$500,000 for Merrimack River Initiative (NH)

Concord, New Hampshire, 1/20/2005 – U.S. Senator Judd Gregg announced today that the Merrimack River Initiative will receive a $500,000 grant towards the purchase and conservation of nearly 1,000 acres on the Merrimack River. Bolstered by the announcement, conservation leaders began a final quest for $150,000 in private donations to complete the project.

The Merrimack River Initiative is a joint project of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (the Forest Society). The groups are working to finalize the permanent conservation of three parcels along the Merrimack River in Concord and Canterbury. Together, the parcels comprise nearly 1,000 acres and include close to 5 miles of direct river frontage.

Senator Gregg, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, “The Merrimack River is one of the most vital natural resources in New Hampshire. Within its watershed are prime well managed farmlands, critical wildlife habitats and important recreation areas. Of course, the river has played a pivotal role in the development of our state and therefore is important to our heritage as well. I want to thank the TPL, the Forest Society and especially the people of Concord and Canterbury for their commitment to preserving and enhancing the unique quality of life in New Hampshire. Because of the development pressures facing our state, protecting 1000 acres in central and southern NH is a rare opportunity and a difficult challenge. I am proud to be part of the partnership which is successfully meeting this challenge.”

The total cost of the project is $3,620,000. The $500,000 grant announced by Senator Gregg comes from Anadromous Fish Habitat Conservation and Restoration Grants administered by NOAA, a program to conserve and restore migrating fish habitat. Julie Iffland, TPL Senior Project Manager, thanked Senator Gregg for his leadership in securing federal funds for the effort. “Thanks to Senator Gregg, this extraordinary partnership effort is within reach of our goal. With only $150,000 left to raise, we are certain that these communities will rise to the challenge so that we can commemorate the beginning of 2005 with the protection of 1,000 acres on the Merrimack.”

Additional funding has already been committed from several sources: the USDA Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program, the City of Concord, the Town of Canterbury, the state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the Samuel Hunt Foundation, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and generous private individuals. With news of the NOAA grant, the total raised to date is $3,470,000, leaving only $150,000 in private donations still needed to complete the project. TPL and the Forest Society hope to complete a private fundraising drive to close the gap.

Included in the project are vast tracts of land with high quality river bottom soils, sweeping river views, and an unusual forest community. Under the conservation plan, the public will have access to the river for recreational purposes. Concord and Canterbury plan to acquire the land, subject to conservation easements held by the Forest Society, to prevent any future development. The high quality farmland soils will continue to be used by an agricultural business under lease with the City and Town.

“The river is an extraordinarily accessible resource. And it’s literally throwing distance from the state capital,” said Paul Doscher of the Forest Society. “But it’s also close to I-93 and is very desirable to developers. I want to especially thank Senator Gregg for his efforts to secure federal funding for this important conservation priority. We have a limited opportunity now to protect this land and keep it as a treasured natural resource for area residents and visitors.”

In addition to keeping the working farmland, the public would also be able to access the property for recreational uses that are compatible with the ongoing agricultural uses and habitat protection along the river. The New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game is negotiating with the City and the Town to manage hunting and public access in the forested wetland areas.

Those wishing to make a tax deductible donation to the Merrimack River Initiative should contact Anne Truslow of the Forest Society at (603) 224-9945 or atruslow@forestsociety.org; or Carol Hall of TPL at (603) 224-0103 or carol.hall@tpl.org. Checks may be made payable to either the Forest Society or TPL, with “Merrimack River Initiative” on the memo line, and sent to 54 Portsmouth Street, Concord, NH 03301.

Founded in 1901, the Forest Society is a 10,000-member, nonprofit organization that has helped protect more than one million acres in New Hampshire. Visit www.forestsociety.org for more information, or call (603) 224-9945.

TPL is a national nonprofit organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres in 45 states, including more than 200,000 acres in New Hampshire. For more information, contact TPL’s Concord office at (603) 224-0103 or visit www.tpl.org/newhampshire.

Note to editors: digital photos of the Merrimack River project area are available from Kim Gilman at TPL, 617-367-6200 ext. 326, or kim.gilman@tpl.org.

Posted 1/21/2005