Isinglass River Conservation Initiative Completed (NH)

August 28, 2008
New Hamshire

Strafford, New Hampshire, 8/28/2008: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), along with the Town of Strafford and Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, gathered today with local, state and federal officials near the Isinglass River to announce that 868 acres have been permanently conserved. The Isinglass River Conservation Initiative originally focused on acquiring 287 acres containing 7,800 feet of frontage on the Isinglass River. Over the course of the project, three local landowners and the Strafford School Board generously agreed to donate land or easements to increase the total conserved area threefold.

Two years ago, the Trust for Public Land negotiated an option agreement with the landowner and worked with the Town of Strafford, which applied for federal funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP). At that time, the property was in the final stages of planning board approval for a 70 lot subdivision. Gregg Caporossi, Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land said, "It's an exciting day to celebrate the success of this ambitious effort to protect the Isinglass River. It's good for the environment, for wildlife, and for the people who want to hike, fish, and otherwise enjoy the natural beauty of this river. TPL wishes to thank the Town, the New Hampshire Congressional delegation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all our project partners, and the many donors who made this possible."

The focal point of the initiative, a 287 acre parcel located off Pig Lane, was purchased with the help of a $1.3 million grant from CELCP, administered by NOAA. The project ranked #1 in the country for CELCP funding and was included as the top priority for CELCP in the FY 2008 President's budget. With strong support from New Hampshire's Congressional delegation, in particular Senator Judd Gregg who serves on the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Subcommittee, Congress approved the CELCP funding. In addition to the NOAA grant, the property was acquired with $150,000 from the Town of Strafford, $40,000 from the New Hampshire State Conservation Committee, and over $100,000 from private donations.

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg has been a leader of coastal protection and a long-time supporter of CELCP projects throughout the state. He authored the CELCP program as former ranking member of the Commerce Justice State appropriations subcommittee in 2001 and is the sponsor of legislation in the Senate to authorize the program. "The Isinglass River is truly one of those special places in our state that has helped define New Hampshire's unique natural heritage," said Sen. Gregg. "The area's impact on the critical forest and coastal resources, wildlife habitats and, of course, the aesthetic beauty of the region is well-documented. I applaud The Trust for Public Land, the Bear-Paw Regional Greenways and especially the people of Strafford for their commitment to this project and making sure that these 367 acres are protected for generations of visitors and residents to come. Their dedication illustrates why New Hampshire continues to be a leader in environmental conservation."

"Preserving New Hampshire's lands is an important part of a broad effort to safeguard the state's special environmental character," said Senator Sununu. "That is why I have long supported Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Program funding to preserve ecologically valuable areas such as the Isinglass River. This project is a tremendous example of the importance of local, state, and federal officials working together for the common goal of permanently protecting critical habitat. All those involved deserve our thanks and praise."

"I am pleased we were able to secure $1.3 million from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program," said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. "This critical funding has helped to ensure that this pristine land along the Isinglass River is preserved for future generations."

The New Hampshire Coastal Program is the lead state agency for the CELCP program and coordinates the selection of projects to send to NOAA to compete in the national competition. "The Isinglass proposal immediately stood out to me as a spectacular project for its preservation of exceptional natural resources in our coastal watershed. Its ranking in the national competition demonstrates that it's not only regionally relevant as shown in New Hampshire's CELCP Plan, but also a national priority," said Coastal Program Manager Ted Diers.

The CELCP provides matching grants to state and local governments to acquire open space in a state's coastal watershed and is intended to protect coastal areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, cultural or aesthetic value. Under the program's guidelines, federal monies must be matched on a 1:1 basis in cash or donated land value. Thanks to the generous donation of property rights from 3 private landowners and the Strafford School Board, the Isinglass River Conservation Initiative will conserve an additional 584 acres valued at more than $1.1 million.

"NOAA has been pleased to support the implementation of the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program since its creation by Congress in 2002," said David Kennedy, Director of NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. "Through the efforts of all the project partners, these 287 acres of the Isinglass River property will be preserved for the benefit of New Hampshire's coastal zone and enjoyed by present and future generations."

"What an amazing partnership this has been!" said Harmony Anderson of the Strafford Conservation Commission. "Strafford has been so fortunate to have Bear-Paw Regional Greenways and The Trust for Public Land hard at work for land protection in town. This partnership truly brought together existing and new relationships - extending all the way from Center Strafford to Washington, DC!"

Of the hundreds of waterways in New Hampshire, the Isinglass River is one of only 14 rivers officially recognized by the Rivers Management and Protection Program for its outstanding natural and cultural resources. All of the properties conserved through this initiative are located within a 1,800-acre block of relatively intact forest through which the Isinglass River flows. Conservation of these parcels will help protect an important recreational fishery and travel corridor for wildlife, maintain water quality, and enhance opportunities for public access to the river. The purchase ensures that the land will remain as open space, and will never be developed.

Dan Kern, Executive Director of Bear Paw Regional Greenways said, "Part of Bear-Paw's mission is to permanently conserve a network of lands that protects the region's water, wildlife habitat, and forests. The most effective way to accomplish this is through the protection of large unfragmented forests and undeveloped riparian areas. All five Isinglass parcels help protect forests and water, which represent the best opportunity to conserve the most important natural lands in the region."

Phil Auger, a UNH Cooperative Extension Educator and Strafford resident said, "Strafford residents will now be able to enjoy more than 850 acres of permanently conserved open space, and we can now be justifiably proud in claiming that most of the Isinglass River corridor in the community has been conserved. Those reasons alone make this a pretty special land conservation project, but what really made it incredible were the contributions from landowners. The Isinglass Project would not have been possible without their generosity."

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 200,000 acres.

Bear-Paw Regional Greenways is a non-profit land trust with a mission to permanently conserve a network of lands that protects our region's water, wildlife habitat, forests, and farmland. Bear-Paw now holds conservation easements that protect 24 properties and 2,031 acres and it has assisted on other projects protecting another 3,300. For information about how to become a member, land protection options for landowners or volunteering with the land trust, please contact Daniel Kern at Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, Post Office Box 19, Deerfield, NH 03037, 603 463-9400, info@bear-paw.org, or www.bear-paw.org.

The New Hampshire Coastal Program (NHCP) is a federally approved coastal program authorized under the Coastal Zone Management Act and is administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. NHCP strives to maintain a balance between the use and preservation of coastal resources. Through partnerships, funding and science, NHCP works to improve water quality and decision making in 42 coastal watershed communities; supports maritime uses; and restores coastal wetlands.