CONCORD – Nov. 5, 2014 – From around the nation and nearby, nearly 2,000 fans of Mt. Major donated to a fundraising campaign to buy land on and near the popular hiking destination, lifting the campaign to its $1.8 million goal.
The Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests (Forest Society), the Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition have successfully raised the money needed to purchase and protect four key properties – 980 acres – on Mt. Major and other parts of the Belknap Range, located southwest of Lake Winnipesaukee. The Everybody Hikes Mt. Major campaign has resulted in the purchase of three separate properties on Mt. Major, East Quarry and Piper mountains, all in Alton and Gilford. The acquisition of a fourth tract, near the Mt. Major trailhead, is in the final stages.
The campaign received more than 1,900 gifts ranging from $2 to $340,000. Gifts came in from 31 states, from as far away as Hawaii, Arizona and Oregon. More than 25 volunteers rolled up their sleeves to provide campaign information to hikers and to collect contributions at the Mt. Major trailhead.
“People have been telling us throughout this campaign how much they love hiking in the Belknaps, especially to the top of Mt. Major, and seeing the spectacular view of Lake Winnipesaukee,” said Jane Difley, Forest Society president/forester. “We are grateful to all of the donors and volunteers who made it possible for us and our partners to help to preserve access for hikers as well as to conserve the forests, wetlands and streams on these properties -- for people and for wildlife.”
“The Belknap Range, and particularly Mt. Major, has long been a treasured natural, recreational, and scenic resource enjoyed year-round by Lakes Region residents and visitors alike,” said Don Berry, LRCT President. “We greatly appreciate the hard work and generosity of everyone involved in this project, which have made possible the protection of these key parcels and their important trails and natural resources, and which lay the foundation for future conservation successes in the Belknap Range.”
Many foundations and government agencies supported the campaign. The Steinwachs Family Foundation provided a leadership gift, and a new trailhead on the Quarry Mountain parcel will be named in the family’s honor. Other funders include the N.H. Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP); the towns of Alton and Gilford; the Open Space Institute Land Trust, Inc.’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, made possible by a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; the Bafflin Foundation; the S.L. Gimbel Foundation, Paul and Sandra Montrone; three anonymous family foundations, the N.H. State Conservation Committee’s “Moose Plate” Program; the N.H. Electric Co-op Foundation; NHCF Wolfeboro Fund; Samuel P. Pardoe Foundation; the William Wharton Trust; and Bank of New Hampshire.
The successful fundraising campaign ensures that the properties will remain open to the public for hiking, hunting, skiing and other recreational activities. The LRCT owns and will manage the parcel on Piper Mountain and in the Moulton Valley of Gilford, while the Forest Society will own and manage the parcels on Mt. Major and the adjacent E. Quarry Mountain, which hosts trails that connect to those on Mt. Major.
The Forest Society, the LRCT and other members of the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition view the fundraising effort as a first step in a long-term commitment to conserving and ensuring the wise stewardship of more land in the region. The Belknap Range features large, as-yet unfragmented forests covering more than a dozen mountains with extensive trail systems and opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. The landscape is still intact enough to provide excellent habitat for wide-ranging wildlife species. In addition to their recreational, scenic and wildlife habitat value, these forests protect the water quality of Lake Winnipesaukee.
“Mt. Major and the Belknaps make up a beloved landscape – the backdrop of Lake Winnipesaukee -- and we are excited to be working in partnership with the Lakes Region conservation community to protect it,” Difley said.
“The Belknaps, along with the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill, form the natural setting for Lake Winnipesaukee. Protecting these uplands has been an important priority for many years,” Berry said.
The popularity of Mt. Major’s trails has left them degraded by overuse, so the Forest Society has formed a stewardship fund to repair and maintain them. Anyone wishing to help can find more information at www.forestsociety.org.
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. Supported by 10,000 families and businesses, the Forest Society’s mission is to perpetuate the state’s forests by promoting land conservation and sustainable forestry. The organization owns 53,000 conserved acres of land in New Hampshire and holds conservation easements on another 130,000 acres.