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Open Space Institute helps to finance protection of Mirror Lake in New Hampshire

NEW YORK, NY - June 21, 2004 - The Open Space Institute, a land conservation organization based in New York City, announced today that its Conservation Finance Program had provided a $1.45 million, low-interest loan to the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation of Hanover, New Hampshire. 

OSI's land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, made the loan in order to assist in the acquisition of an 8.3-acre parcel that, combined with the acquisition by the Trust for Public Land of 11 contiguous acres, will protect Mirror Lake in the White Mountains from development and provide for research access to the lake. The loan announced today is part of a broader effort by the Open Space Institute to assist other conservation organizations through its Conservation Finance Program, which seeks to leverage private and public funding for the protection of threatened landscapes in the Northern Forest, New Jersey and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. 

The parcel was recently threatened with high-density development of time-share condominiums and single-family residences. Such development would jeopardize the ecological research record compiled for the past 40 years at Mirror Lake, which has been called the most studied lake on the planet. A 1968 study by Hubbard Brook scientists first documented the acidity of precipitation in North America. Later studies at Mirror Lake and the surrounding forest linked the phenomenon called “acid rain” to increasing levels of air pollution. 

In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and Congressional delegation, and with strong support of the local community, TPL will work to complete a boundary expansion of the White Mountain National Forest so that 9.3 acres can be sold to the U.S. Forest Service. HBRF will use existing cottages on its 8.3-acre parcel to provide facilities and housing for scientists and researchers participating in the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study. As part of the transaction, a private buyer purchased a single-family house on a 1.1-acre and will donate a conservation and research easement to HBRF. 

"The health and future of the White Mountain National Forest has always relied on the hard work and innovative ideas of local residents and community officials,” said Senator Judd Gregg, R-NH, who has been instrumental in helping to provide research funds for the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study. “That is why I am very pleased that the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation and Trust for Public Land have reached out to conserve Mirror Lake, one of New Hampshire's most scenic lakes. The acquisition of the Mirror Lake property ensures that the lake will not only be protected, but will serve as a site for important research on the health of forest ecosystems.” 

According to David Sleeper, Executive Director of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, “An extraordinary coalition of partners led by the Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute came together to make this vital transaction happen. This project has environmental ramifications far beyond simply protecting 19 acres at Mirror Lake. Scientists at the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study will use the land and housing at Mirror Lake to do research which will benefit ecosystem scientists and policymakers throughout the world.” 

In addition to OSI's loan, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation lent $225,000, the Tarleton Fund $100,000 and the Trust for Public Land $100,000. Three universities Cornell, Dartmouth and Syracuse helped to guarantee part of OSI's loan. 

“We are pleased to have helped with this important project,” said Kim Elliman, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Space Institute. “In addition to acquiring important lands in New York, OSI intends to help facilitate the efforts of other organizations elsewhere to protect critical landscapes.” 

Rodger Krussman, TPL's Project Manager said, “we are very excited that this milestone in the project to protect Mirror Lake forever has been achieved. We look forward to reaching the ultimate goal of making this valuable ecological area part of the National Forest.” 

The acquired parcel is adjacent to the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, a 7,600-acre tract that was set aside by the United States Forest Service in 1955 for long-term research of forest and aquatic ecosystems. With permission from the landowner, Hubbard Brook scientists have set up monitoring stations on the private land, which lies at the base of the Hubbard Brook Valley and along Mirror Lake. Proposed development would have restricted access and ended almost 40 years of ongoing scientific research that produced voluminous ecological data and helped to shape public policy on acid rain. 

OSI's loan was made through its new Conservation Finance Program, which seeks to provide low-cost financing for land transactions in selected regions of the eastern United States. To date, OSI has made 10 conservation loans totaling $12.5 million to nonprofit organizations in Northern New England and New Jersey that have helped to protect 460,000 acres. 

Founded in 1963, the Open Space Institute, Inc. is a nonprofit land conservation organization that works to permanently protect from development landscapes of significant environmental, historical and agricultural value. OSI has protected almost 100,000 acres of land through direct acquisition and easement in New York State. Through its Conservation Finance Program, OSI has provided grants and loans that have helped to protect almost a million acres of land in NY and northern New England, and will launch soon a loan program in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, including parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. 

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