Community Forest Preserved for Errol, NH
Errol, NH, 1/27/2006 – Residents of Errol, NH are now the proud owners of 5,300 acres of forest land along the Androscoggin River. The property, known as 13 Mile Woods, is officially New Hampshire’s newest Community Forest. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) negotiated a long-term option to buy the property from the Errol and Cambridge Realty Trust in 2003, then purchased the property last August, assuming temporary ownership while marshalling state, federal and local funding to permanently protect the land. On December 22nd, TPL conveyed the land to 13 Mile Woods Association, Inc., a nonprofit group established to manage the property for the benefit of the town of Errol.
Julie Iffland, a senior project manager at TPL, said, “It took a remarkable effort by many people to establish a Community Forest at 13 Mile Woods, starting with the town’s citizens who saw the opportunity to create a permanent legacy on this land. And we’re proud to have helped create another Community Forest, which will pay its way and generate income for the town long after the property is paid for, while at the same time preserving cherished public recreation access and wildlife habitat.”
Funding for the $4.05 million project came from multiple sources. Thanks to the leadership of U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, with the support of the entire New Hampshire Congressional delegation, the project received a $1.64 million grant from the USDA Forest Legacy Program (FLP) toward the conservation easement held by the state. The state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) made a grant of $350,000 toward purchase of the property, and last year, Errol residents voted to borrow up to $2.2 million of town funds to purchase the land.
Senator Gregg said, “I am pleased to congratulate the residents of Errol for their efforts to protect 13 Mile Woods. As a result of their collaboration with TPL, this property will continue to be a place enjoyed for its recreational opportunities and natural beauty. This project demonstrates a strong commitment by the citizens of Errol to preserving New Hampshire’s unique quality of life.”
With the assistance of the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Forest Futures program, and Maine-based Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), TPL was able to structure a funding package that combined $2.1 million in financing provided by First Colebrook Bank and a loan obtained by TPL from the Open Space Conservancy, Inc., with use of tax credits from a federal program called the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC). The financing team collaborated with CEI to gain access to the tax credits. Use of the NMTC program reduced the amount that the Town needed to borrow from the $2.2 million originally authorized down to $1.68 million.
“The 13 Mile Woods project is a pioneering community forest initiative,” said Steve Rohde, director of the Northern Forest Center’s Sustainable Forest Futures program. “It can be a model for other community forestry initiatives that we seek to facilitate throughout the region.”
Errol residents participated extensively in the plans for the Community Forest and in March 2005 voted overwhelmingly to approve it. The project was initially spearheaded by former Select Board member and businessman Fran Coffin, who died unexpectedly in January 2004. Coffin had a long-term vision for conservation of the property as a working forest, and believed the property was an important recreational and economic development asset for Errol. Last May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Coffin an EPA Environmental Merit Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to environmental issues over a career or lifetime. Coffin’s work on 13 Mile Woods capped a career of environmental activism that included many years of advocacy for the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.
Larry Enman, Chair of the Errol Board of Selectmen, commented, “The Community Forest is a godsend for Errol, as it keeps the land wild while still generating income for the town. It’s been a long haul and we’re very happy that the project has finally gone through. We thank everyone who helped make this possible, especially Fran Coffin, whose vision for the future of 13 Mile Woods started the whole process. It never would have happened without him.”
U.S. Senator John Sununu, a supporter of the project, nominated Fran Coffin for the EPA award. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of Errol residents – particularly Fran Coffin – the 13 Mile Woods property will be a permanent recreational, environmental and economic resource for the town. The collaborative work of public and private entities that has made the establishment of this Community Forest possible represents the best of what can be accomplished by New Hampshire conservation advocates,” said Senator Sununu.
U.S. Congressman Charles Bass, whose district the property lies in, was supportive of the project and has been a consistent leader on FLP funding in the House.
“The new Community Forest, which has significant frontage on Androscoggin River, will provide the town with important recreational and economic benefits for years to come. This land, along with the development of the new ATV park in Berlin and the modernization of the White Mountain National Forest Plan, has solidified the North Country as one of the top outdoor vacation and recreation destinations in New England,” said Bass. “The successful protection of this land illustrates the commitment of both the residents of the North Country and the Trust for Public Land to ensuring that our forests and landscapes survive for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Rachel Rouillard, Executive Director of LCHIP, said, “We are so pleased to support the conservation of this unique place and to be a part of the federal, state, and local partnership which has created a Community Forest in Errol. As a result of the dedication and perseverance of the town’s citizens, this significant piece of forest land will continue to provide residents a link to the outdoors as well as the economic benefits of a working forest. LCHIP is proud to represent the state’s investment in this project.”
13 Mile Woods includes nine miles of frontage on the Androscoggin River, Munn Pond, mature hardwood and softwood forests, and many opportunities for public recreation including hiking, hunting, fishing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling. It is also an important wildlife corridor, containing rare flood plain forest and trout streams.
The land is subject to a permanent conservation easement held by the State of New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) used the grants from FLP and LCHIP to acquire the conservation easement, preventing all future development on the property, and requiring the property to be managed sustainably. The 13 Mile Woods Association will actively manage the forest under the terms of the conservation easement with DRED, with the assistance of certified forestry consultant Silvics, Inc. The logging revenues from the property will be used to re-pay the loan used to purchase the land and to manage the land. In addition to timber harvesting, the 13 Mile Woods Association will use the land to benefit the community and provide public recreation.
“This project is an exceptional local resource as well as a valued regional resource,” said Philip Bryce, New Hampshire State Forester. “Completion of the 13 Mile Woods project is a testament to the community’s extraordinary commitment to protecting this property from development and maintaining it as a working forest.”
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 2 million acres in 45 states, including more than 200,000 acres in New Hampshire. TPL’s New England Community Forestry Initiative has spearheaded community forest projects in several New Hampshire towns, including Randolph, Freedom, and Dunbarton, For more information, contact TPL’s Concord office at (603) 224-0103 or visit www.tpl.org/newhampshire.