Concord — February 22, 2007 — The Ossipee Pine Barrens, a globally rare habitat for uncommon birds and insects that overlays a critically important aquifer, has moved one step closer to protection.
New Hampshire’s conservation community today applauded the inclusion of $2.38 million for the Ossipee Pine Barrens conservation project in President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget for the Forest Legacy Program. The Forest Legacy grant would enable the state of New Hampshire, working in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, to acquire conservation easements on 2,264 acres, including several of the largest and most important remaining tracts in the Ossipee Pine Barrens landscape.
Developed and led by The Nature Conservancy, the Ossipee Pine Barrens project ranked second among more than 80 projects submitted nationally, and is one of only 14 Forest Legacy projects nationally that made it into the president’s budget.
“We are very encouraged to learn that our Forest Legacy application has made it into the president’s proposed budget, and with such a high national ranking,” said Daryl Burtnett, state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. “Conserving the Ossipee Pine Barrens is a great fit for the Forest Legacy Program and it’s a project that’s widely supported by the state and local communities.”
“We want to thank Phil Bryce, the N.H. state forester, for his support for this project and his leadership of New Hampshire’s Forest Legacy Program,” Burtnett said.
“Also deserving recognition are N.H. Senators Judd Gregg and John Sununu for being longstanding supporters of the Forest Legacy Program. They understand its value for conservation here in New Hampshire and throughout the country. We look forward to working with New Hampshire’s new delegation members, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Congressman Paul Hodes.
Securing this funding will clearly require the effort of our entire delegation.”
Bryce, who is state forester and director of the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, said the Conservancy “presented a compelling case for the urgency of protecting this forest, really the last of its kind in New Hampshire. This project also ensures public access for hiking and hunting, safeguards water resources, and aids the local economy as the Conservancy restores and manages this forest.”
The Forest Legacy Program is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, state governments and private landowners that identifies and protects ecologically important forestland that is threatened by development or conversion. The program acquires land or conservation easements from willing sellers to protect working forests, wildlife habitat, water resources, recreational opportunities, and historic values. The Ossipee Pine Barrens is a globally rare forest of pitch pine and scrub oak that harbors 26 species of rare plants, declining songbirds (such as whip-poor-will, Eastern towhee , brown thrasher, nighthawk) and imperiled moth species.
As a result of many years of landowner negotiation, The Nature Conservancy has secured a one-time opportunity to purchase several key tracts in this forest landscape, four properties totaling 615 acres. These parcels would be purchased from willing sellers at market value. Subsequently, the Conservancy will convey a conservation easement to the state of New Hampshire that permanently protects the land and its many public values.
Additionally, The Nature Conservancy and a generous donor from Madison have agreed to donate to the state of New Hampshire conservation easements totaling 1,649 acres as a match for the project.
In addition to the Forest Legacy funds, the Conservancy has a private fundraising goal of $1.5 million, towards which it has already raised over $1 million. “With the thoughtful dedication from so many individuals and foundations, we have great momentum toward reaching our fundraising goal to protect this amazing and special place,” Burtnett said.
“With strong prospects for this public funding and the generous donations already in hand, we are growing more optimistic about achieving our goals each day. But every gift, no matter what the size, is extremely important and appreciated. We’re in the home stretch, but we need everyone who can support us to do so, now more than ever.”
“This project has earned tremendous local support, ” said Ted Kramer, a Madison resident who has been supporting the Conservancy’s efforts and is an officer of the Silver Lake Association of Madison. “It is very rewarding to see it move forward at the federal level. As an organization that invests time, money and energy into protecting the quality of Silver Lake, it is very exciting to see that effort expanded by preserving the integrity of the Ossipee Pine Barrens and the Silver Lake watershed.”
The Ossipee Pine Barrens area is highly vulnerable to residential and commercial development. The Conservancy has been working in this area for more than 20 years and responded quickly in the summer of 2005 when some of the target tracts were listed for sale. The Ossipee Pine Barrens is recognized as a top priority “conservation focus area” and “highest quality habitat” in the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s recently completed Wildlife Action Plan, and is formally designated by New Hampshire Audubon as one of the state’s Important Bird Areas.
If successful, the Ossipee Pine Barrens project would result in more than 5,800 acres in the local area of contiguous conservation land, representing an extension of significant research, conservation planning, and land protection work undertaken by The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Legacy Program, local communities, Trust for Public Land, and other partners.