Land Conservation Success at the Morse Preserve and Belknap Mountains in Alton

Kelly Whalen, Leah Hart | November 30, 2022
A birds eye view of Morse Preserve in fall.

A bird's-eye view of the expanded Morse Preserve in fall. (Photo: Ryan Smith)

Together with the generosity of two landowners, local partners and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests recently protected 482 acres of land in Alton, New Hampshire, adjacent to the Forest Society’s 457-acre Evelyn H. & Albert D. Morse, Sr. Preserve (Morse Preserve). The conservation of these two properties enlarges the Morse Preserve and creates a block of 1,250 acres of conserved land at the southern end of the Belknap Mountain Range.

The first parcel of land, donated by Dana Freese, expands the Morse Preserve by 222 acres to the south and along the ridge of Pine Mountain. The Forest Society will own and manage the land as part of the Morse Preserve and ensure the protection of its diverse topography and wildlife habitat, including a portion of a large beaver pond and great blue heron rookery, southwesterly facing cliff and rock ledges with talus slope below, and a black gum-red maple basin swamp.

“Prior to our family, the Jones family owned this land for over a century and locals still refer to the land as the Jeramiah and Sam Jones lot,” said Dana Freese, landowner. “We are happy to know it will be forever managed for its natural values and for the benefit of all.”

1.	Monica Green and Richard West at the Addison Cate Preserve conservation easement with their oldest child, Owen.
Monica Green and Richard West at the Addison Cate Preserve conservation easement with their oldest child, Owen. (Courtesy photo)

The second parcel, donated by the West-Green family, conserves 260 acres and is named the Addison Cate Preserve, after the family’s dear friend who gifted them this land upon his passing. For decades, Addison Cate dedicated himself to responsibly managing his family land in and around Alton. His efforts were recognized in 1985 when he received the New Hampshire Tree Farmer of the Year Award.

“Addison Cate was a good man, a great storyteller, and quite an adventurer, and my family formed a wonderful friendship with him,” says landowner Richard West. “His own family had deep roots in the Lakes Region and while he may be gone, his legacy persists in the land.”

While the West-Green family will continue to own and manage the land, the conservation easement ensures the protection of a special natural landscape and connectivity with other conservation lands, significant wildlife habitat, responsibly managed forests, and water quality both on the property and downstream. “Nothing gives me a greater sense of peace than having a place to retreat, connecting with the seasons, walking among the trees, and sharing this with others,” adds West.  

The Town of Alton Conservation Commission voted to expend funds from their Conservation Fund to support the protection of the conservation easement on the Addison Cate Preserve by covering most of the Forest Society’s transaction and the long-term stewardship costs.

“The Town of Alton and its Conservation Commission recognize the tremendous value that conserved land brings to the Town in recreation, benefits to wildlife, scenery, and especially to the protection of water quality,” comments Gene Young, Chair of the Conservation Commission. “The Conservation Commission was especially delighted to contribute to the protection of the Addison Cate Preserve conservation easement because it fits so well into our efforts to conserve land in the Belknap Range and protect water quality for Lake Winnipesaukee.”

More than 450 members of the surrounding communities and visitors contributed to raise the remaining costs needed to successfully protect these donations now and long into the future.

“We were able to connect the Forest Society with the West-Green family years ago, and are thrilled that this land is now protected,” says Russ Wilder, Chair of the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition (BRCC). “While BRCC does not own land and does not hold conservation easements on land, we do help member organizations conserve the significant natural resources and recreational opportunities in the Belknap Mountain Range. Protecting nearly 500 acres of land is something to celebrate,” concludes Wilder.

“Together with the West-Green family, Mr. Freese, Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, the Town of Alton Conservation Commission, and many generous donors we are excited to help expand the extensive patchwork of climate-resilient conservation land around the Belknap Mountains, including the Forest Society’s Morse Preserve,” states Jack Savage, president of the Forest Society. “We are immensely grateful that these landowners trust the Forest Society to protect and care for this land.”

The Evelyn H. & Albert D. Morse, Sr. Preserve in Alton, NH is “as close to heaven as one can get without actually being there,” according to Mary Jane Morse Greenwood, who donated a majority of the 457-acre property to the Forest Society in 2008 and the remaining land in 2016. She may have been partial, but on a clear day, a moderate hike to the top of Pine Mountain offers heavenly views as far as Mount Monadnock and Mount Washington. Open blueberry barrens at the summit provide excellent berry picking in season, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee with more views of the entire Belknap Range.