CT River Land Preserved

The Forest Society raises $2.8 million for Connecticut River forest project, protecting more than six miles of river frontage, working forest and wildlife

The Upper Connecticut River

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) successfully reached the $2.8 million goal needed conserve 2,121 acres of working forest and wildlife habitat that forms the gateway to Pittsburg and the Connecticut Lakes region along scenic Route 3 north of Colebrook. The property, which includes more than six miles of pristine shoreline along the upper Connecticut River, a regionally significant deer yard and an important snowmobile trail, is now the Forest Society's largest forest reservation north of the notches.

“We are grateful to the many donors and organizations throughout the state, region and country who came forward to make it possible for us to protect this land,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society.“We look forward to continuing the tradition of responsible forest management and public access provided by the Washburn family.”

In recognition of the stewardship of the land by the Washburn family for the last 60 years, the property will be officially named the Washburn Family Forest. The Forest Society purchased the property from siblings Malcolm Washburn, Dallas Chase and Bruce Washburn, who acquired the land from their parents

“We’re pleased to have worked with the Forest Society to make it possible to keep the land as it has been for more than half a century,” said Malcolm Washburn.
The fundraising campaign was kicked off in the fall of 2007 when the state-funded Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) granted $400,000 toward the project. In the end, nearly 800 donors contributed as well, including a keystone donation of $950,000 from an anonymous donor, one of the largest cash donations ever received by the Forest Society to protect a specific land parcel.

The Upper Connecticut River is well known among fly-fishing enthusiasts as one of New England’s premier cold water fisheries. The Forest Society partnered with Trout Unlimited (TU) to garner support among anglers. The organization made this project one of two national pilot projects in its new“Land Conservancy” program, which seeks opportunities for Trout Unlimited chapters to collaborate with land trusts to conserve lands that are important to the protection, improvement and restoration of high quality streams and rivers. Trout Unlimited donated more than $30,000 toward the project, led by $10,000 raised by the local Basil Woods Chapter.

The Forest Society’s acquisition of the land guarantees all anglers permanent access to the property’s scenic views, pools and riffles. Also among the individual donors were nearly 250 snowmobilers who donated in support of maintaining Trail 128, a key corridor that connects Pittsburg with West Stewartstown and Colebrook within the trail network of the Colebrook Ski-Bees Snowmobile Club. The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association, Pittsburg Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club, and Twin Mountain Snowmobile Club also made generous donations.

“The snowmobilers clearly recognize the importance of conserving land to keep trails open,” said Jack Savage, VP of Communications/Outreach at the Forest Society.“They really responded in force—from the local area and from around New England. The local clubs and the state organization were all incredibly supportive.”

Major Grants
Major grants were secured from the NH Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund ($500,000), National Fish& Wildlife Foundation ($500,000), NH Fish& Game Department ($250,000), and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund ($75,000).“The Connecticut River Forest project is highly aligned with the purposes of the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund,” said Kevin Peterson, senior program officer at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which stewards the Fund

“This project protects a very strong and diverse mix of pristine river frontage, outstanding wildlife habitat identified by the state Wildlife Action Plan, wetlands, and recreational opportunities. As a result, we awarded $500,000 to this project--the largest grant to date from the Fund.”

Another $500,000 came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through the Acres for America program, with funds provided by founding partner Wal-Mart. NFWF is a non-profit created by Congress to forge innovative public- and private-sector partnerships that bring technical expertise and financial resources to each project, develop pioneering solutions to conservation challenges, and work at the local level to address the root causes of habitat loss and species decline.

“These funds, provided by our partner Wal-Mart through the Acres for America program, help conserve nationally significant resources and protect rural lifestyles,” said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF’s executive director.“The Acres for America program helps us improve these communities and our country by protecting critical habitat for future generations,” said Matt Kistler, senior vice president of sustainability for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Other grants included $250,000 from NH Fish& Game, whose support for the project was funded by anglers and hunters whose license fees include a dedicated contribution to restricted habitat funds that can only be used for projects like this. The EqualLogic Fund, administered by The Boston Foundation, contributed $30,000. TransCanada Hydro Northeast donated $15,000, and another $10,000 grant came from the New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) Foundation, which is funded by Co-op members who agree to have their monthly electric bills rounded up to the next dollar.

The Washburn Family Forest is now one of the Forest Society’s five largest reservations statewide. It will continue to be managed as working forest under Forest Society ownership, and will remain open to the public for wade fishing, hunting, and hiking, and for snowmobiling, thus contributing to the forest products and tourism economy that is so important to New Hampshire’s North Country. Founded in 1901, the Forest Society owns and manages 160 forest reservations in New Hampshire totaling more than 45,000 acres. The Forest Society pays current use property taxes on its forest reservations.

A Place for Wildlife
The 2,121 acres of the Washburn Family Forest have been identified as a high conservation priority in the NH Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Action Plan and the Atlantic Northern Forest Bird Conservation Initiative/Atlantic Coast Joint Venture. The land is also very close to the 146,500-acre Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Forest, protected by a state held conservation easement.

The Connecticut River, small streams, wetlands, and forests provide the food and shelter needed by moose, deer, bear, fisher, mink, and otter, as well as many migratory waterfowl and boreal bird species to survive. Even the bald eagle and threatened Northern Harrier have a home here. The six miles of river frontage include sections that provide important nursery and rearing habitat for juvenile Atlantic salmon and spawning habitat for adult salmon. The land also supports several significant rare plants and natural communities. The Forest Society will work closely with NH Fish and Game to develop and implement a wildlife habitat management plan.

The pristine cold waters that flow from the four Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis into the Connecticut River support a vibrant coldwater fishery. According to the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, the upper Connecticut River watershed contains the highest percentage of high-quality wild brook trout habitat in the state. The Brook Trout, as well as rainbows, browns and landlocked salmon, draw anglers from far and wide to the Upper Connecticut River.

Designated an American Heritage River in 1998, the Connecticut River is the central feature in a pastoral landscape of farms, forest and mill towns that trace the storied history of New England. The Washburn Family Forest forms the view from Route 3, part of the federally designated Connecticut River Scenic Byway and sits directly opposite the extraordinarily scenic Amey Farm (conserved previously by the Land Conservation Investment Program) located near the confluence of the Indian Stream with the Connecticut River.

The Forest Society is planning a public field trip on the Washburn Family Forest in October. Check www.forestsociety.org for details.