Toward a More Glorious Sunapee
Thanks to Partners and Donors, Forest Society Acquires Easement Pillsbury-Sunapee Ridge Forest
Continuing a land conservation effort in the Sunapee region that dates back nearly a century, the Forest Society worked this spring to protect an additional 1,100 acres on Mount Sunapee’s eastern slope. The Pillsbury-Sunapee Ridge Forest Project required a quick turnaround—the campaign to raise $400,000 launched in late March and had to be completed by May 15—and was successful thanks in great part to the extraordinary cooperation among key partners.
On May 18, the Forest Society purchased conservation easements on two parcels--845 acres in Newbury and 250 acres in Goshen--that guarantee that the properties will be permanently protected with public recreational access assured.
The Town of Newbury played an instrumental role by committing $200,000 from its Conservation Fund. With the help of other conservation partners, the Forest Society raised the balance from private donors. The Town of Goshen also contributed from its Conservation Fund.
“This was a great project,” said William Weiler of the Newbury Conservation Commission. “The members of the commission are happy that they could contribute.”
“We didn’t have a lot of time,” acknowledged Anne Truslow, Director of Development at the Forest Society, “but we were able to meet the fundraising goal thanks to the extraordinary response of more than 500 contributors from near and far. This included a generous grant from the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation and many collaborative gifts from extended families—a tribute to the deep connections to the Sunapee region that span generations.”
“We were astonished by the enthusiastic and generous support of our conservation partners in the region when we asked them for help with this ambitious project,” said Brian Hotz, Land Protection Specialist at the Forest Society. “They went above and beyond to help us protect this iconic landscape.”
According to Debbie Stanley, Executive Director of the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust (ASLPT), the Pillsbury Sunapee Ridge Forest project is a perfect example of how a regional land trust like ASLPT works with a statewide organization like the Forest Society, sharing expertise and effort to protect land. With a membership base of more that 1,050 households, the ASLPT was able to spread the word about this project resulting in significant dollars raised.
“Everyone understood that the 1,100 acres was a priority to the Sunapee region,” Stanley said. “The complexity of this project required pooling fundraising sources among multiple partners.”
In addition to ASLPT and the Town of Newbury, those partners included the Friends of Mount Sunapee, Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Club, Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition, the Town of Goshen, Lake Sunapee Protective Association, Rural Heritage Connection of Bradford and North Woodlands, LLC.
“This is just about as good a feeling as it gets,” said Don Clifford of North Woodlands, who owns the conserved property and will manage it sustainably for forestry. “Without the partnership of the Forest Society and the Newbury Conservation Commission, North Woodlands simply wouldn’t be able to afford to keep these lands as working forest.”
“Local ownership is important,” observed Jolyon Johnson, president of Friends of Mount Sunapee. “This protects not only the natural resources of the area, but assures continued public use of trails like the Andrew Brook Trail.”
These properties are adjacent to nearly 15,000 acres of protected forestland, including Mount Sunapee State Park, Pillsbury State Park, and private property under conservation easements. The Forest Society originally protected the crest of Mount Sunapee in 1911 and donated its protected acres on the mountain to the State of New Hampshire in the late 1940s. Today the area remains one of the largest unfragmented landscapes south of the White Mountains.
“The Pillsbury-Sunapee Ridge Forest property has outstanding wildlife habitat and natural resource values that give it local, statewide and regional significance – including as a priority of the state Wildlife Action Plan and the Quabbin-to-Cardigan (Q2C) partnership,” said David Anderson, director of education at the Forest Society. “It’s also a critical link for recreational use.”
Both Pillsbury-Sunapee Ridge Forest properties border popular regional hiking trails, including the main stem of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and the Andrew Brook Trail, a beloved route from Mountain Road in Newbury to the shore of Lake Solitude and beyond. The Newbury parcel of land was recently for sale on the open market and was likely to have been sold for development, thus forever changing the views of the ridgeline and lower slopes seen from Route 103 at Sunapee’s southern gateway.
Protecting the Pillsbury-Sunapee Ridge Forest was a key project in the Q2C area. The Q2C project is a landscape-scale conservation initiative in the Monadnock Highlands involving 25 partner conservation organizations, including the Forest Society. The region, stretching from the Quabbin Reservoir in north central Massachusetts to Mount Cardigan, encompasses the iconic peaks of Mount Monadnock and Mount Sunapee. Only 17 percent of the region is currently conserved. The partnership has completed extensive mapping of priority conservation areas within the region.
The The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (www.forestsociety.org) is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. The Forest Society’s Center for Land Conservation Assistance was established to help aid land trusts and municipalities achieve their land conservation goals. 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