5,000-Acre Mollidgewock Brook Property Added to Town Forest in Errol (NH)

ERROL, N.H. 10/13/2009: The Trust for Public Land, the Town of Errol, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the permanent protection of 5,016 acres of former T.R. Dillon Logging Inc. lands in the Town of Errol, N.H. Of the newly protected land, 3,177 acres have been added to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and 1,839 acres have been added to Errol’s town forest, the 13-Mile Woods Community Forest.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, took ownership of the property in 2007 and has since worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the town, and New Hampshire’s congressional delegation to craft a conservation plan to permanently protect this valuable forest resource and its critical habitat.

The Service’s purchase of 3,177 acres for the refuge was funded through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, secured by New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, and a grant from the USFWS Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The expansion of the town forest was completed through the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, the McIninch Foundation, North American Wetlands Conservation Program, and the Town of Errol.

“We are grateful for the enduring support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Hampshire congressional delegation, and the Town of Errol and their perseverance in working with TPL to protect this remarkable property,” said Rodger Krussman, New Hampshire State director for TPL. “This is a win-win-win conservation success—for the town, and its community forest and economy; for the refuge and its important habitat goals; and for the entire Mahoosuc region.”

“It has been my pleasure to work with various conservation groups and area residents over the years to help obtain more than $16 million in federal support to purchase land and easements around Umbagog totaling more than 16,000 acres,” said Senator Judd Gregg. “I applaud The Trust for Public Land and the Town of Errol for their efforts to protect the Mollidgewock Brook property. Their dedication and hard work, as well as the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, illustrates a deep love for Lake Umbagog and will ensure its strong future.”

“The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is one of New Hampshire’s greatest natural wonders, and these additional funds will preserve more habitats and set aside more acres for outdoor recreation,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This conservation effort will help protect the refuge’s wildlife while keeping the park accessible to New Hampshire residents and tourists, which is critical to our state’s economy.”

“Adding the Mollidgewock Brook property to the Refuge is a critical step in maintaining the long-term health and beauty of Lake Umbagog and the surrounding wildlife habitat,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Fish and Wildlife service and local officials to protect this critical habitat for New Hampshire families and visitors to enjoy.”

The Mollidgewock Brook lands are critical for waterfowl, birds, and aquatic species including black duck, black-backed woodpeckers, 24 warbler varieties, American woodcock, and brook trout. Linking Errol’s Thirteen Mile Woods Community Forest and the Umbagog refuge will create a 31,000-acre block of contiguous conservation and recreation lands. Much of the property has been logged heavily, but the forest will regenerate and habitats will be restored.

Senator Gregg added, “The Lake Umbagog region is home to one of the most varied ecosystems in the Northeastern United States. Its wide-ranging wetlands and marshes are ideal habitats for a variety of wildlife, including the bald eagle. In addition, the Lake’s breathtaking beauty allows for a number of outdoor recreational opportunities that provide an important boost to the economy of the North Country. For all these reasons, the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge continues to be one of the Granite State’s most valuable assets.”

The portion of the property being acquired by the FWS will be managed primarily for wildlife conservation. The property being acquired to expand the community forest will be managed for sustainable timber harvesting, wildlife habitat conservation, and recreational access. Both parcels will be forever off limits to development.

After the property became available in 2006 TPL stepped in to negotiate purchase of the property from the T.R. Dillon Company. TPL took ownership in 2007 and held the property, buying time for the conservation solution to be developed. The first phase of the project was completed in 2008 when 727 acres were transferred to the FWS. The second phase, a 2,450-acre addition to the Umbagog NWR, was able to move forward after the FWS updated their Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which included a boundary expansion to include these lands.

“This land protection effort permanently conserves the diverse wildlife habitats within the lower portion of Mollidgewock Brook. It also provides public access to these lands along Route 26 for wildlife-dependent recreation,” said Paul Casey, Refuge Manager, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.

The 1,839 acres being transferred to the 13-Mile Woods Community Forest is subject to a conservation easement that prohibits development and requires that logging be conducted in a sustainable manner. Proceeds from timber harvesting will be initially be used to pay down the debt held on the original acquisition of the 5,300 acre community forest (which TPL helped establish in 2005). After the debt is paid, future harvest proceeds can support the municipal budget for schools, roads, and other town services. For the new addition TPL was able to save the town a thirty percent in acquisition costs, a reduction of $165,000 in fair market value.

TPL was able to hold the property, waiting for the conservation acquisition to take place, with the generous assistance of a low interest bridge loan from The Open Space Institute (OSI), a New York based conservation nonprofit.

“We are very pleased to have an additional 1,839 acres added to our community forest,” said Bill Freedman, vice-president of the 13-Mile Woods Association, the non-profit set up to manage the Community Forest on behalf of the citizens of Errol. “Having access to the woods is part of our way of life in the North Country. Expansion of the community forest will enable Errol to harvest timber in support of the town budget, protect recreational access and conserve important wildlife habitat.”

The addition to the Errol Community Forest is the latest success story in TPL’s partnership with the Quebec Labrador Foundation, the Northern Forest Center, and Sustainable Forest Futures in the Community Forest Collaborative. Working closely with communities throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, this partnership has helped create new community forests as community assets for this and future generations.

The conservation of Mollidgewock Brook is part of TPL’s role in the Mahoosuc Initiative, a partnership of local, regional and national organizations working on conservation and economic development in the 600,000 acre Mahoosuc Region of New Hampshire and Maine. The Mahoosuc Initiative aims to conserve of the region’s natural resources—such as its productive forests and its natural beauty—in support of the timber and tourism economy of the region in order to protect quality of life for residents and visitors. For more information: www.mahoosucinfo.org.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. In the Mahoosuc Region of New Hampshire and Maine, TPL has conserved more than 25,000 acres since 1992.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.