On August 19, 2022, the Conservation Fund and the Squam Lakes Conservation Society (SLCS) joined local, state and federal officials to celebrate completion of a multi-year effort to restore and protect 6395 acres of forestland and aquatic resources within the Beebe River watershed in central New Hampshire.
Sharing a 6.5-mile boundary with White Mountain National Forest, the conserved/restored contiguous land remains privately owned and sustainably managed to support forest industry products and jobs, while ensuring public recreational access, wildlife habitat and water resource protection.
The protected area is a gateway to the national forest, linking 15 miles of recreational trails to 150 miles of statewide trail systems and guaranteeing public pedestrian access to hunt, fish, cross-country ski and hike, as well as motorized snowmobile access on designated trails.
During a gathering co-hosted by the Fund and SLCS, the organizations and others applauded the private and public partnerships that made this landscape-scale regeneration possible; spotlighted the tremendous aquatic restoration efforts that improved trout habitat and supported drinking water quality; highlighted the economic, community and climate benefits of working forest renewal in New Hampshire; and acknowledged the impact federal funding and private support played in accelerating these efforts.
“This was a tremendous and ambitious undertaking with the goal of enhancing the health and vitality of a forested watershed for wildlife, climate resilience and nearby communities by supporting local jobs and recreational access,” said President and CEO of The Conservation Fund Larry Selzer.
“The generosity from so many individuals together with support from public partners brought us to today — where an invaluable landscape has been permanently conserved. I am especially appreciative for all of the support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Squam Lake Conservation Society and for the strong commitments of funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund by New Hampshire’s U.S. Congressional Delegation,” he explained.
The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, purchased the land in 2014 through its Working Forest Fund® with support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation as part of 30,000 acres of former industrial timberland that was threatened by conversion and important for climate resilience across New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Maine.
The Conservation Fund partnered with the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands to permanently protect these two adjacent properties totaling 6395 acres with conservation easements in April 2022, which limit development, provide public access and permit sustainable timber harvesting under private ownership.
“This tract is a critical part of the Beebe River watershed complemented by the White Mountain National Forest to the north and the scenic Squam Mountains to the south,” said State Forester Patrick Hackley, director of the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands. “We are very pleased to play a role in conserving this special property and the many values it provides.”
A federal grant awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and private support from the Squam Lakes Conservation Society made the permanent protection of this working forest landscape possible.
New Hampshire’s congressional delegation representing Grafton and Carroll counties—U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen along with U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas—supported the use of federal funding for this project.
“I’m thrilled to see this project come to fruition, which is the result of years-long efforts from several local New Hampshire stakeholders and advocates, and all in the name of conservation. Protecting the forest and aquatic spaces within the Beebe River watershed is important because it safeguards Granite State wildlife and natural resources, all while enhancing access to outdoor recreation and bolstering our forest economy,” said U.S. Sen. Shaheen.
“I’m proud to have advocated for the federal dollars that helped make this project possible and I offer my sincerest congratulations to The Conservation Fund and Squam Lakes Conservation Society for a job well done. I look forward to seeing the economic and environmental benefits that will come from this project across Grafton and Carroll Counties,” she added.
“New Hampshire’s natural resources — from our mountains to our lakes and forests — are part of what makes our state so unique,” said Sen. Hassan. “This conservation effort will help preserve the beauty of the Beebe watershed for generations to come, while also protecting industries that help the local economy thrive. I will continue working to secure critical funding for New Hampshire’s outdoor spaces, which are important to both our way of life and our economy.”
“New Hampshire’s way of life and our economy are rooted in our natural surroundings, and it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to protect our environment for future generations. The restoration of the Beebe River watershed is a prime example of what we can accomplish when the federal government works together with state and local partners,” said Congressman Pappas. “I remain committed to doing all I can to protect our environment, guarantee public access to these spaces, and support our local economies through continued support for projects such as this.”
An award from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in 2016 enabled efforts by The Conservation Fund, New Hampshire Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited to remove and replace stream crossings that compromised fish passage in five tributary streams into the mainstem of the Beebe River.
“The USDA Forest Service is proud to be a part of this collaborative conservation effort through the Forest Legacy Program,” said USDA Forest Service Natural Resource Program Leader Neal Bungard.
“This effort supports local economies through sustainable timber management, ensures quality outdoor recreation opportunities, and protects wildlife habitat for generations to come,” he continued.
This effort successfully restored habitat connectivity and natural flow regimes, reduced water temperature and streambank erosion, and ultimately improved aquatic habitat. Learn more about the water quality and fish passage restoration efforts in this video.
“The Squam community thanks the many partners who worked together to complete this huge project, starting with The Conservation Fund. By working together, we’ve demonstrated that private and public institutions can achieve more than any one of us could do by ourselves. It’s a great example of what makes New Hampshire and this area so special. The dream of walking from the shores of Squam Lake to the height of Mt. Washington on conserved land is now a reality,” said Roger Larochelle, executive director of the Squam Lakes Conservation Society.
The Conservation Fund says they make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, they hope to redefine conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, they have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to restore and protect more than 8.5 million acres of land, including 55,000 acres in New Hampshire. Through their Working Forest Fund®, they aim to permanently conserve five million acres of at-risk working forests to mitigate climate change, strengthen rural economies and protect natural ecosystems.
Image courtesy of Squam Lakes Conservation Society.
See Squam Lakes Conservation Society website.