In the late 1800s, the rugged mountains and abundant lakes of northern New Hampshire—also known as New Hampshire’s “North Country,” or the “Grand North”—were a favorite escape of well-to-do urbanites, who flocked to stay at grand hotels, swim in mountain lakes and ride horses in the fresh air.
Apart from the recreation economy, for over a century local residents relied heavily upon the North Country’s thriving timber industry. Then in the 1990s, global market forces bore down on the pulp and paper mills, crippling the regional economy. The last straw came in 2006 when the sprawling paper mill in Berlin, New Hampshire—once the largest paper-making complex in the world—closed its doors for good.
Community forests for good
While forests remain the mainstay of this region, local residents are embracing a new form of community-based conservation. Working together, the residents of Milan, NH—with the help of the Open Space Institute, the Trust for Public Land and other conservation partners—launched Milan Community Forest in 2016, to stem the fragmentation and the sale of forestland critical to their way of life.
"Owning our own productive timberland and important recreation land will bring so many benefits to Milan,” said George Pozzuto, chair of the Milan Community Forest Committee.
This first phase of the community forest that will soon total over 1,000 acres provides local residents with timber harvesting revenue, offer places to hike, hunt and fish, and protect important wildlife habitat in the North Country.
A lasting impact
Aside from protecting livelihoods within the North Country, our work has a lasting impact on the region’s wildlife. The waters of the North Country—including the Connecticut and Androscoggin rivers—are an irreplaceable home for waterfowl and other migratory birds such as Blackburnian warbler and American black ducks.
Our partnerships in the North Country have:
- Preserved 171,000 acres at the headwaters of the Connecticut River
- Created two of the nation’s first modern community forests, in Randolph and Errol
- Expanded the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
- Created the more than 10,000-acre Vicki Bunnell Preserve, featuring 13 peaks over 3,000 feet