6,000 Acres for Lake Umbagog NWR (NH)

ERROL, NEW HAMPSHIRE, 12/20/01: Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased 6,218 acres in Errol as an addition to the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. The property, which was purchased for $3.245 million from Boston-based Hancock Timber Resource Group (HTRG), consists of five forested parcels that all lie within the acquisition boundary that was established for the Refuge in 1992. Last year, thanks to the support of Senator Judd Gregg, Representative Charlie Bass, and the entire New Hampshire congressional delegation, Congress appropriated funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the land and add it to the refuge.

Senator Gregg stated, “The Land and Water Conservation Fund guarantees much needed funds for a variety of conservation projects throughout New Hampshire. Our state is renowned for its diverse environmental treasures, including Lake Umbagog, a critical nesting and feeding habitat for several state and federally listed threatened and endangered species. However, without continued funding and preservation, future generations will not be able to enjoy the entire property. Protecting the environment has been one of my highest priorities and I am pleased that these provisions have been allocated by the Fund.”

“Lake Umbagog is one of the natural resources that make New Hampshire special,” said Representative Bass. “I am pleased to have played a small part in the effort to preserve this property by helping to secure the federal funding needed to ensure that this jewel of the northern New England Forest receives the protected status it deserves.”

“This acquisition marks a tremendous step forward for the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge because it links together many of the existing refuge holdings and includes critical wetlands,” said refuge manager Paul Casey. “Its protection guarantees that this area will continue to provide irreplaceable breeding habitat for wildlife populations and will also allow for significantly improved public access.”

“This project is an important milestone in the effort to protect Lake Umbagog and its primary watershed for both wildlife and recreation,” said David Houghton, field office director for the Trust for Public Land, which assisted the Refuge with the acquisition. “We are proud to have worked in partnership with Errol residents and officials, area organizations, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, and HTRG to help protect this natural and scenic jewel.”

“The Refuge brings a lot of people to our town,” said Errol Selectman Fran Coffin. “It draws kayakers and fishermen in the summer and snowmobilers and cross-country skiers in the winter. So far, it’s been a real asset to our community. The land protected today was needed to round out the Refuge’s holdings. With that accomplished, I hope that more funding will now be allocated to the refuge for visitor services, signage, and management staff.”

One of New Hampshire’s most wild and scenic lakes, 8,500-acre Lake Umbagog supports enormous concentrations of wildlife. Both the lake itself and surrounding wetlands attract large numbers of moose, waterfowl, songbirds, loons, osprey, bald eagles, and other wildlife, which use the nearly 15,000 acres owned and managed by the Refuge to raise their young. The land purchased by the Refuge today includes rich sugar maple/yellow birch upland forest, black spruce bog, and a large emergent marsh known as Swett Meadows.

In 1999, HTRG approached conservation groups to gauge interest in protecting sensitive lands it owned around Lake Umbagog. “We recognized the special significance of the property, and knew we wanted to search for conservation options,” explained Henry Whittemore, HTRG Northeast regional manager.

Many organizations and individuals supported adding these lands to the refuge. They include the Town of Errol, Errol Chamber of Commerce, Lake Umbagog Sportsmen’s Club, the State of New Hampshire, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Audubon Society of New Hampshire, The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire, Appalachian Mountain Club, Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, and the Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 20,000 acres in New Hampshire. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations.

The Hancock Timber Resource Group is the world’s leading timberland investment management organization for institutions, with three million acres and $2.8 billion in assets under management in North America and Australia. HTRG is a unit of the Hancock Natural Resource Group, an indirect subsidiary of John Hancock Financial Services (NYSE: JHF)