OSI helps rural New Hampshire town preserve land, launch community forest

MILAN, NH — April 12, 2016 —A rural town in northeastern New Hampshire has just launched its own community forest, thanks to the Open Space Institute, the Trust for Public Land, and other conservation partners. The new purchase is a major victory in the town’s strategic and longstanding plan to help guide its own economic destiny.

The two parcels of land, totaling 265 acres, will provide local residents with timber harvesting revenue, offer places to hike, hunt and fish, and protect important wildlife habitat in New Hampshire’s heavily forested and economically-challenged North Country. The properties are the first components in creating a town-owned community forest that will eventually exceed 1,300 acres.

“The Milan Community Forest is an exciting and innovative way for local citizens to benefit from the land’s many values,” said Jennifer Melville, who oversees the Open Space Institute’s Community Forest Program. “By taking on planning, ownership and stewardship responsibilities, communities like Milan profit directly—economically, culturally, ecologically—from their forests. We congratulate the Town of Milan and look forward to watching generations to come benefit from this project.”

Residents launched the plan for the community forest after experiencing the decline of nearby paper mills in Berlin NH, and fragmentation and sale of forestland critical to local jobs and way of life.

“This has been a long time coming and we couldn’t be more excited,” said George Pozzuto, chair of the Milan Community Forest Committee. “The Milan Community Forest Committee has been working for four years to acquire land. Owning our own productive timberland and important recreation land will bring so many benefits to Milan.” In addition to forestry and recreation, the Milan Village School also intends to use the property as an outdoor classroom for its integrated environmental education programs.

The Milan Community Forest is managed by a volunteer committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen. The Trust for Public Land negotiated the land transaction and led fundraising, while the Northern Forest Center helped Milan organize the Community Forest Committee, create a governance structure, and develop a forest stewardship plan.

The $320,000 project cost came from several sources, including the Open Space Institute’s Community Forest Fund, the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest Program, the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and the Town of Milan.

The Open Space Institute—which established its Community Forest Fund with a lead grant from Jane’s Trust to support the creation and expansion of community forests in northern New England—pledged the first grant to the Milan Community Forest.

“I want to thank the Open Space Institute and LCHIP for their generosity and patience with this project,” said TPL’s Horn. "Small rural towns like Milan need outside funding from public and private sources to protect their special places. We hope that OSI and LCHIP will continue to invest in Community Forests throughout New Hampshire.”

An additional $240,000 in federal Community Forest funds are available for future acquisition phases. The Town of Milan secured this grant after a national competition ranked the Milan Community Forest as the #1 project in the nation.

The property includes productive timber stands and wetlands feeding Leavitt Stream, which flows into the Androscoggin River. The land will be protected by a conservation easement held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire assuring that the forestry will be done according to the highest standards.

“Milan can look forward to economic benefits from timber harvest revenue and a variety of community benefits from recreation, to hunting and fishing and the likely development of a trail system,” said Julie Renaud Evans, program director for the Northern Forest Center. “Sustained public access is very important to the quality of life in the North Country.”

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