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Open Space Institute Lends Support for Expansion of Two New Hampshire Community Forests

COOS COUNTY, N.H. (July 31, 2020)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today the addition of key properties to community forests located in New Hampshire’s North Country.

The properties, a 2,020-acre addition to the Gorham Town Forest and a 679-acre addition to the Milan Community Forest, build on efforts the towns have undertaken to ensure citizens benefit directly from their forests. Conserved by The Conservation Fund, the additions to the community forests will provide economic resources for each municipality from sustainable timber harvesting, while also offering opportunities for new recreational access and protecting water quality and wildlife habitat.

The successful conservation of the properties also represents a funding milestone for OSI’s Community Forest. Since its creation in 2010, the Fund has also granted more than $2 million to support the creation and expansion of 25 community forests, conserving more than 40,000 acres across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“Over a decade of active grantmaking, OSI’s Community Forest Fund has left a priceless environmental inheritance that will continue to benefit the lives of future generations within their respective communities,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Community Forests are a timeless and innovative method of keeping the responsibility of caring for natural resources in the hands of those who cherish them the most.”

“The Open Space Institute congratulates Milan and Gorham for stepping forward to conserve lands so vital to their communities, for drinking water, wildlife, wood products, and way of life,” said Jennifer Melville, vice president for conservation grants at OSI, which granted a total of $130,000 toward the two projects through its Community Forest Fund. “Across New England, citizens are creating Community Forests as an invaluable public legacy, and we are gratified to have supported these exciting achievements.”

The grant to Milan also builds on a 2012 grant from OSI, given in support of outreach around the community forest concept, and an early grant to enable them to acquire the first community forest lands.

By giving towns control over their own land and water, community forests are a powerful force for strengthening rural communities.
By giving towns control over their own land and water, community forests are a powerful force for strengthening rural communities.
Photo Credit: The Conservation Fund

By giving towns control over their own land and water — and by building civic participation across town leaders, nonprofits, and citizens — community forests are a powerful force for strengthening rural communities and ensuring long-term forest conservation. In this land-use model of the 19th and 20th centuries, towns and community-based organizations own and manage forestland, and citizens directly benefit from its many natural values.

One of the oldest community forests in New Hampshire, the Gorham Town Forest was established in 1936 to ensure clean drinking water for 90 percent of its residents; the OSI-supported addition provides for trail access for hiking and biking to “Corridor 19,” a connection trail for summer and winter motorized use. Meanwhile, the Milan property protects a river crossing, provides a scenic gateway entering the town, and creates a connected recreational landscape near the town, including trails for skiing and hiking.

The only private grant source focused solely on nurturing and supporting community-driven forest conservation projects, OSI’s Community Forest Fund supported citizen-driven forest conservation to ensure clean drinking water, access to the outdoors, economic stability, and vibrant quality of life. Grants from the Community Forest Fund often provided the essential spark that kindled homegrown efforts to purchase and permanently protect forestland. In small towns with tight budgets and limited volunteer capacity, our help often catalyzed cooperation and action.

The foresight and commitment of Jane’s Trust and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, along with essential support from other donors, enabled the success of OSI’s Community Forest Fund. The Fund also expanded on OSI’s two decades of commitment to conserving the vast forests of Northern New England, building on the $12.5 million Northern Forest Protection Fund that supported the conservation of 1.5 million acres.

OSI's Community Forest Fund: A Catalytic Conservation Investment

This report gives a brief history of our Community Forest Fund and the community forest movement, as well as vignettes of our previous grantees and their accomplishments - with support from OSI.

Read the Report
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