4,532 Acres added to Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge

 A 4,532-acre North Country property and popular hunting and snowmobiling destination has been permanently protected as an addition to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Plum Creek Timber Company announced today. The conservation purchase is the second 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 critical wildlife habitat for moose, deer, bear and a variety of waterfowl species and there are 11.5 miles of trout streams, all of which flow into the Androscoggin River forming one of the best recreational fisheries in New Hampshire. Under refuge ownership the property will stay open to recreational use including hiking, hunting and fishing. The property also contains more than 13 miles of snowmobile trails that are maintained by the Umbagog Snowmobile Association and the NH Trails Bureau – these trailswill be kept open under Umbagog Refuge ownership and will continue to serve as vital links in the statewide snowmobile system and as an economic driver of the North Country’s winter tourism economy.

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, a national conservation organization, continues to work with Plum Creek to conserve the land in phases. The completion of today’s 4,532 acre acquisition is the last acquisition by Umbagog NWR of the Plum Creek lands. Still to be completed are 23,000 acres of working forest conservation easements held by the State of New Hampshire and a State fee acquisition of 934 acres around the Greenough Ponds. The easements will prohibit future development and guarantee recreational access while allowing Plum Creek to continue commercial forestry.

Approximately 11,500 acres of this land that is slated for state-held conservation easements are within the Umbagog Refuge boundary but will not become part of the refuge. This is a compromise outcome that the project partners agreed to in order to strike a balance between commercial forestry, wildlife conservation and recreational access. The entire project is anticipated to be completed in 2013.

 “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. “We are pleased to be able to protect this important wildlife habitat and to guarantee hunting, fishing and snowmobile access for the residents and visitors to the North Country.”

Funding for the acquisition came from two sources: $2 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas drilling leases, rather than taxpayer dollars, to acquire critical new conservation lands; and$1.625 million from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which is dedicated to wetlands protection and derives from the sale of duck stamps to hunters.

“This project is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through partnerships,” said Paul Casey, refuge manager of Umbagog NWR. “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. We are pleased to have these important conservation and recreation lands become part of the refuge and look forward to The Trust for Public Land, Plum Creek and the State of New Hampshire completing the remaining phases of the project.”

“We are pleased that this 4,500 acres and 13.5 miles of snowmobile trails are being permanently conserved as part of the Umbagog Wildlife Refuge,” said Frank Roy Trail Administrator of the Umbagog Snowmobile Association. “We’d like to thank Plum Creek for their generosity of providing snowmobile access to their lands and we look forward to working with the Umbagog Refuge and New Hampshire Trails Bureau to continue this recreational activity. Snowmobiling is important to the local economy in the North Country and maintaining access to the trail system is critical to many local businesses in the Umbagog Region.”

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.