More Blueberry Fields Forever

Eaton — January 15, 2010 — Will Rogers is credited with saying,“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.” Those who have hiked to the summit of Foss Mountain in Eaton and witnessed the stunning 360 degree views would surely claim that while they ain’t making any more, they certainly did not make many lands this magnificent.

The town of Eaton owns more than 2,000 acres of forest lands including 62 acres at the summit of Foss Mountain, where it maintains a public hiking trail, productive blueberry fields and working forest. When the opportunity arose in 2008 to purchase an abutting 99 acres of ridgeline and forestland on Foss Mountain, a partnership was forged. The conservation commission and board of selectmen approached the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust to ask for assistance in purchasing the property and to preserve it in perpetuity.

The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust is a local not for profi t organization working to preserve the land and waters that define our communities and enrich our lives. The trust recently signed a purchase and sales agreement to acquire the property in early 2010. A capital campaign has been initiated to raise the $337,400 needed to purchase the land and to cover all associated expenses.

The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust will purchase the land, permanently protect its conservation values with a conservation easement and transfer ownership of the property to the town of Eaton.

In announcing the Foss Mountain Project, Tom Earle, president of the trust said, “Foss Mountain is one of our great gifts in this community. It has been cherished for generations. Even though it is a major undertaking for us, it is one that defines our mission “to preserve the ecological systems and cultural values of the Upper Saco River Valley … (and) provide for the continued availability of land benefiting natural and human communities.”

We are grateful for our partnership with the Eaton Conservation Commission and the town select board, as well as so many in the community, in preserving this land for today, and for the generations to follow.”

The Foss Mountain property is located in the middle of a large area that is undivided by paved roads and maintaining it as open land is important to the town of Eaton. The property is mapped in the N.H. State Wildlife Action Plan as signifi cant mid-elevation rock outcrop and ledge habitat.

Important natural resources on the property include prime lowbush (wild) blueberries that have been mowed and burned for more than 50 years. The town organically manages blueberries on its abutting land directly downhill from the property’s blueberry acreage. Visitors to Foss Mountain enjoy walking the length of the ridge with its excellent views. The remainder of the property is forested and will be included in the town of Eaton’s forestry plan, which is designed to increase biodiversity as well as improve forest resources.

The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and town of Eaton share common goals for the outcomes of this project including: to preserve the scenic value of the prominent ridgeline property, to protect the long term ability to produce forest products, to protect the productive blueberry fields, to preserve special wildlife habitat in an unfragmented forest and ridgeline system, to provide for and enhance public recreation, and to help the town of Eaton preserve its most valued natural resources.

The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust has preserved over 4,000 acres, predominantly through the donation of conservation easements on 29 privately owned lands all of which are displayed at its website www.usvlt.org. This purchase is the largest fundraising campaign it has undertaking in its eight year history and support will be needed from its members, area citizens, the town of Eaton, and private foundations.

The land trust has N.H. Land and Community Heritage Investment Program to help fund this project. Donors familiar with the project have all ready made a $30,000 contribution towards it. A formal capital campaign will be launched in early January, but residents and visitors alike are encouraged to contact the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust and provide support at this time. The Upper Saco Valley Land Trust can be reached at (603) 356-9683 or info@usvlt.org.

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