Isinglass River Conservation Ranked 1st for Federal Funds (NH)

Strafford, New Hampshire, 7/5/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization with an office in Concord, learned last week that its project to conserve land along the Isinglass River is ranked first in the nation out of 44 projects for federal funding by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP). TPL is working with the New Hampshire congressional delegation, the New Hampshire Coastal Program, the town of Strafford, Bear-Paw Regional Greenway and other local citizens to protect 287 acres with 7,800 feet of frontage along the Isinglass.

With the support of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, the New Hampshire Coastal Program submitted the application for CELCP funding, designating the Isinglass River project as the state’s top coastal conservation priority. The newly-released federal rankings list the Isinglass project as the highest-ranked coastal conservation project in the nation, and recommends a grant of $1.3 million to protect the river and its shoreline in Strafford.

Of the hundreds of waterways in New Hampshire, only 14 rivers are officially recognized as outstanding natural and cultural resources. The 18-mile Isinglass River, which runs through the rapidly developing southeastern portion of the state, is one of these select few. The 287 acres in Strafford are located within a 1,500-acre block of relatively intact forest. This is important habitat for a variety of wildlife species, and it is a popular recreational destination for fishing, hiking, and boating. Prior to TPL securing an option to buy the property in January 2007, the land was approved for a 58-unit housing development.

Administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the CELCP provides matching grants to state and local governments to acquire open space in a state’s coastal zone and is intended to protect coastal areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, cultural or aesthetic value.

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg has been a leader of coastal protection and a long-time supporter of various CELCP projects throughout the state. He authored the CELCP program as the ranking Republican on the Commerce appropriations subcommittee in 2001 and is the lead sponsor of legislation in the Senate to formally authorize the program.

“The extraordinarily diverse ecosystems in New Hampshire have made our state one of the most beautiful in the nation. The mountains, forestlands and watersheds all have played a critical role in building this reputation. The Isinglass River exemplifies these areas and the ranking by NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program confirms what the people here have always known: that it is truly a special place,” said Senator Gregg.

“Given the intense development pressures New Hampshire is facing, however, we must act now to protect and preserve areas like the Isinglass River,” Gregg added. “And New Hampshire is not alone in this challenge. As the nation’s population continues to soar along the coasts, development is encroaching on thousands of acres of environmentally significant wetlands and coastal habitats. That is why I established this conservation program in 2001. I am pleased to know NOAA will join the efforts to conserve this property and I would like to thank the TPL, the Town of Strafford and the Bear-Paw Regional Greenway for the actions they are taking to reach this goal.”

U.S. Senator John Sununu, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has supported Senator Gregg’s initiative to safeguard New Hampshire’s special environmental character. In 2006, as chairman of the Commerce National Ocean Policy Study subcommittee, Sununu strongly backed the initiative when it moved through that subcommittee, and, in 2007, supported the measure again during its consideration before the full Commerce Committee.

“NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation program is designed to provide federal support to the most valuable and pressing coastal and river conservation projects in the nation,” said Senator Sununu. “Land along the Isinglass River in Strafford is among the most sensitive and vital wildlife habitats in New Hampshire, and I am pleased that NOAA recognizes its importance. Working together with local residents, conservation groups, and public entities, I remain committed to ensuring this acreage is protected for generations to come.”

U.S Representative Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) said, “I have the good fortune to live near the Isinglass River, and I know what a valuable resource it is for our community. I’m happy to be a part in helping to secure funding for this project and I’m very pleased that NOAA has placed it at the top of their list.”

Catherine Coletti, New Hampshire Coastal Program Communications Coordinator, said, “NHCP selected this proposal for its substantial ecological and conservation value and ability to compete on the national level. We are excited to see it achieve the top ranking in the nation. The proposal was a standout for its protection of significant river frontage and a great tie-in to the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds, which was developed last August through a partnership of organizations.”

Gregg Caporossi, project manager at TPL, said, “New Hampshire is blessed with spectacular natural resources. NOAA’s CELCP program has become an important tool to protect land in critical coastal areas like at Isinglass River. This ranking wisely recognizes this outstanding conservation effort in New Hampshire that will ultimately protect a large block of forested land, ensure water quality, and provide public access for continued recreational activities on the land and river.”

TPL currently is holding an option to purchase the property for $1.5 million. The town of Strafford has agreed to contribute up to $150,000 from its municipal conservation fund toward the purchase price. In addition, TPL is working to secure grants from the state’s Department of Fish and Game and the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).

JoAnn Brown, Strafford Selectman, said, “This property is especially important because of its value to our community and to the whole region. I know from personal experience how fortunate we are to have the Isinglass run through our town. Any and all help to protect our natural resources is greatly appreciated, and will help people continue to enjoy the wildlife and rural surroundings of our river in its natural state.”

Liz Evans, a member of the Strafford Conservation Commission and the Isinglass River Local Advisory Committee, said, “We are delighted that the Isinglass River Project has been ranked first for CELCP program funding. The funds will help us to maintain the special qualities of the Isinglass River that are enjoyed by countless hikers, birders, kayakers, and anglers. This property is key to maintaining healthy wildlife habitat and high water quality in our river. Its protection will set an example of good stewardship for our most precious natural resources.”

The Isinglass River property is located within a Conservation Focus Area as identified in the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds. In 2005, the New Hampshire State Wildlife Action Plan categorized the Isinglass River corridor as possessing the highest quality wildlife habitat at the state level. Furthermore, the property provides critical habitat for mink, otter, raccoon, deer, moose, black bears, and bobcats. According to the Watershed Management Bureau at the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, the presence of six threatened or endangered species at either the state or national level have been reported from the Isinglass River corridor, including: common loon, Cooper’s hawk, small-footed bat, bald eagle, osprey, and the common nighthawk.

In addition to providing critical wildlife habitat along its shores, the Isinglass River is considered an important fishery. Naturally occurring warm-water game fish include small and largemouth bass in the lower portion of the river. The New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game annually stocks more than 3,000 rainbow trout and 2,500 brook trout in the headwaters. In addition, over 73,000 Atlantic salmon fry are being stocked as part of an ongoing anadromous fish restoration effort. Several species of concern also are known to live in the Isinglass River, including the American eel, banded sunfish, bridle shiner, and the blacknose shiner, a fish located in only one other waterway in the state.

The Isinglass River property will offer recreational benefits as well as habitat protection. A trail network already exists on the property, which makes hiking a popular activity. Pig Lane, the road that provides access to the Isinglass River property, is used extensively for mountain biking. Hunting and fishing have long been historic uses of the property, and access for these activities will continue. The Isinglass River itself has been used extensively for fishing, boating, and other recreational uses. The river is considered to be an important seacoast trout stream and is heavily utilized by local anglers. Due to the free-flowing nature of the Isinglass River it provides both challenging whitewater and relaxing flat water boating opportunities for canoeists and kayakers.

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.

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.