Forest Society Closes Balsams Transaction

January 16, 2012

Concord, NH Jan. 17—The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests completed a transaction today with the Tillotson Corporation  today that conserves much of the land surrounding the historic BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, NH. The Forest Society acquired conservation restrictions that will forever protect the working forest, habitat, scenic views, and 30 miles of recreational trails that the public and BALSAMS guests have enjoyed for decades.

“We have long sought to protect this special place in New Hampshire,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. “We are grateful to the more than 1,500 donors who stepped forward to collectively contribute the $850,000 we needed to make this happen. We are equally pleased that the board of the Tillotson Corporation gave us the opportunity to conserve this land.

“We have already developed a strong working relationship with the hotel’s new owners, who own the now-protected land,” Difley said. “Like everyone else, we want to see them succeed in renovating and re-opening the hotel.”

As part of the transaction, the Forest Society also acquired a deeded transmission line right-of-way coveted by the controversial Northern Pass proposal. By acquiring both the conservation restrictions and the powerline ROW, the Forest Society effectively removed the threat that Northern Pass would be able to cross the 5,800 conserved acres without eminent domain.

“While we began this project because of the extraordinary natural attributes of the land, in the end I think this campaign also became a referendum on Northern Pass,” Difley said. “We received donations from far and wide and in many cases those donors told us that they were driven by a desire to stop the Northern Pass proposal.”

The more than 1,500 donations ranged from $1 to $150,000. Donations came from all over New Hampshire, but appreciation of the Balsams landscape was evident nationwide as gifts were received from 22 states including Hawaii, Arizona, California and other far-flung locales, as well as from Quebec, Canada.

A purchase-and-sale agreement signed in December gave the Forest Society until Jan. 15 to raise the $850,000 necessary to close the transaction. The conservation restrictions will prohibit further subdivision and commercial development while allowing sustainable forestry and recreational access.

The land that is now protected surrounds the site of the hotel. The land immediately adjacent to the hotel, the golf course and the Wilderness ski area are not part of the conserved area. The conserved land will include the popular outlook known as Table Rock that offers a spectacular vista across Coos County to Maine, Vermont and Canada. The 30 miles of recreational trails include hiking and snowmobiling trails as well as a section of the Cohos Trail that runs from Crawford Notch in the White Mountains to the Canadian border in Pittsburg.

Other conservation values include wildlife habitat for rare species such as American Marten and Bicknell’s Thrush, extensive water resources such as Mud Pond, healthy, well managed stands of sugar maple and areas of likely old growth forest.

 The Forest Society is a private, non-profit land trust and forestry organization established in 1901. It currently holds more than 750 conservation easements statewide permanently protecting more than 100,000 acres of New Hampshire’s landscapes. The Forest Society also owns 171 forest reservations constituting more than 50,000 acres in 95 New Hampshire communities.