Town of Fremont Befriends Local Fen

May 13, 2012

Town of Fremont Befriends Local Fen

The citizens of Fremont believe that they are the stewards of one of the most valuable aquatic resource in southern New Hampshire: the community’s 824-acre Spruce Swamp. 

The town recently added another piece of armor to the forested buffer protecting the swamp. This latest addition of 76 acres was purchased from brothers Richard and Robert Smith with the goal of adding it to the Glen Oakes Town Forest, purchased in 2006. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests assisted in the establishment of the town forest, holds an easement on it, and has now been granted an easement on this latest 76-acre addition. 

This unique habitat shelters many shrubs at the extreme northern limit of their range, including sweet pepperbush, which dominates a remarkable 200-acre sub-community that is one step from being imperiled in New Hampshire. Altogether biologists have identified 104 animal and 152 plant species on the adjacent town forest, many of which will likely be found on the abutting 76 acres. The loon and great blue heron have been spotted nearby, along with several state-threatened species.

Despite its popular name, Spruce Swamp is really a “fen,” a wetland fed by ground water with only a minimal flow leaving the water body. The shallow bowl now filled by Spruce Swamp was created by the last glacier. Decaying wetland plants, water leached through the organic duff of surrounding forests, and a lack of water movement made the fen moderately acidic. This big, burly swamp is as dependent upon the health of the surrounding uplands as a nestling is upon the steady visits of food-bearing adult birds. Without the adjacent forest land to provide and protect a reliable flow of clean, acidified ground water, the swamp will die – or at least become a much more common meadow.

The Town of Fremont has sought to conserve Spruce Swamp for human habitat as well, to provide opportunities for people to re-connect with the land. Today, two and a half miles of newly constructed or improved trails are supported by maps and signs at each intersection, linking walkers to old cellar holes, diverse natural communities, animal pens and stone walls that testify to previous farms, and plain peace and quiet.

According to Forest Society Land Protection Specialist Mike Speltz, who worked closely with the town on this conservation project, many individuals and organizations joined efforts to ensure the land’s protection, including:

·         Robert and Richard Smith:  Who inherited this land from their grandfather and turned down offers from developers in order to preserve it.

·         Janice O’Brien:  Committed conservation commissioner and open space committee member who led the project over seven years.

·         Dennis Howland:  Open space committee chair and master trail builder who showed the community why conservation pays.

·         Bill Knee:  Biologist and teacher who told the Spruce Swamp story in words, pictures, and rigorous data.

·         Jack Karcz:  Long-time chair of the conservation commission who shepherded the town through a process that led from a prime wetland study to conservation success.

·         Heidi Carlson:  Fremont town administrator who guided the project to closing despite town budget season and a nasty virus.

·         Pat deBeer:  Who applied for and secured several grants to finance the project.

Several state and private funders contributed financially to the project, including the NH Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), the State Conservation Committee’s 2012 Conservation License Plate Program (Moose Plate), the William P. Wharton Trust, the Davis Conservation Foundation, the Cricket Foundation, and Fields Pond Foundation.

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. For more information, visit