Grant Helps Protect 3,000 Acres in the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge

ERROL, NH — June 29, 2011 — The Open Space Institute, with a grant from its Saving New England's Wildlife program, has helped The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Plum Creek Timber Company permanently protect a 2,920-acre North Country property and popular fishing destination as an addition to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.

The conservation purchase is the first phase of what the partners expect to be more than 31,000 acres of conserved land in the Androscoggin Headwaters that will sustain working timberlands, protect water quality and wildlife habitat, and expand public recreation lands. With the completion of this deal, OSI has now assisted in the preservation of more than 10,000 acres through Saving New England's Wildlife, which was established with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in 2009 to support habitat conservation projects as guided by state wildlife action plans.

"It is appropriate that OSI's Saving New England's Wildlife initiative would surpass a milestone like 10,000 acres by assisting its partners with such an important project," said Peter Howell, OSI's executive vice president. "We're hopeful that this first phase will create the momentum necessary to see the vision of 31,000 conserved acres of working timberland and wildlife habitat in the North Country through to a very successful end."

The land protected today has 4 undeveloped ponds, many Androscoggin River tributary streams, and 4.5 miles of road frontage along N.H. Route 16. The property contains nesting loons, osprey and a brook trout fishery. Conservation of this parcel creates a network of more than 80,000 acres of conservation lands in New Hampshire and Maine. Prior to this conservation agreement, Plum Creek's 31,000-acre property had been the largest unprotected property remaining in New Hampshire. TPL will continue to work with Plum Creek to conserve the land in phases.

"On its own, this property is an ecological treasure and offers wonderful public access to the woods and waters of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge," said Rodger Krussman, TPL's New Hampshire state director. "But we hope this is the first of many important conservation successes to protect tens of thousands of acres at the headwaters of the Androscoggin River, including the conservation of working forests and recreational access for fishing, hiking and snowmobiling."

In addition to the OSI grant, the project received $2.24 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and $1 million from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, a program dedicated to wetlands protection.

The 5-phase Androscoggin Headwaters conservation project aims to acquire more than 8,000 acres of the most sensitive habitat to be held as publicly owned conservation land by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and New Hampshire Fish and Game. The remaining 23,000 acres owned by Plum Creek will be protected with a conservation easement that ensures sustainable forestry and recreational access, but the land will stay privately owned and be managed as a commercial forest.

This balance between wildlife conservation, recreational access, and sustainable forestry will ensure a supply of raw materials and jobs for the local forest products economy as well as jobs in the recreation and tourism sectors. The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan calls for new pedestrian trails to be built and for an existing snowmobile trail to be maintained.

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