Karen Finogle (603) 224-9945
Protecting Northwood's rural character
Two landowners have ensured farm and forest land remain forever a part of the town's character
NORTHWOOD – In a landscape of unprecedented growth, a former cattle farmer in Northwood has taken steps to return his farmland to its wild roots and protect it from encroaching development.
In 1969, Carl Wallman started his beef cattle operation at Harmony Hill Farm, a 210-acre spread located just minutes off Route 4. He developed a genetically superior strain of Angus cattle and sold animals and semen across the country. After selling his entire herd in 1994, Wallman turned his full attention to the land in order to restore its ecological integrity and biodiversity.
Wallman donated a conservation easement on 116 of his 210 acres to the Forest Society to ensure Harmony Hill Farm remains as open space forever. The easement abuts the Northwood Meadows State Park and is a combination of fields, wetlands, and productive, well-managed forests. Wildlife of all types, including turkey, deer, and moose, leave ample evidence that Wallman’s effort to return the farmland to a more natural state has been a success.
Although he no longer uses the land for agriculture, Wallman continues to cut brush from 13 acres of field he originally cleared by hand. Maintaining the fields in a brushy, transitional condition like this preserves habitat that is increasingly rare in New Hampshire, yet ideal for many different species.
"I was happy to set up this conservation easement because it was the right thing to do for my land, and it adds to a big block of protected wildlife habitat,” Wallman said. “If you drive on Blake Hill Road, from Route 4, and then turn down Harmony Road, you see about as dramatic a contrast as you can find in Northwood between residential development and land protected with easements. I hope what the Johnsons and I have done can help others in Northwood realize what's possible."
Charlie and Jean Johnson are Wallman’s neighbors and have also taken steps to protect their land from encroaching development. They have given the Forest Society a conservation easement on 48 acres of their Tree Farm. The easement abuts the Wallman easement and protects important wildlife habitat, including a deer wintering area, wetlands, vernal pools, and an ecologically-significant Black Gum/Red Maple Basin Swamp. The property also has a half-mile of scenic frontage on Harmony Road.
The Johnsons donated their easement to ensure protection of property that has been in Charlie’s family for most of the past century, and which they’ve taken much pride in managing for forest products, wildlife enhancement and recreation. The Johnson easement enlarges an adjacent contiguous block of 1,497 protected acres in Northwood (including the Wallman easement and Northwood Meadows State Park).
The conservation easements set up by these landowners contain typical restrictions preventing further development of the land, while generally allowing agriculture, forestry, and private recreation. The land stays in private ownership, and on the local property tax rolls. These easements also help Northwood’s taxpayers stabilize their property tax burden, by prohibiting residential development that typically ends up costing the town more in municipal services than is generated in new tax revenues. When landowners donate conservation easements, they may receive helpful income and inheritance tax benefits. For landowners unable to make such a gift, conservation groups are sometimes able to buy easements from them. Finally, some landowners put easements on only a portion of their property, reserving development or financial options for the balance of their land.
People can explore Harmony Hill Farm and Johnson Tree Farm by joining a Forest Society-led hike on Saturday, February 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (snow date February 8).
The Bear-Paw Regional Greenways and Northwood Community Resources Committee sponsor the hike, which is free and open to the public. For more information, or to register for the field trip, contact Trish Churchill at (603) 224-9945 or e-mail .
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is a 10,000-member, nonprofit organization that has helped protect more than one million acres. Visit www.forestsociety.org for more information, or call (603) 224-9945.