CONCORD, NH — The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), partnering with the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire (SELT) and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFG), has been awarded $1 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program to help acquire and protect the 1,114-acre Harveys’ Kennard Hill Forest in Epping and Nottingham, N.H.
The Harvey family elders Dan and Louise and their eight adult children have agreed to sell a conservation easement on their property in the remote northwest corner of Epping and southern Nottingham, which will be held jointly by NH Fish and Game and SELT, with executory interests held by the two towns (Epping and Nottingham). The Harvey family has owned land in Epping for eight generations – since 1755. The conservation easement will eliminate threats to critical wildlife habitat, and reduce the threat of wetland and water contamination due to development.
“Protecting the water quality of Great Bay includes investing in conservation efforts such as this,” said Tom Burack, Commissioner of NHDES, “and we feel fortunate to be able to partner with SELT and Fish and Game to permanently protect the Harveys’ Kennard Hill Forest.”
The total cost of the project is estimated at $3,100,000. To purchase the conservation easement,the project partners propose to use a combination of funds from this National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (administered by NH Fish and Game in New Hampshire), the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the Town of Epping, the NH Conservation License Plate (Moose Plate) program, the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership, the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, the Open Space Institute, and other public and private sources.
“This was the key grant to allow this land to be conserved, providing tremendous wetland habitat diversity for waterfowl and other migratory birds,” said N.H. Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau. “It’s not often that we have the opportunity to conserve a parcel of land of this size and importance for wildlife in the southeastern part of the state.”
The completion of this project will result in a perpetual conservation easement over approximately 1,114 acres of wildlife habitat in a priority conservation focus area identified in several coastal land protection plans, most notably the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watershed. These habitats include approximately 137 acres of palustrine wetlands buffered by high-quality forested uplands and spectacular beaver-influenced ponds that support multiple rare species, a great blue heron rookery, and migratory birds. The protection of the Harveys’ Kennard Hill Forest will expand upon over 1,000 acres of adjoining conserved land, all of which is only one road crossing away from Pawtuckaway State Park (another block of over 5,000 acres of conserved land).
“This grant takes the vision of linking Pawtuckaway State Park to Great Bay one step closer, as the Harveys’ Kennard Hill Forest is a keystone property in that greenway,” said Brian Hart, Executive Director of the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire, an Exeter-based nonprofit land conservation organization. “An effort of this magnitude requires partnerships, and we appreciate the support of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in securing this award.”
“This award reinforces the overwhelming vote of Epping residents in March of 2015 to protect this beautiful land,” commented Todd Hathaway, an Epping resident and member of the Epping Conservation Commission. “We’re grateful to SELT for championing this project and for NHDES securing this grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Further, the project will also provide public educational and recreational opportunities to explore the coastal habitats on the Harveys’ Kennard Hill Forest by guaranteeing the land remains open to the public for pedestrian uses, hunting, and fishing. The easement will also provide SELT with the opportunity to construct trails, trail signage, parking areas, and informational kiosks to inform and direct people on the property while minimizing impacts on the resources.
“Coastal wetlands are among the richest and most important natural places on the planet,” said Wendi Weber, Northeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are habitats for fish and wildlife, but also play an important role for people – such as providing clean water and special places to get outside and enjoy nature. National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants are critical to our work with states and partners to protect and restore these important places.”
The expected benefits of the project include water quality benefits to the Great Bay estuary through the maintenance of wetland nutrient and sediment-filtering capacity by removing the threat of potential development and ensuring compatible forestry practices.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Harvey family will retain ownership of the land subject to the conservation easement co-held by the Southeast Land Trust and N.H. Fish and Game. The Harveys will continue to pay property taxes, and can continue sustainable forest management and farming. The land will not be further developed or subdivided.
The partners anticipate completing the project by the end of 2016.