Jane Difley, president/forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, delivered the following address to members at the 111th Annual Meeting held at Stonewall Farm in Keene Sept. 15, 2012.
No Mountain Stands Alone
I am cheered this afternoon to be surrounded by so many good friends. Friends of the Forest Society, to be certain; friends of mine, and above all friends of conservation and New Hampshire’s landscape, mountains, rivers and forests.
I am also buoyed to be at the epicenter of so many conserved lands. Here at Stonewall Farm itself we hold conservation easements on the fields of this remarkable place. We also steward easements on the neighboring fields and forests of the Doyle family, as well as on the land surrounding Goose Pond owned and managed by the city of Keene. A little further out is the Andorra Forest, where we are honored to hold an easement on the largest family-owned conserved parcels in the state, some 12,000 acres. Some of you were on field trips to these conserved lands today.
I count as close friends our nearby Forest Reservations, lands we own and manage. Our Dickenson Forest is just south of here in Swanzey; the infamous Madame Sherri Forest is to the west in Chesterfield; to the north in Walpole is High Blue, where I had the pleasure of joining some of you for a field trip earlier today. To the northeast is our Taves Reservation; Silver Mountain and the Ashuelot River Forest, made up of lands once belonging to the Wright Family of silver polish fame here in Keene, is short drive away in Lempster.
Each of these places has its own story, and every story has a long cast of important players, each of whom played an important role in allowing the land to be a conserved Forest Reservation.
Today at High Blue we were joined by Steve Grega, who is here with us this evening. I first met Steve on the trail, and I immediately recognized him as a kindred spirit because of his dedication to his dog, Odin. Steve has for a number of years walked with Odin on a parcel of land that abuts High Blue. And in doing so he developed a strong affection for the place. So when the opportunity came to acquire that parcel and add it to High Blue, it was Steve who generously stepped forward and helped make it happen with the assistance of the local Conservation Commission.
It is good for the soul to be among friends and communities who not only recognize the benefits of forests, but also take action to permanently protect them.
Oh, and as if it were possible to forget, there’s another Forest Reservation of ours, that peak rising out of the East: Mount Monadnock—along with its own very good friend, Gap Mountain.
It was from Gap Mountain that I learned what the Forest Society is about when I was a student intern (a year or two ago). Assigned to do a management plan on Gap, I discovered that knowing the land wasn’t enough. People who lived adjacent to the mountain not only had a stake in what happened there, they loved the mountain, were donors, or hosted a trail across their land.
I got to know the Gregories, the Fisks, the Tylers, Ray McGrath, and many others that summer. Protection of Gap could not have happened without them. Gap Mountain was our focus, but the friends of Gap were critical partners. We ate lunch on the mountain, followed by handfuls of blueberries. We had lunch with the Fisks and learned about John Noble (Jane Fisk’s father), we visited the Tylers and heard tales about the hikers who walked through their front yard. They all had a piece of Gap’s story.
Gap has been favorite special place of mine ever since. And among its many good features is what I believe is the very best view of Mount Monadnock.
In the language of friendship, Monadnock and the Forest Society go way back. In fact it was exactly a century ago, in 1912, that a group including landscape painter Abbott Thayer approached the Forest Society about the possibility of acquiring ownership of 1,000 acres on Monadnock. The title to these ‘common’ lands were traced to 129 different heirs of the Masonian proprietors, and the Society’s Philip Ayres tracked them down as far away as Mexico City and England. He worked tirelessly to secure their willing approval to conserve them as the “Masonian Monadnock Reservation”, which was to be forever kept open to the public.”
Every generation since has done its part to build on that early conservation success. At various times, the towns of Dublin, Jaffrey, Tory and Marlborough have done their part. We have enjoyed a highly successful partnership with the state of New Hampshire through our lease of lands for Monadnock State Park. Park managers fall in love with the place, and stewardship of the Mountain sometimes becomes a lifelong pursuit. The Monadnock Garden Club has been instrumental in caring for the Mountain, and later tonight we will be recognizing them as 75 year members of the Forest Society. In more recent years, the Monadnock Conservancy has become an important partner, working to protect surrounding landscapes.
Monadnock has had an ardent supporter through the years in Yankee Publishing, and I know Jamie Trowbridge is here tonight. Jamie’s father Rob is a former chair of our board and Yankee has been a member of ours for 35 years. I think it’s true that just as the Forest Society has endeavored to foster and protect the values that make New Hampshire New Hampshire, Yankee has stewarded the values of New England and made them famous, and much admired nationwide.
Monadnock had a great friend in the late Jim Johnson. Jim was a legendary worker on the trails as a volunteer and seasonal park employee. I’m told that Jim was one of those people who, when he saw work to be done, simply grabbed his tools and started doing it.
As you probably know, “Monadnock” is an Abenaki word that has been translated as “the mountain that stands alone”. I would observe that based on the last hundred years or so, Monadnock in fact does no such thing. The Mountain stands among many, many friends.
Earlier this year, thanks to those friends, we added the 362-acre Stowell tract to our ownership on the Mountain. As part of that same campaign we were able to help two of Monadnock’s greatest allies, Charlie and Ann Royce realize the protection of a 55-acre in holding on its southeast flank.
And as so often happens, that project then led to a subsequent donated easement from the Hamlen family on 55 key acres along Route 124, as well as a soon-to-be completed easement on 85 acres on the eastern slope owned by the Sands family.
When I say that we completed these projects, or that the Forest Society conserved these lands, I really mean that we enabled their protection. Our organization, made up of 10,000 members, allowed those who care deeply enough about Monadnock to make these projects happen. Every view we keep unsullied, every stream we keep clean, every forest we keep undeveloped is matched a hundredfold by the number of people who help make it so. They are not only members, they are conservationists.
One of those tireless conservationists is Sue Doyle, who is also here tonight. Sue—and her late husband Peter-- have already done far more than their share to advance conservation in this part of the world, including conserving their own lands. But—as everyone in this room knows—we always give you a chance to help us with one more project, and Sue is always willing to jump in to help rally the friends of conservation behind a project.
Today the Forest Society owns more than 4,000 acres on Monadnock, part of a complex of more than 5,000 protected acres surrounding the Mountain.
Part of my purpose is to report to you, the members. You can find facts and figures to fare-thee-well in the annual report in your packets. But I will highlight a few accomplishments in numbers:
- · 30: In the last fiscal year we completed 30 land protection projects. This is not unusual.
- · 14,000: Through those projects, we protected nearly 14,000 acres, nearly three times our typical annual average.
- · 37: the number of miles of lake and river frontage involved in one 2300-acre easement on land surrounding First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg
- · One million: the number of board feet of sawtimber harvested on our reservations during the fiscal year.
- · 1700: the record number of donations received as part of our 5-week campaign to Save the Balsams Landscape, including gifts from 22 states and Canada.
And one more number:
1,100: the number of transmission towers that Hydro Quebec, Northeast Utilities and PSNH would like to erect across 180 miles of the Granite State, including through the White Mountain National Forest, our Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, our Washburn Family Forest in Pittsburg and other conservation lands.
To give you a sense of scale, if the same number of towers were to be built up the slopes of Mount Monadnock, there would a tower every three feet of elevation from bottom to top. You could wrap the entire Mountain like a Christmas tree. Spreading that damage across 180 miles from Pittsburg to Deerfield does not improve it in any way.
A century ago the leaders of the Forest Society made the following pledge:
The Society will strive earnestly to protect permanently the many points of special interest and scenic beauty in New Hampshire. It seeks to protect every prominent mountain in the state.
Thanks to the many friends of forest conservation, we have made great progress toward accomplishing that aspirational goal over the last 111 years. And we will continue to strive earnestly to reach our own New Hampshire Everlasting goal of protecting an additional one million acres by 2026.
But there are those interests who would diminish our gains to date, and our Trustees have made it clear that it is our generation’s duty to protect existing conserved lands from the threats of not only encroaching suburbanization from the south but from ill-considered and unnecessary powerlines invading from the north.
There may be special interests who do not share our values, but I can tell you that today we have more friends than ever across the state. I can promise you that we will join with those friends and our partners to fight for our scenic landscapes, our working forests, and the natural resources that support or treasured quality of life.
New Hampshire’s forests do not stand alone.