Hike Silver Mountain. Explore the Ashuelot River Headwaters.

    Lempster, NH - Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman, EcoPhotography, courtesy of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests

Explore Silver Mountain in Lempster and learn about the region's ecology, water resources and wildlife. Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman, EcoPhotography, courtesy of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests

If you haven’t heard about the Ashuelot River Headwaters Project, here’s your opportunity to learn all about it…while exploring the mountains and ponds of Lempster. On Saturday, September 26, Dave Anderson, Brian Hotz and Chris Wells, all from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, will guide visitors on hikes of the area.

Two one-mile hikes to the summit of Silver Mountain will be offered at 10 am and again at 2 pm. Naturalist Dave Anderson, director of education for the Forest Society, will share information about the wildlife habitat and forest ecology of Silver Mountain. The area provides critical habitat for bears, bobcats, moose, fox, coyote, mink, trout, and other creatures.

A two-mile walk around the shorelines of Long Pond and Sand Pond will depart at noon. Old woods roads access the shore of Long Pond where a remote trail leads to the hidden ‘bear cave’ rock formation located near the shore of Sand Pond.

The Forest Society is working to conserve the 1,750 acres that encompass both the mountain and the ponds. The bald summit of Silver Mountain is a popular area for hiking and blueberry-picking and offers spectacular views to the south and west. In addition to the two miles of shoreline around Long Pond and Sand Pond, the Ashuelot River Headwaters Project also includes more than 11,000 feet of frontage along the Ashuelot River, which supplies drinking water to the residents of Keene and others.

The conservation effort is part of a bigger picture: the bi-state Quabbin-to-Cardigan Conservation Plan, the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan, and the regional Ashuelot River Land Conservation Plan.

The Forest Society must raise $2.18 million to conserve this dramatic landscape by December 1, 2009. According to the conservation group’s website, $1.18 million toward the project’s completion is coming from grants, the state-funded Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, NH Fish & Game LIP program, and a total of $500,000 from two private foundations. Active fund-raising is underway.

“Our goal is to establish a permanent Forest Society Reservation,” said Brian Hotz, Forest Society director of land protection.  “If we’re successful, the land will remain open to the public for the hiking, blueberry picking, hunting, fishing, and the other activities that people have enjoyed on the mountain for generations.”

Space on the hikes is limited, and preregistration is required. For more information or to register, call 224-9945 ext. 313 or email signup@forestsociety.org.

For more information about the Ashuelot Rivers Headwaters project, visit www.forestsociety.org/ashuelot. And here’s a link to  photos of the area.

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