Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Neighbors Unite to Protect Wildlife Habitat and Working Forestland

Kathy and Lee Larson have played active roles in the Upper Valley’s land conservation community since moving to the Upper Valley and purchasing their land on Pout Pond Lane more than 10 years ago. Kathy Larson is a Trustee and Lands Committee Chair of the Upper Valley Land Trust. Lee Larson serves on the Lyme Conservation Commission, and has assisted UVLT with boundary monitoring and trail maintenance. The desire to see their property protected for wildlife, responsible forestry, and recreational purposes has led the Larsons to donate a conservation easement to UVLT. The Larsons signed documents conserving 64 acres of their property at a small gathering of friends and neighbors on Monday, December 28.

This project secures the protection of the many conservation values carefully stewarded by the Larsons for the benefit of generations to come. Certified as a New Hampshire Tree Farm, the Larsons’ property has a forest management plan in place that ensures sustainable forestry and encourages wildlife habitat protection, particularly for songbirds. The Larsons have consulted with Audubon biologists to carefully improve habitats necessary for the many migratory songbirds that stopover on the property, or stay during the nesting season. These efforts to steward quality habitat have led to the property’s name: “Songbird Forest.”

In addition to songbirds, the property provides high quality habitat for other wildlife. The Larsons have set up a hidden camera in a portion of the property that is a corridor used frequently by wildlife heading to Pout Pond. This camera has captured images of turkeys, fox, coyote, deer, bear, moose, mink, raccoon, skunk, opossum, painted and box turtles, and squirrel.

Songbird Forest fits into a large and growing corridor of conserved lands that stretch from, and are visible from, the Appalachian Trail corridor. The property is surrounded on three sides by other conserved land; large tracts of UVLT-conserved land are located within two miles, including Demmick Hill and Trout Pond Forest.

This cluster of protected properties continues to grow. Nearby, a 7.44 acre portion of the Elder Farm on Acorn Hill Road, owned by Ray and Tina Clark was also recently conserved with UVLT. According to UVLT Project Manager, Sara Cavin, “Though small, this piece of the Elder Farm has important connections to this other protected land, enhancing specific views, and maintaining the integrity of the agricultural uses that have gone on in the region.” Within two miles of this portion of Elder Farm are 950 acres of land conserved by UVLT, as well as more than 1800 acres of other conserved or public land.

In addition to the recent conservation of part of Elder Farm and the Larsons’ Songbird Forest in Lyme, another local family is currently working with UVLT. This project will likely be completed in early 2010, and its completion will complement the hundreds of acres of permanently protected open space and wildlife habitat surrounding Pout Pond and Trout Pond in Lyme. Together, these conserved lands provide many benefits including scenic views, water quality protection, wildlife habitat connectivity, as well as serving as examples of productive and sustainable land management practices. This group of projects demonstrates the impact that neighbors working together can have on the future of a landscape.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thetford Bake Sale a Success!

Sarah Martel and her children organized a bake sale on December 24th, in support of the Upper Valley Land Trust's purchase of the 27.3 acre Zebedee Headwaters in Thetford. The parcel is located on Houghton Hill Road, not far from the Thetford Elementary School. Generations of Thetford children have enjoyed this property as their outdoor classroom for the study of natural sciences and ecology.

In just two hours, Thursday's bake sale netted $558. Connie Snyder of the Thetford Conservation Commission reports, "It was beautiful to see the kids jumping up and down hailing down cars and to see the generosity of people who brought goods and bought goods - many did both. No prices on any of the baked stuff - "donation - whatever you want to give" - absolutely inspired! People handed over 10 and 20 dollar bills for a bag of cookies! I've never seen anything like this before."

Thanks to everyone who participated! It's been wonderful to see the way in which fundraising efforts have evolved in support of this project. We have almost reached our goal. For more information, check out Thursday's Valley News article or this PDF.

Above: (Left to Right) Eamon Deffner, Owen Deffner, Casey MacVeagh, Alex MacVeagh, and Lily MacVeagh.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wildlife Habitat and Open Space Conserved in Hanover

When Ann and Harte Crow purchased their land in northeast Hanover over thirty years ago, they thought of naming the place “Pressey Brook Farm.” But says Harte Crow, “that seemed awfully pretentious,” for the landscape they had come to know. Instead, their family affectionately refers to the land as “The Dismal,” in honor of The Great Dismal Swamp in the southeastern U.S. The land is wet and portions are often flooded due to a hearty population of beavers that is active near the confluence of several brooks. These brooks, Pressey and Tunis, join on the property to create a large wetland complex. Pressey flows from a height of land near the Lyme/Hanover border and Tunis comes off of Moose Mountain; together these brooks serve as a watershed for Goose Pond and the Mascoma River.
The Crows recently donated a conservation easement on their 239-acre property to the Upper Valley Land Trust. This agreement will ensure the permanent protection of this land.

The Crows have owned the parcel since the 1970s and actively manage it for wildlife habitat and personal recreation. They brush hog about five acres of meadow in order to create optimal bird habitat. Woodcock aficionados have told them that the habitat here is some of the best for the bird in the Upper Valley. Other visitors to the property report that bobcats, otter, mink, wood turtles and muskrats also use the land.

This project serves to support the Town of Hanover’s goals for habitat, scenic and open space protection. Publications, including the Hanover Open Space Priority Plan and the Scenic Locales Report speak to the attributes of the land in this area.

The Crow property lies within a focus area identified by the Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership (Q2C), a collaborative, landscape-scale effort to conserve the Monadnock Highlands of north-central Massachusetts and western New Hampshire. Q2C recently awarded the Upper Valley Land Trust a grant award to fund transaction related expenses for this and another nearby project.

The parcel is positioned within a 25,000 acre block of minimally fragmented forest land that extends to bordering towns of Canaan, Lyme, and Dorchester. As a whole, this large block serves as important winter habitat for moose and deer, as well as a rich and diverse habitat for bear, turkey, beaver, coyote, and grouse. Appalachian Trail Corridor and multiple Town-owned parcels are situated within a mile of The Dismal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strafford Sugarbush Conserved for the Future

On December 16, Susan Baker signed documents protecting her 212 acre property, located off Sawnee Bean Road in Strafford. She did this in honor and memory of her late husband, Chas Baker, who purchased the land and invested his time and energy in developing and maintaining a sugarbush and sugarhouse on the property. The conservation easement, now held by the Upper Valley Land Trust, will prevent future development of the land.

For the last several years, Susan Baker has leased the property to other local sugar-makers, most recently Tig and Elise Tillinghast. "Although I never met Chas Baker, sugaring this property over the past two years has, in a way, given me a chance to get to know him a little. His love for the sugarbush is obvious from how he maintained it, and he put a lot of thought into how he would like it to develop in the future,” says Tig Tillinghast. According to the Tillinghasts, the sugarbush has recently yielded about 520 gallons of syrup annually. The property is completely wooded, except for a five acre state-mapped Class II wetland, locally known as Cook’s Swamp, which is situated on the lower portion of the property between Cook’s Hill and Davidson Hill. Presently the wetland is actively used by beavers. Moose, deer, fox, and more than 40 documented species of bird also frequent the property.

According to Elise Tillinghast, "One of the great aspects of this property is the prime bird habitat, and it's something we've had fun exploring with more knowledgeable people. For example, this past year, Audubon biologists identified three mated pairs of Canada Warblers, a fairly uncommon songbird that's in decline throughout its breeding range.” Due to the role it plays in providing valuable bird habitat, Audubon Vermont has been supportive of the property’s protection.The parcel is distinguished by its proximity to other protected lands. It is located about one half mile east of the 924 acre State of Vermont's Podunk Wildlife Management Area and in close proximity to more than 850 acres of other conserved land in Strafford and Thetford. Some of Susan Baker’s recently conserved land abuts hayfields used by a local family. In addition, the protected scenic hillside is visible in areas of Thetford and New Hampshire. Overall, the conservation of this land will help to support healthy wildlife populations, provide scenic open space and ensure the availability of local maple syrup for years to come.

To learn more about the Tillinghast's sugaring operation, please visit http://www.freshmaplesyrup.com/

The Tillinghasts posted a blog entry about the conservation of this land, read it at http://www.freshmaplesyrup.com/maple-sugar-bush-permanently-conserved/

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weathersfield Wetland Conserved with Upper Valley Land Trust

A 38-acre parcel of land owned by John and Fran Wright in the Perkinsville area of Weathersfield is now permanently protected from development. The conservation easement ensuring the land’s protection was signed on Friday, December 11. The easement will be held in perpetuity by the Upper Valley Land Trust.

The property has been in Mr. Wright’s family since 1796. It was passed to him through a long line of ancestors. Mr. Wright’s great-grandfather farmed the land (sheep and cattle) and his father grew up in the area. It is this lengthy history of ownership that motivated the Wrights to protect the property for future generations.

The protection of the parcel includes more than 4000 feet of frontage on Mill Brook, as well as a state mapped, Class II wetland. Route 131 runs through the parcel. In the winter, a snowmobile trail passes over the Wrights’ property, crossing the brook over a wooden bridge, which VAST maintains. The property lies between Mount Ascutney State Park and Little Ascutney Wildlife Management Area. It is about one half mile from 450 acres that were protected by UVLT on the south side of Mount Ascutney with the help of the Weathersfield Land Protection Association and the Conservation Commission.

The protected property is primarily forested. It is not in current use and has been left alone for about 50 years. Because of this, there are high quality maples throughout the parcel. According to a Connecticut River Joint Commissions report, the condition of Mill Brook is excellent, waters are clear and cold, and it supports fine wild trout habitat. The property supports an abundant amount of wildlife, including beaver, moose, deer, and an occasional bear. In addition, a sandy bank provides habitat for turtles.

An endangered plant in the State of Vermont has been identified within one mile of the Wright Wetland. Additionally there are 22 more rare, endangered or threatened species identified in the Town of Weathersfield. The preservation of this land contributes to the future of biodiversity in the region, by retaining a habitat and corridor for native plants and animals to live and travel throughout the year.