News

171,000-acre Connecticut lakes headwaters property permanently conserved

NEW YORK, NY - October 10, 2003 - Federal and state officials joined area residents and nonprofit organizations today at Lake Francis State Park to complete the final phase of the landmark Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Project, marking the permanent conservation of approximately 171,000 acres in Pittsburg, Clarksville, and Stewartstown. 

The largest contiguous block of New Hampshire land in private ownership, this property comprises roughly 3 percent of the state. It is the backbone of the local economy, providing both timber-related jobs and a popular tourist destination for snowmobiling, fishing, canoeing, hunting, hiking, and bird watching. It also surrounds three of the Connecticut River's four headwater lakes and provides habitat for at least 20 rare species, including loons, osprey, bald eagles, and pine martens. 

The State of New Hampshire, through the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), completed the final phase of the project today with the purchase of a conservation easement over 146,000 acres. The easement prohibits development, guarantees public access, and ensures sustainable forestry. DRED also purchased 100 acres at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, seven acres around the Magalloway fire tower in Pittsburg, and all of the property's major roads. At the same time, Lyme Timber Company, a New Hampshire-based timber investment company, purchased the 146,000-acre portion of the property, subject to the terms of the conservation easement. They will operate the land as a working forest, harvesting timber in accordance with the easement's stipulations for sustainable forest management. 

The land was purchased from the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, which agreed to buy the property from International Paper in 2001, providing time for the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Partnership Task Force to hold public hearings and develop a vision for the land's future. The Task Force, which was convened jointly by U.S. Senator Judd Gregg and then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, was comprised of local residents, North Country leaders, state and federal officials, and nonprofit organizations. 

At the same time, TPL worked with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire, and a coalition of supporters to raise approximately $42 million for the project. Funding was provided by the US Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, State of New Hampshire, Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, Open Space Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation, Overhills Foundation, Dorothy and Jonathan Rintels Charitable Foundation, First Colebrook Bank, and hundreds of contributions from individuals, businesses, and foundations. 

The fundraising coalition is hoping to raise another $500,000 this winter to fully fund three endowments, totaling $4.5 dollars, that will help cover the state's monitoring and management costs. 

In addition, critical loans from Lyme Timber, the Open Space Conservancy, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, and Wainwright Bank and Trust Company, made TPL's temporary purchase of the property possible. 

The key players in this collaborative project were: 

  • U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, who co-chaired the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Partnership Task Force and led the New Hampshire congressional delegation's efforts to secure $11.494 million in federal funding, through his position on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. 
  • Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who co-chaired the Task Force and signed the bill allocating $10 million in state bond funding for the project. 
  • U.S. Sen. John Sununu and U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, who both participated on the Task Force and actively worked with Sen. Gregg to secure federal funding for the project. 
  • U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, who was an original co-sponsor of the Land & Community Heritage Investment Program during his time in Concord and supported state funding for the project. 
  • U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, which provided $11.494 million in funding for the project, through congressional appropriations. 
  • New Hampshire's General Court, which, under the leadership of House Speaker Gene Chandler and former Senate President Arthur Klemm and with the full support of the House and Senate minority leaders, passed a $10 million bond in May 2002. 
  • New Hampshire's Department of Resources and Economic Development, which took title to the 146,000-conservation easement, as well as the Deer Mountain Campground, Magalloway Tower, and major roads. 
  • New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department, which took title to the 25,000-acre natural areas. 
  • Lyme Timber Company, which purchased 146,000 acres of working forest. 
  • The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which awarded a $2 million grant. 
  • The Open Space Conservancy, which made an early contribution to the Connecticut Headwaters project, a $2.5 million loan of which up to $1.5 million can be forgiven as a grant. 
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provided funding through its North American Wetlands Conservation program and through a state wildlife grant. 
  • The Trust for Public Land, which purchased the former International Paper lands temporarily and facilitated the Task Force meetings. 
  • The Forest Society, which helped to structure the project and secure funding. 
  • The Nature Conservancy, which helped raise funds and holds an easement on the natural areas. 
  • The members of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Partnership Task Force, who dedicated their time, expertise and passion to this project. 
  • The Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Leadership Committee, which raised funds for the project. 
  • The many New Hampshire citizens and organizations that attended hearings and meetings during the late summer and fall of 2001. 

The first phase of the project was completed last December, when the State of New Hampshire, through the Fish and Game Department, purchased 25,000 acres in Pittsburg and Clarksville for management as natural areas. The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement over this land, working closely with Fish and Game to ensure sound management. 

Federal Officials:

“Together, we have seized a once-in-a-generation opportunity to preserve the multi-use tradition of the North Country. Accounting for over 3% of New Hampshire, the Connecticut headwaters property is a strategic economic, recreational, and natural asset for the entire state. As co-chair of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Partnership Task Force, I am extremely pleased to see the task force's vision for the permanent conservation of this unique forest resource come to fruition,” said U.S. Senator Gregg, who led the effort to secure federal funding for the project through his position as a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. 

“The Connecticut Lakes Headwaters land now becomes part of New Hampshire's great tradition of preserving significant tracts of land under multiple use a stewardship approach that is important to our state's natural resources. Thanks to the dedicated partnership of federal, state, and local officials and many others in the public and private sector, 171,000 acres of land in northern New Hampshire is preserved for residents and visitors alike. Moreover, responsible timber management on forest lands will allow this industry to continue to play a role in the local and regional economy,” said U.S. Senator John Sununu. “I commend Senator Judd Gregg for taking the lead to ensure federal funds were available for the purchase of conservation easements on this land and I was proud to push for approval of these monies while serving in the House of Representatives.” 

“This project serves as a shining example of what can be accomplished when several competing interests are willing to come together and negotiate in good faith to reach a common goal,” said 2nd District Congressman Charles Bass. “I am proud to be associated in a small way with the planning and funding of the project. The general public will reap the rewards of this cooperative effort for generations to come.” 

“Today marks an important day in preserving and protecting not only our environment, but a way of life in northern New Hampshire,” said Congressman Jeb Bradley. “This project is an outstanding example of how we in the Granite State rise to the occasion to meet the challenges of balancing recreation, economic vitality, and natural resources.” 

“The Bush Administration is committed to enhancing the nation's forests that contribute to clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife and provides recreational areas for all Americans,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary James Moseley. “The completion of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Project means the conservation of 171,000 acres of land. This is clearly an example of a successful public and private conservation partnership.” 

New Hampshire Officials and Agencies:

“We are celebrating another great example of public and private cooperative efforts. The conservation of the Connecticut Headwaters will preserve our wildlife, forests, and lakes for generations to come,” said Governor Craig Benson. “Our natural resources are crucial to New Hampshire's identity, heritage, and economy. This was the largest conservation project in New Hampshire's history, and the cooperation involved was tremendous.” 

NH House Speaker Gene Chandler said, “Without question this cooperative venture represents the single most significant public/private land acquisition in our state's history. There was one window of opportunity to get it right, and through the cooperation of many public and private entities, we got it right. Most significantly, we listened to the local communities and crafted the complicated purchase and easements based on the historical uses of the property and guaranteed those public uses in perpetuity.” 

“We are very excited about the ongoing partnership between the state, the landowner and the community that is created by the project and look forward to managing the conservation easement on this property to continue the traditions of recreational access, timber harvesting, and the protection of important natural and cultural resources,” said George Bald, Commissioner, NH Department of Resources and Economic Development. 

“When land purchases are made and easements are conveyed, who speaks for wildlife? In this case, the Partnership served as the voice not only for the people in New Hampshire, but for the wildlife as well,” said Lee Perry, executive director for New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “The moose, the deer, the pine marten, the brook trout and black bear are important to us all. These lands will provide a home for them, and a place for all of us to enjoy them in a natural setting.” 

“LCHIP is proud to be a partner in this unique project that carries on a legacy of critical land conservation in New Hampshire,” said Rachel Rouillard, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). “The land is special not only for its natural resources, but also for its cultural heritage. Conserving the resources within the 171,000 acres for the people of this state is a conservation and preservation milestone that honors our history and invests in New Hampshire's future.” 

Landowner: 

Peter Stein, a principal of The Lyme Timber Company, said, “This project combines private capital and public funding to create conservation benefits and business opportunities that are quite different from those on public land ownership or private land ownership. It's a real model of conservation today where both economic and environmental sustainability are the hoped for outcomes. This project represents a great use of private investment capital with public resources to deliver conservation at an unprecedented scale for the State of New Hampshire. We are pleased to be a partner with the State of New Hampshire, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and the citizens of Pittsburg, West Stewartstown and Clarksville.” 

Nonprofit Organizations: 

“Today is a banner day for land conservation in New Hampshire,” said Whitney Hatch, New England director of the Trust for Public Land. “The Trust for Public Land is grateful to International Paper for providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we are honored to have played a role in protecting their land. This effort would not have been possible without the leadership of Senator Gregg and the entire congressional delegation, both the Benson and Shaheen administrations, House Speaker Gene Chandler and other members of the Legislature, Lyme Timber Company, and an unprecedented coalition of New Hampshire citizens, officials, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, businesses, and other private supporters. Together, we will leave an inspiring legacy for future generations.” 

“This is a tremendously satisfying day,” said David Houghton, president of the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. “I want to thank everybody in the North Country who dedicated their time to this outstanding effort. In addition, I am incredibly grateful to Senator Gregg and the congressional delegation, as well as House Speaker Gene Chandler, Governor Benson and former Governor Shaheen, the New Hampshire General Court, and the many partner organizations who worked so hard and so well together to make this project possible.” Mr. Houghton was until recently the field office director for the Trust for Public Land. 

Jane Difley, president/forester of the Society for the Protection of NH Forests said, “Over the past two years, the Connecticut Headwaters project has demonstrated the remarkable things that can happen when conservation organizations join together with partners at the local, state and federal levels to protect the open spaces that define the character of our state and our quality of life. The result is the state's most extraordinary conservation accomplishment in more than 90 years. We trust its legacy will symbolize the cooperation that will continue to shape our state's conservation efforts for generations to come.” 

“This transaction represents an innovative step forward in efforts to protect the North Woods,” said Harold Janeway, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Northern Forest Protection Fund, a project of the Open Space Conservancy. “By integrating management across the reserve and working forests, Connecticut Headwaters has the potential to become a model for balancing ecological and economic interests on large and diverse landscapes in the Northern Forest.” The Open Space Conservancy made an early contribution to the Connecticut Headwaters project, a $3 million loan of which up to $1.5 million can be forgiven as a grant. Its support ensured the development of a long-range, integrated forest management plan that will enhance the long-term health of the forest. 

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