The Ottinger/Smith/Priest Families Donate Conservation Easement on 171 Acres in Epsom to Forest Society

January 31, 2008

The Ottinger/Smith/Priest Families Donate Conservation Easement on 171 Acres in Epsom to Forest Society

Family Committed to Protecting Their Land and the Southern Slope of Fort Mountain

CONCORD, N.H., Feb. 1, 2008 — Thanks to the patience and determination of landowners Les and Joan Ottinger and sister, Jerry Priest, 171 acres in Epsom--including wetlands, a beaver pond, the headwaters of a tributary of the Suncook River, rare rocky ridge habitat, 19 acres of fields and a well-managed woodlot—are now permanently conserved. The easement took a couple of years and multiple approaches to achieving the family objectives, but the Ottingers and Priests were committed to protecting their land. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) will hold the easement in perpetuity.

“It is very important to my wife, Joan, our children and me to have our property protected,” states Les Ottinger. “We bought the property in 1966 and spent our summers and winter weekends there with our four children in the old 1780s farm house. Over time, we have watched as too much of Epsom land has gone over to development. We felt the need to do something positive to ensure this beautiful plot remains protected, not only for us, but for our neighbors who have helped look after the property for us in our absence.”

The Ottingers’ neighbor has watched over the forest, supported by a good infrastructure of forest roads and trails. A second neighbor has kept the hay fields mowed each year. The western parcel of land is a gently rolling area cut by two streams and supporting a mix of hemlock, pine and oak on the higher terrain. The eastern parcel is the southern, ledgy slope of Fort Mountain, adequate for bobcat habitat. The parcel then slopes down to a wet area and a three-acre beaver pond and stream. In the middle portion of the property stand two abutting hay fields of roughly 19 acres, adding to the property’s rich, diverse wildlife habitat. The New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan rates the fields and pond as a “best in bioregion.

The property is also close to almost 1,000 acres of protected lands, as well as being near a large 175-acre project by Bear Paw Regional Greenways and the Town of Deerfield, that received funding from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). Another project just north of the Ottinger parcel, McClary Hill Farm in Epsom, conserved another 50 acres in December, through the Bear Paw Regional Greenways.

“Our land conservation work depends on the generosity and foresight of landowners like the Ottingers and her sister, Jerry Priest,” said Jane Difley, president /forester of the Forest Society. “Their land has been so beautifully maintained. And now, we’re pleased to work with them to ensure that it will remain this beautiful forever.”

A conservation easement allows private landowners to protect land while maintaining ownership. Easements provide permanent protection from land use that could damage or destroy its scenic, recreational, ecological, and natural resource values.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests ( is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. In order to preserve the quality of life New Hampshire residents know today, the goal of the Forest Society, in partnership with other conservation organizations, private landowners, and government, is to conserve an additional one million acres of the state’s most significant natural lands for trails, parks, farms and forests by 2026.