Forest Society Names Gilmanton Residents Conservationists of the Year

October 4, 2007

Forest Society Names Gilmanton Residents as Conservationists of the Year

Concord, N.H., October 5, 2007—The Society for the Protection of NH Forests named Charlie and Nanci Mitchell, residents of Gilmanton, N.H. as the 2007 Conservationists of the Year at the Forest Society’s 106th Annual Meeting held on September 29, 2007 at Creek Farm Reservation in Portsmouth, N.H.

“The Conservationist of the Year Award is presented to individuals who have partnered with the Forest Society who share the Forest Society’s vision and work tirelessly to transform their communities through conservation,” said Jane Difley, Forest Society president/forester of the Mitchells. “Charlie and Nanci have set an extraordinary example of what conservation goals individuals partnering with organizations can accomplish.”

The Mitchells raised their children in Hollis, surrounded by conservation activism, community involvement, and a beautiful, forested tract owned by a neighbor and often enjoyed by them for exploration, discovery, and recreation. When the adjacent woods sprouted lots of houses, the Mitchells were convinced that it was time to move to a 340-acre tract on the south side of the Belknap Mountains, in Gilmanton. There they designed and had built their current log house, which visually “melts” into a backdrop of Swett Mountain, demonstrating how one can have a wonderful view without spoiling the public’s scenic enjoyment.

On December 22, 2006 the Forest Society had more to celebrate than the first lengthening of the day. This was when the Mitchells conveyed to the Forest Society conservation easements on 664 contiguous acres, in Gilmanton and Gilford. They donated one easement on a 304-acre portion of their Swett Mountain Forest, and bargain sold the other, at a deep discount, on the entirety of their newly acquired Durrell Farm tract. At the core of their motivation was a desire to inspire and motivate others to follow their lead.

The Mitchells generous actions have created one unfragmented block of 8,898 protected acres, laced with publicly accessible trails. The Durrell Farm tract is now forever protected for pedestrian use and enjoyment, and this all within the 32,000-acre Belknap Mountain Range, whose protection is now the focus of a coalition of four municipalities and various conservation organizations, including the Forest Society.

As part of the Annual Meeting, The Forest Society held full day and half day field trips from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. that were free and open to the public. Full day trips included Renewable Power – A wood Energy Tour (a guided tour of the wood-fired Schiller Station in Portsmouth); Great Bay Land Conservation Success Stories, (a guided tour showcasing scenic, preserved seacoast properties); Appledore Island Boat Excursion, Shoals Marine Lab, (a boat tour of the Isles of Shoals Marine Lab). Half day field trips included shorter tours of the Creek Farm Reservation, plus tours of The Wentworth-Coolidge Historic Site nearby, and a guided kayak tour of Sagamore Creek, led by Portsmouth Kayak Adventures.

The evening business portion of the meeting concluded with a Keynote Address by Tom Wessels, author of The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future and Professor of Ecology at Antioch University New England. Wessels discussed his three Laws of Sustainability and how forests can be an example for developing economic practices that can allow true progress towards a necessary balance between ecology and economy.

“Charlie and Nanci serve as inspirations for all who know them, and for the many more who now know about their great works,” said Forest Society Senior Director of Land Conservation, Tom Howe. “Their passion for conservation, leadership by example, hard work, generosity, understated style, and joy at being outdoors all make it a joy and pleasure to honor them as the 2007 Conservationists of the Year.”

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests ( was founded in 1901 to protect the state’s most important landscapes and promote the wise use of its renewable natural resources. Today, the Forest Society is made up of more than 10,000 member households and owns 154 reservations that encompass over 43,000 acres in communities across the state. In addition, the Forest Society holds more than 550 conservation easements on an additional 100,000 acres, and conducts ongoing programs in research, advocacy, land protection, education, land management and sustainable forestry.