Nearly 3,000 Acres added to Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge

June 29, 2011
Errol, New Hampshire

A 2,920-acre North Country property and popular fishing destination has been permanently protected as an addition to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Plum Creek Timber Company announced today. The conservation purchase is the first phase of what partners expect to be more than 31,000 acres of conserved land in the Androscoggin Headwaters to sustain working timberlands, protect water quality and wildlife habitat, and expand public recreation lands.

The land protected today has 4 undeveloped ponds, many Androscoggin River tributary streams, and 4.5 miles of road frontage along N.H. Route 16. The property contains nesting loons, osprey and a brook trout fishery. Conservation of this parcel creates a network of more than 80,000 acres of conservation lands in New Hampshire and Maine. Prior to this conservation agreement, Plum Creek's 31,000-acre property had been the largest unprotected property remaining in New Hampshire, and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, continues to work with Plum Creek to conserve the land in phases.

"On its own, this property is an ecological treasure and offers wonderful public access to the woods and waters of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge," said Rodger Krussman, TPL's New Hampshire state director. "But we hope this is the first of many important conservation successes to protect tens of thousands of acres at the headwaters of the Androscoggin River, including the conservation of working forests and recreational access for fishing, hiking and snowmobiling."

In May, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced that $2.24 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) had been approved to purchase the property, which protects the headwaters for the 178-mile Androscoggin River. LWCF uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas drilling leases, rather than taxpayer dollars, to acquire critical new lands. In addition, the project benefited from $1 million from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which is dedicated to wetlands protection and derives from the sale of duck stamps.

"The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is one of New Hampshire's greatest natural wonders, and these LWCF funds will preserve important wildlife habitat and forests, as well as set aside more acres for outdoor recreation," said Senator Shaheen. "This first step in the broader conservation effort will help protect the refuge while keeping the park accessible to New Hampshire residents and tourists, which is critical to our state's economy."

"The North Country's pristine landscape is an economic and ecological asset that must be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations," said Sen. Ayotte. "Acquisition of this parcel marks an important step in the effort to protect tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, recreational lands and working forests. I congratulate the stakeholders for their successful work to advance this public-private initiative, which represents the very best of conservation efforts in our state."

Congressman Charles Bass (NH-02), a strong supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund program and its impact on New Hampshire, said, "The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is one of our state's most prized natural treasures, and today's announcement will allow Granite Staters and visitors alike to enjoy all that it has to offer while responsibly protecting the environment. This conservation effort is a great example of how nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private businesses can work together to preserve our state and nation's most pristine wilderness areas for future generations to be able to enjoy."

"This project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through partnerships," said Paul Casey, refuge manager for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "By working with the forest industry, private conservation organizations and the state, we have been able to craft a broad scale conservation effort that meets each of the partners' needs."

The Trust for Public Land also had the support of a generous grant from the Open Space Institute's Saving New England Wildlife Fund, which seeks to conserve critical wildlife habitat identified in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, and was established with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The 5-phase Androscoggin Headwaters conservation project aims to acquire more than 8,000 acres of the most sensitive habitat to be held as publicly owned conservation land by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and New Hampshire Fish and Game. The remaining 23,000 acres owned by Plum Creek will be protected with a conservation easement that ensures sustainable forestry and recreational access, but the land will stay privately owned and be managed as a commercial forest. This balance between wildlife conservation, recreational access, and sustainable forestry will ensure a supply of raw materials and jobs for the local forest products economy as well as jobs in the recreation and tourism sectors. The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan calls for new pedestrian trails to be built and for an existing snowmobile trail to be maintained.

"We are grateful to Senators Shaheen and Ayotte and Rep. Bass, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for their commitment to the North Country forests," said J.T. Horn, TPL project manager.

"Plum Creek has helped conserve more than 1.3 million acres nationwide and we are pleased to partner to conserve this New Hampshire land that has exceptional ecological, wildlife and recreational values," said Rick Holley, president and chief executive officer for Plum Creek. "Such projects take hard work, time and collaboration, and we thank Senator Shaheen for her leadership and others who supported this effort."

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In New Hampshire, TPL has protected more than 230,000 acres.

Open Space Conservancy, Inc., an affiliate of the Open Space Institute, Inc. is managing the Saving New England Wildlife Fund, a $6 million fund established with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in order to protect the wildlife habitat in northern New England.

Plum Creek is the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the nation with approximately 6.7 million acres of timberlands in major timber producing regions of the United States and wood products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest. For more information, visit www.plumcreek.com.