OSI and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation team up to protect high-priority habitat identified in NH Wildlife Action Plan

Concord, NH – November 18, 2009 – The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) today announced a grant made in New Hampshire by Saving New England's Wildlife, a multi-million dollar initiative that funds the protection of areas identified as high-priority wildlife habitat by Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in their State Wildlife Action Plans. This new initiative provides grants for the purchase of land and permanent conservation easements.

The $250,000 grant announced today will help fund the Forest Society’s Ashuelot River Headwaters project, which, when closed, will protect more than 3,000 acres of prime forest surrounding the source of the Ashuelot River north of Keene. The project includes extensive frontage on the River as well as on Long and Sand Ponds in Lempster. Virtually all of the land targeted for protection was identified by the NH Wildlife Action Plan as the “best of the best” habitat in the State of New Hampshire.

The Ashuelot River Headwaters project is among 15 that the Saving New England's Wildlife Initiative will support in the first grant round, with an expected total contribution of $2.4 million to protect over 10,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. The Ashuelot project is among the first projects of the 15 selected to close in the three-state region.

OSI capitalized this new initiative with a $6 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and a $1 million gift from a private charitable foundation. These grants will be matched 5 to 1 from public and private funding sources.

“Our efforts to protect New Hampshire’s forests—which support the diverse wildlife that we all cherish—are advanced significantly by this initiative,” said Jane Difley, president/forester at the Forest Society. “The support of OSI and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will help us leverage additional needed support for our Ashuelot River Headwaters Project.”

The state wildlife action plans were first conceived in 2000, when Congress mandated that each state develop a comprehensive strategy for conserving its wildlife. The states submitted their plans to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the fall of 2005, and all of the plans were approved by February of 2007. In order to establish a common conservation agenda that could achieve broad acceptance, the state wildlife agencies developed these plans in collaboration with scientists, sportsmen, conservation organizations and other interested members of the public. The plans consider a broad range of wildlife, looking at game and non-game species, and aim to help keep currently common species from becoming endangered.

“The Forest Society’s Ashuelot River Headwaters Project is an outstanding conservation initiative that will permanently protect more than 3,000 acres of high value fish and wildlife habitat, as identified in the NH Wildlife Action Plan,” said Charlie Bridges of NH Fish and Game Department. “In addition to many species of conservation concern, including common loons, spotted turtles, eastern brook trout and American bittern, the project includes many miles of undeveloped shoreline and riverbank, hundreds of acres of wetlands, and thousands of acres of forest. The connectivity these properties provide to extensive blocks of conserved lands to both the north and south allow wildlife movement across the landscape and will serve as corridors to sustain our wildlife populations as they adapt to shifting habitats from the forces of climate change.”

The Forest Society has until Dec. 1 to finish raising the $2.18 million to complete the acquisition and permanent protection of the Ashuelot River Headwaters Project. To date, the Society has raised approximately $1.6 million of this amount, including the$250,000 granted from through OSI with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Acquisition is expensive and must be targeted to achieve impact. The state wildlife action plans offer a blueprint by which states can focus their acquisition dollars," said Peter Howell, OSI's Executive Vice President. "Using the action plans, state funding programs, such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, offer an essential match to private funds such as those from Saving New England’s Wildlife. A strong commitment from these states to implementing their action plans is essential to attracting additional private and federal funding.”

“The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is proud to support this new initiative, which seeks to help these states realize the vision that they have put forward in their wildlife action plans,” said Dr. Mark Shaffer, director of the Environment Program at The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

In addition, the project has received $500,000 support from New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), and $220,000 from the federal Landowner Incentive Program (LIP), which is administered by the NH Fish & Game Department. Jane’s Trust, a regional trust which makes grants in Massachusetts, northern New England and Florida, granted $300,000 to the project earlier this year.

The identification of the Ashuelot River Headwaters as key habitat is just one example of how the Wildlife Action Plans are promoting partnerships around a common agenda, providing a to-do list and measuring tool for wildlife conservation efforts.

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