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Evans Mountain Conservation Project Receives $25,000 Grant

May 20, 2010 | Strafford, NH
Evans Mountain Conservation Project Receives $25,000 Grant

Evans Mountain overlooking Bow Lake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News from Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
63 Nottingham Road
Post Office Box 19
Deerfield, New Hampshire 03037

CONTACT:
Daniel Kern, Executive Director
Phone: (603) 463-9400 / Fax:  (603) 230-2447
Email: info@bear-paw.org
For information, please visit http://www.bear-paw.org

Strafford, N.H.– In January, Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, the Blue Hills Foundation, and the Town of Strafford purchased 1,015 acres of valuable wildlife habitat on Evans Mountain overlooking Bow Lake. The project partners then launched a campaign to raise over $500,000 to pay off loans and permanently protect the property and the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation just awarded $25,000 to the effort!

The Evans Mountain property is part of a 6,000-acre unfragmented forest connected to conservation focus areas identified in the NH Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) and the Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds. Permanent conservation of the Evans Mountain property has been a goal of the Town of Strafford for over three decades and is recognized as a priority in the town’s Master Plan and Bear-Paw’s Conservation Plan. It includes some of the most ecologically significant natural lands in southeastern New Hampshire. According to the Wildlife Action Plan, New Hampshire requires a network of permanently conserved lands that effectively represents the state’s wildlife and habitat diversity. Protecting threatened and essential habitat resources such as this – large unfragmented forests (including both uplands and wetland habitats), riparian/shoreland habitats, and wildlife corridors connecting significant habitat – is a priority.

Property Features

Large, Unfragmented Forest

The area that includes the Evans Mountain property is one of the largest remaining blocks of forest in southeastern New Hampshire – more than 6,000 acres of unfragmented habitat that includes several Town forests, Blue Hills Foundation conservation lands, and Bear-Paw easements. Large, unfragmented forests of this size are rare in the rapidly developing southeast and south-central regions of our state. What remains offers vital support to the region’s biodiversity. Moose, bobcat, fisher, and bear depend on these large areas of habitat to survive and some birds, such as goshawks and veery, depend on these forest interior habitats to breed. Large forests also provide a refuge from roads and other human impacts and an area large enough that allows natural processes to play themselves out without interference.

Connectivity

Maintaining connectivity for wildlife – north to south, east to west, and across elevations – is becoming increasingly important in a fragmenting landscape. Permanent protection of the property will help maintain these connections with other areas of significant conservation and ecological value that are already protected. The property adds directly to over 1,000 acres already conserved and it serves as part of a permanent connection between town forest lands and the privately conserved lands owned by the Blue Hills Foundation further to the north and west.

Habitat and Species Diversity

The property has a mosaic of habitat types and a wide variety of tree, shrub, and herb species as well as a varied topography. It includes upland forests of hemlock-hardwood-pine and Appalachian oak-pine, more than two miles of ridgeline with north and south-facing rocky ledges and steep slopes. Headwater streams and riparian areas, basin swamps, beaver-influenced wetlands, scrub-shrub swamps, marshes, peatlands, and vernal pools add to the diversity.

Several species of conservation concern have been recorded near the property. Blanding’s turtle, wood turtle, and small whorled Pogonia occur in the area. The property’s south and southwest facing rocky ledges and slopes provide good habitat for black racers and ideal habitat for one of the southern-most breeding populations of bobcat in the state. The Isinglass River is home to American eel and the bridled shiner. Loons and bald eagles use nearby Bow Lake and this unfragmented forest block may provide a buffer to their territories and help protect water quality in the lake. Considering its size and remoteness, there is great potential for the discovery of other species with further study.

Headwater Streams and Water Quality

The property includes the headwaters streams of three important watersheds – Bow Lake, the source of the Isinglass River, Huckins/Nippo Brook, a tributary of the Isinglass River, and the Big River, a large tributary of the Suncook River. It also overlooks Bow Lake, the second largest lake in Strafford County, and includes frontage on the Willey Ponds. Intact headwater streams are increasingly recognized as critical components of healthy ecosystems – providing important wildlife habitat and protecting water quality downstream.

Ecosystem Function, Biodiversity, and Climate Change

Climate change threatens to exacerbate existing stressors on wildlife, biodiversity, and other ecosystem functions. Land use change, habitat fragmentation, pollution, spread of invasive species, and disruptions of natural processes are major threats to natural systems. Dealing with these threats is one of the most important strategies for adapting to climate change. Evans Mountain is mostly free of these existing threats and by conserving this property we are maintaining resiliency within the larger region.

Education, Recreation, and View

Evans Mountain also offers many outdoor recreation and education opportunities. The property includes a portion of a local snowmobile trail and is used for a variety of other non-motorized recreation uses, including hiking and hunting. The property also offers spectacular views of the nearby Bow Lake to the south and of Mount Washington and the White Mountains to the north. Visitors quickly get a sense of the landscape setting of this property. Public access will be assured by the conservation easement protecting the property.

Plans for the Future

Once conserved, a comprehensive management plan will be prepared to guide activities on the property. The project partners plan to raise enough funding for both the acquisition of the property as well as the restoration of wildlife habitat and wetland and riparian areas damaged in prior years. Although the property was heavily logged in the past and much mature forest was removed, it provides an opportunity for managing early successional habitat to benefit snowshoe hare, bobcat, small mammals, beaver, and moose, among other species. Eventually, the property will succeed to mature forest – New Hampshire forests have shown to be quite resilient to logging and other disturbances.

And now they need to pay for it.

It is not their usual way of doing business on a land protection project, but the Evans Mountain tract is so important that Bear-Paw, the Blue Hills Foundation, and the Town of Strafford were willing to secure loans to make it happen. Blue Hills and Strafford came up with almost half of the $765,000 purchase price, and private individuals provided loans for the remainder – loans which need to be repaid! Additional costs associated with completing the project bring the total needed to $500,000.

Bear-Paw is already at work applying for grants, and because of the high conservation value of these 1,015 acres, prospects are good, but certainly not assured. Bear-Paw is looking for energetic people to help with the Campaign to Save Evans Mountain. A number of events are already in the works and a campaign kick off is planned for Memorial Day weekend. Contact the Bear-Paw office at 463.9400 or info@bear-paw.org if you would like to get involved or to make a contribution to this incredible opportunity.

Bear-Paw is a non-profit land trust with a mission to permanently conserve a network of lands that protects our region’s water, wildlife habitat, forests, and farmland. Established by resident volunteers, Bear-Paw works to conserve open space in Candia, Deerfield, Epsom, Hooksett, Northwood, Nottingham, Raymond, and Strafford through outreach, education, and land protection project assistance. Bear-Paw’s goal is to safeguard the region’s irreplaceable water resources, important wildlife habitat and travel routes, and productive forests and farms. Its members envision a region of scenic beauty and rural character where diversity and quality of life are sustained. For information about how to become a member, land protection options for landowners or volunteering with the land trust, please contact Daniel Kern at Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, Post Office Box 19, Deerfield, NH 03037, 603 463-9400, or info@bear-paw.org. You can also visit their website at www.bear-paw.org.

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