March 13, 2012

Concord, NH, March 13--The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is transferring its ownership of 156-acre Big Island in Lake Umbagog in Errol, NH, to the surrounding Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We acquired the island in the 1980s before the existence of the Refuge,” said Paul Doscher, VP of Land Conservation for the Forest Society. “Today we believe the long-term stewardship of the island will be best served by having the Refuge’s on- site staff manage this land along with the other Refuge lands around it. “

Since its purchase of the Island in the 1980s, the Forest Society has managed the island by reserving it for wildlife and permitting camping under the auspices of the Umbagog Lake State Park and Camp Onaway (a girls camp based in Hebron, NH). The campsite use will continue following the transfer to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge will manage the rest of the island primarily for its wildlife habitat, just as the Forest Society has.

“The Forest Society has been a good steward of the island,” said Paul Casey, Refuge Manager of Umbagog NWR. “We intend to continue that tradition.”

Congress approved the funding for the $1 million purchase of the island by the Refuge in 2010. The transaction has taken longer than anticipated because of a minor defect in the deed that could not be successfully cured through the normal processes. The mutually approved solution is for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do a “friendly taking” of the property in order the cure the title defect. 

The Forest Society agreed to accept $1,000,000 in compensation for the transfer, which represents 87 percent of the appraised value of $1,150,000 established by independent appraisal for the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Forest Society has committed preliminarily to using a significant portion of its net sale proceeds for further land conservation work in the North Country. The Board of Trustees will make final decisions regarding use and allocation of these funds.

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 170 forest reservations constituting more than 50,000 acres in 94 New Hampshire communities.