used to the fullest, as well as a "video brochure," Doscher said. The response of Northern Pass and its attempt to squelch the deal by appealing to the state Attorney General's Office played into the hands of SPNHF'S fundraising effort, Doscher marveled. It apparently fostered many family discussions over holiday meals about the possibility of making donations to the conservation effort.

The Balsams View, LLC, a partnership of two Colebrook natives who are North Country businessmen — Daniel Dagesse and Daniel Herbert Jr. — purchased nearly 8,000 acres, including The Balsams hotel, from the Tillotson Corporation for $2.3 million, including furnishings and other inventory valued at $464,000. Balsams View owns all the underlying land, excluding the new 100-acre forest reservation.

The two owners signed up to have Don Tase of Colebrook, an experienced licensed forester, manage the forestlands and develop a 10-year management plan, Doscher said.

The acreage has a variety of stands, but primarily northern hardwoods. Since little or no cutting has been done since Neil Tillotson died over a decade ago, SPNHF understands that an accelerated schedule of timber harvesting will likely take place in the next five years on what is already a certified Tree Farm.

The Tillotson Corp. gave SPNHF $350,000 to ensure that stewardship monitoring funds will be in hand in perpetuity, and the owners have been clear that aesthetics matter to them to future hotel guests. Doscher also details the rights that the owners reserved on the restricted lands, including water rights and the right to add a ski lift to access glade skiing in the future.

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