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Upper Saco Valley Land Trust Announces Completion of Four New Conservation Projects in Late 2021
Conway, NH – The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust is pleased to announce four new conservation projects that were completed in late 2021. These new conservation lands now protect an additional 400 acres in Conway, Albany, Eaton, and Jackson.
In September of 2021, USVLT took ownership of the 24-acre Pequawket Pond peninsula, which straddles the town line between Conway and Albany along the western shore of Pequawket Pond. The "Pequawket Pond Preserve" will be managed to improve wetland habitat and to provide public access. Prior to USVLT’s ownership, the parcel had been owned by the State of New Hampshire as mitigation land for the never-built Conway Bypass. Sixteen years ago, the State had created several wetland areas onsite, which will now be stewarded and maintained by USVLT. Several walking trails were also installed in 2006 by the State, and these will also be maintained into the future. Initial site work, which is on track for this coming spring, will involve removing invasive plant species that have seeded in over the past 15 years, and trimming back shrubs currently encroaching on the trails. The property is accessible via Bridge Street.
The Pequawket Pond Preserve and another recent land donation in North Conway – the “McCulloch Preserve” – will both safeguard the water quality in our local lakes and streams. In October of 2021, USVLT gratefully received a donation of 17.5 acres of forestland along Kearsarge Brook from Dorothy McCulloch, a long-time seasonal resident of the nearby Crown Ridge development. The donation of the McCulloch Preserve will enhance protections for approximately 16 acres of mixed coniferous and northern hardwood forest, 1,665 feet of Kearsarge Brook, and approximately 1 acre of associated forested wetlands.
This property was already protected by a conservation easement held by USVLT, which had been donated in 2007 by the McCullochs, but the donation of the land “in fee” means that the Land Trust now owns the property and can manage it independently as a preserve.
A conservation easement is a legal agreement, usually between a private property owner and a land trust, which restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on the property. Conservation easements are written to encourage good forestry and agricultural practices while prohibiting incompatible development or commercial use.
In mid-December, Lorraine Tilney of Jackson also donated a conservation easement to USVLT on 41 acres of land across the road from her farm on Carter Notch Road. This donation adds to a 280-acre “conservation block,” which includes abutting conservation land managed by the Town of Jackson (also donated by the Tilneys more than 35 years ago). Other protected parcels within this conservation block include the Pepper, Burgess, Highland Farm, and USVLT Harding conservation easements. Many of these properties include river frontage along the Wildcat River, ensuring that one of New Hampshire’s only federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers will stay that way.
The Tilney Easement also protects the east side of Eagle Mountain, including a section of the Eagle Mountain Trail and Eagle Crag, a local rock-climbing destination. The protected property includes approximately 6.8 acres of cliff and talus slope habitat – a rare habitat type in New Hampshire that warrants special protection – as well as 24 acres of important forest soils. The Tilney easement will also add to the rural character of Carter Notch Road, as it protects views of undeveloped mountainside from the road.
Lorraine Tilney shared, “I am happy to put the conservation easement on the 41 acres abutting our current easement to ensure this beautiful land will remain as it is today in perpetuity.”
In the last days of 2021, USVLT also completed the “Kent Hill Easement” project in Eaton. This conservation easement was generously donated by Jon and Diane Marquis of Conway.
The Kent Hill Easement protects 318 acres that directly abut Town of Eaton conservation lands, creating an impressive habitat block of nearly 1,500 acres for wide-ranging species. The property includes more than 80 acres identified as the highest ranked habitat in the region and more than 135 acres identified as the highest ranked habitat in the state by the Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Action Plan.
The Kent Hill Easement will also serve as a “match easement” to USVLT's Forest Legacy project at the Dundee Community Forest in Jackson and Bartlett, NH. This means that the Marquis’ generous donation allows USVLT to access the full $2.3M in federal funding earmarked for the Dundee Community Forest; without a “match easement” donation like this, that grant could lose significant value.
The Kent Hill Easement conserves more than 2,000 feet of scenic undeveloped frontage on Stewart Road, and it protects the headwaters of Snow Brook and Linscott Brook, along both flanks of Kent Hill. The easement also protects the viewshed from nearby and beloved Foss Mountain, while boasting similar sweeping views to the north of the Presidential Range.
"We are so happy to have conserved over 400 more acres this year," said Abby King, USVLT’s Conservation Lands Manager, who shepherded these projects throughout 2021. "These four properties are all beautiful, unique, and rich in natural resources in their own way. Protecting these lands will provide wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and enhance public access for low-impact outdoor recreation throughout USVLT's service area. We are profoundly grateful to the donors and partners who made these projects possible."