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A new approach to conservation in New Hampshire

CONCORD, NH – October 17, 2013 – With less than two months until the purchase deadline, the Open Space Institute has awarded a $187,000 grant to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, leaving the Society and its partner, the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, about $1 million to raise for their “Everybody Hikes Mt. Major” campaign, an effort to protect 950 acres in the Belknap Mountains.

The grant is part of OSI’s $6 million "Resilient Landscapes Initiative,” which is funded with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The initiative helps land trusts and public agencies from Maine to West Virginia target their conservation efforts toward the places most likely to be resilient to a changing climate. Based on a body of research conducted over more than a decade by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), OSI has identified four regions that are “best bets” in an uncertain time.

The Belknap Range, located southwest of Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton, Gilford, Gilmanton and Belmont, with its wealth of unfragmented forests and wetlands, is within one of these high priority areas—the New Hampshire and Maine forests.

“This grant really highlights what we know and love about Mt. Major and the Belknap Range,” said Jane Difley, Forest Society president/forester. “This is one of New Hampshire’s very special places, not only valuable to people for hiking, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and skiing, but also valuable as habitat to a broad range of animals and plants.”

“We hope OSI’s identification of the Belknaps as ecologically important from a climate change perspective will encourage others to come forward and support our efforts to permanently protect 950 acres of it in the Everybody Hikes Mt. Major campaign,” said Don Berry, LRCT president.

OSI’s Executive Vice President for Conservation Capital and Research Peter Howell said, “Although scientists cannot predict precisely how and when the climate will change nor just how species will respond to those changes, TNC’s research suggest that it’s critical to conserve the most resilient places—lands with varied topography, abundant wetlands and ones that are unfragmented by development and roads. These resilient places allow wildlife to move and ecological processes to continue.”

OSI’s analysis shows that the Belknap Mountains contains several key characteristics that will likely support a broad diversity of life, even as the climate warms. The Belknaps contain many different land forms—from rocky slopes and steep ravines to vernal pools and wetlands—that afford plants and animals many options. With more habitats available, the chances are greater that wildlife will be able to find refuge from temperature extremes. At over 30,000 acres, the Belknaps are also large enough for animals such as bear, bobcat, snowshoe hare and moose to access this diversity of habitats.

Including the OSI grant, The Forest Society and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust have raised $762,000 of the $1.8 million needed by Dec. 1 to buy the four properties in the Everybody Hikes Mt. Major campaign.

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