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Places for People to Roam

The Harvey family has long welcomed neighbors like Todd Hathaway to enjoy the rugged New Hampshire forest they have owned since 1755. “It’s a cool place to ride a horse or bike or ski,” said Hathaway. “You can go to the highest point in our town, hit really low spots with wetlands and beaver dams, and everything in between. There are huge boulders and really neat ridges to ride along. You always run into some surprise in terms of  wildlife.”

After the Open Space Institute helped the Southeast Land Trust (SELT) of New Hampshire to conserve the forest last year, Hathaway and the Harveys discovered that the very elevations, landforms, and habitats that make the forest so much fun to explore are  also hallmarks of what ecologists call “climate resilience characteristics” – land features that allow plant and animal species to adapt locally to changes in temperature and weather patterns. 

Now, thanks in part to OSI’s leadership in applying the science of climate resilience to on-the-ground conservation, the 1,114-acre Harvey Forest in Epping and Nottingham counties is part of a swath of conserved lands in the highly resilient, fast-developing coastal region of New Hampshire. A conservation easement purchased with a grant from OSI preserves woods, wetlands, and wildlife diversity, and guarantees that the land will remain open to the public for generations to come.

Harvey Forest is one of eight climate-resilient properties totaling almost 12,000 acres that OSI helped safeguard through grants and loans in 2016, including five projects in Tennessee, one in Pennsylvania, and another in New Hampshire, with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. OSI is also helping land trusts incorporate climate science into their work through conservation planning grants and a recently published guide, Conserving  Nature in a Changing Climate: A Three-Part Guide for Land Trusts in the Northeast.

The Harvey land was conserved after Dan and Louise Harvey – who are in their nineties and will leave the forest to their eight children – approached SELT about selling a conservation easement on the property. OSI was one of the first funders on board. The Harvey’s neighborhood is experiencing a lot of development pressure, and Harvey Forest could have been subdivided into 285 lots, according to SELT’s land conservation director Duane Hyde. 

Dan and Louise Harvey wanted to preserve their lands for future generations
Dan and Louise Harvey wanted to preserve their lands for future generations
Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

“OSI’s support in the early stages really gave us the confidence we were going to succeed,” he said. In addition to a capital grant from its Northeast Resilient Landscape Fund, OSI’s resilience work helped SELT articulate the value of the project to New Hampshire’s Land  & Community Heritage Investment Program, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and New Hampshire Fish and Game, which will hold the easement jointly with SELT. 

A rare snail trail 

Meanwhile, OSI is also playing a critical role in building a climate stronghold on Tennessee’s still-wild Southern Cumberland Plateau, where it has given five grants to conserve over 10,000  acres. OSI’s support for the purchase of Tennessee’s 4,062-acre Sherwood Forest protected a large tract with all the hallmarks of resiliency.

Adjacent to 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat, Sherwood Forest holds limestone escarpments descending into canyons and valleys from a sandstone plateau. The property embraces more than a third of all the known habitat in the US for the painted snake-coiled forest snail, a  federally-listed threatened species. OSI  provided the crucial matching  grants for federal funding from the Forest Legacy and Recovery Land Acquisition programs that authorized the Conservation Fund; assistance also came from the Land Trust for Tennessee to  buy the land and transfer it to the state. OSI provided grants from both its Southeast Resilient Landscape and Southern Cumberland Land Protection funds. “Because it ties in with so much other protected land, it creates a corridor that will never be developed,” said park ranger Jason Reynolds. Reynolds works for South Cumberland State Park, which will manage part of the site. “All the critters can have plenty of range to survive and thrive here.”

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