The efforts of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to conserve 1,750 acres around the Ashuelot River headwaters have received a boost. Five Lempster landowners have pledged to donate an additional 1,300 acres if the Forest Society is successful. The combined value of the donated 1,300 acres exceeds $1 million.
For more than a year, the Forest Society has been working to conserve the bald summit of Silver Mountain, a popular hiking and blueberry-picking destination with spectacular views, as well as 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 land along Long and Sand Ponds is especially vulnerable to development. Construction along the shoreline increases the risks to water quality from erosion and contamination. A vegetated buffer along the ponds and river helps stabilize the shoreline and filters potential contaminants from runoff, lawn fertilizer, and other sources.
The 1,750-acre project is located in Lempster just south of the conserved lands surrounding Mount Sunapee and adjacent Pillsbury State Park. The potential addition of another 1,300 acres would ensure the continuation of an uninterrupted greenway stretching south from Pillsbury State Park almost to the edge of the 11,000-acre Andorra Forest.
“The potential to conserve an additional 1,300 acres raises the stakes,” said Brian Hotz, Forest Society director of land protection. “Thanks to the generosity of these individuals, we stand to conserve more than 3,000 acres in the region. Now it’s more important than ever that we succeed in finding the support we need to complete this project.”
The state-funded Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) has contributed $500,000 toward the project, and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) granted $100,000. Private donations have made up the balance of funding received so far.
The Forest Society must raise $2.18 million to conserve this dramatic landscape by December 1, 2009. The organization has already raised $1.4 million, but still has another $750,000 to go.
For more information about the Ashuelot Rivers Headwaters project or to make a donation, visit http://www.forestsociety.org/ashuelot.