Forest Society Closes on Key Parcels to Block Northern Pass Route

Conservation Easements Represent Three More Nails in the Northern Pass Coffin

February 12, 2013


 Trees Not Towers Campaign Surges as Hundreds of Donations Pour In

Concord, NH February 13, 2013--The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests closed today on conservation easements on more than 1,000 acres of land in Stewartstown, NH. The three parcels serve to block the obvious intended route of Northern Pass, and thus disrupt the project’s ability to move forward with that route. The conservation easements are perpetual, remaining with the land regardless of who may own it at any time in the future.

“Without eminent domain, Northern Pass cannot complete this route,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. “We salute all the landowners who are taking a stand against this unnecessary scenic blight. We are continuing to work with additional landowners in the region to extend this blocking action as part of our Trees Not Towers campaign.

“If Hydro-Quebec wants to export electricity to the southern New England market, they should be required to do so in a responsible manner,” Difley said. “There are viable alternatives to draping 180 miles of New Hampshire’s scenic landscape with power lines and towers up to 140 feet high. We have taken this action to protect land in Coos County as a way to defend two-thirds of New Hampshire, from Pittsburg to Franklin to Concord to Deerfield,” Difley said.

The largest parcel involved in the transactions closed today is 1,000 acres owned by Rod McAllaster, whose family has been on the land for generations. The family operates a dairy farm and relies on the land for hay and pasture. The McAllaster Farm is also a certified Tree Farm, and includes a maple sugaring operation. A major snowmobile trail managed by the Colebrook Ski-Bees crosses the McAllaster land, providing access to Colebrook, Coleman State Park and Pittsburg. The Cohos hiking trail also makes use of the McAllaster property. The height of land on Mudgett Mountain provides spectacular views west into Vermont, south to the White Mountains and east to Dixville Notch, Table Rock and the Balsams. In January 2012, the Forest Society successfully conserved the Balsams landscape despite an attempt by Northern Pass to interfere with the transaction.

The Forest Society also closed today on conservation easements protecting two parcels constituting 86 acres owned by Lynne Placey of Stewartstown. Northern Pass attempted to acquire Placey’s land, but she chose instead to work with the Forest Society to protect it from powerlines and towers. Both parcels are strategically important to the intended route. Placey’s late husband acquired the land decades ago before they married, and she fondly recalls him taking her there during their early courtship.

The Forest Society’s Trees Not Towers campaign is a strategy to ensure that an industrialized corridor with multiple transmission lines does not happen to New Hampshire’s lands and scenic vistas. To date more than 2,000 individuals have contributed to the effort, raising more than $1.5 million. The support has been widespread, with donors from more than 200 of New Hampshire’s 234 towns and 29 states. No land protection campaign in the Forest Society's modern history has received broader support.

“The flood gates are open. In the last two weeks alone we have received more than 700 gifts," said Susanne Kibler-Hacker, vp for development. "This has clearly become an issue of statewide concern because we have received gifts from people living in 223 towns. We are extremely pleased with the positive response. We are showing that the little guy can compete against far-better-funded corporate interests, and we are confident that we will finish out the fundraising needed to close the remaining Trees Not Towers easements.”

Of particular importance is a conservation easement on 300 acres in Columbia, NH, owned by the Lewis family, that connects the Balsams with the Nash Stream State Forest. That land is adjacent a parcel owned by Northern Pass, and would seal off its potential use for a through route now or in the future. The Forest Society hopes to close that transaction in the next few months.

The Forest Society has previously announced transactions involving other landowners approached by Northern Pass, including Brad and Daryl Thompson and Don and Diane Bilodeau. In December, the Forest Society closed on a conservation easement on 500 acres owned by Green Acre Woodlands that is adjacent the McAllaster Farm, further frustrating the ability of Northern Pass to find any viable route for an overhead transmission line.

The Forest Society has also blocked Northern Pass’s preferred route through the Concord area by putting a conservation easement on 141 acres owned by Patricia Humphrey in Chichester. Additional conservation easements granted on land south of Groveton restricts Northern Pass’s ability to widen existing distribution rights-of-way in an attempt to squeeze in their proposed private HVDC transmission line.

The Forest Society has opposed Northern Pass as it has been proposed in part because of its legal and ethical obligation to protect existing conserved lands. If built as proposed, the Northern Pass transmission line and 1,100 towers would directly and indirectly impact more than 15,000 acres of conserved land involving 153 different parcels owned by private individuals, local communities, land trusts such as the Forest Society, the State of New Hampshire, and the federal government. There can be no question that this is a project with a statewide impact on the precious natural resources that support a substantial part of our economy and traditional way of life.

Among the impacted conserved landscapes would be a stretch of ten miles through the White Mountain National Forest, which the Forest Society was founded to help establish and protect. Also directly impacted would be the Forest Society’s Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, which was protected specifically because of its outstanding views of the Presidential Range.

“For 112 years the Forest Society has worked to protect New Hampshire from threats like Northern Pass,” Difley said. “A century ago it was the drastic, wasteful overcutting of the White Mountains. Decades ago Franconia Notch was threatened by a proposed four-lane highway. We prevailed then and we intend to prevail now.”

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 more than 100 New Hampshire communities.