Land acquisition benefits north country wildlife & recreation economy
Tue, Aug 03 2010 at 2:16 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today announced the permanent protection of 280 acres of important wildlife habitat in the Town of Columbia which have been added to the Mohawk River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.
With the assistance of The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service purchased three parcels to expand the Mohawk River Division to 815 acres of wildlife habitat. Funding for the three acquisitions came from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which is derived in large part through the sale of waterfowl hunting licenses or “Duck Stamps.”
The Refuge is looking forward to becoming an active and valued asset within the community. These recent investments as public land create opportunities for compatible outdoor recreation. We plan to start with the development of a public access concept in partnership with municipal leadership, residents, hopefully a local Friends group. In addition, our 2010 Youth Conservation Corp summer employment program will not only help us promote public access, it will create some jobs for high school age youth," said Andy French of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Project Leader for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.
“The Conte Refuge is emblematic of the New Hampshire we want our children’s children to one day inherit, it’s rich and varied landscape, abundant wildlife, and cold water streams flowing through the narrow valleys down to the Presidential Range,” said Daryl Burtnett, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. “We are grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Town of Columbia, and our Congressional delegation for recognizing the value that these special places have for those who one day will hike, fish, and recreate in this part of our state, if not tomorrow, perhaps for the very first time,” said Burtnett.
The three acquisitions consisted of the 62-acre Mungovan property, the adjacent 113-acre WeLog tract and the 105 acre Carter tract. The Nature Conservancy assisted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with these acquisitions by securing contracts with the landowners and commissioning the appraisals.
Paul Carter, one of the property owners who worked with the Conservancy and Fish & Wildlife Service commented that “this is the best thing that’s happened to us in 18 years!”
“The Carter tract abuts the recently acquired refuge properties in the Division, along with two other tracts to be acquired concurrently with Carter which are located to the north and south. Together these tracts fill out the protection of the western and southern sections of the heart of Blueberry Swamp,” said Jan McClure, Land Protection Specialist for The Nature Conservancy.” The parcel lies within a Northern Appalachians ecoregion portfolio wetland complex that includes marsh, peatland, a rare and exemplary northern white cedar swamp, and the Simms Stream East Branch, a priority stream conservation target in the Bunnell-Nash Stream Matrix Block Conservation Plan.
The Welog tract abuts the recently acquired Boudle and Sweatt properties to the east and an earlier U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquisition that will provide access to the Welog tract from Marshall Hill Rd.
The 2,090 acre Mohawk River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge lies within the Bunnell-Nash Stream forest matrix block, just north of The Nature Conservancy’s 10,800-acre Vickie Bunnell Preserve and east of downtown Colebrook. The 200-acre Blueberry Swamp, at the center of the Mohawk River Division, has been identified as a high quality wetland habitat in the NH Wildlife Action Plan. It is comprised of a mosaic of forested wetlands, open agricultural fields, and both early successional and mature forests. It harbors abundant wildlife including black ducks, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, American woodcock, common snipe, wood thrush, blackburnian warbler, and black-throated blue warbler, several of which are considered High Continental Priority species by Partners-In-Flight, along with a documented exemplary northern white cedar swamp. The Division is notable as a nesting area for the northern harrier, includes pastures, hayfields and old fields reverting to shrubs as well as small fens and swamps. The Mohawk River provides important habitat for native brook trout and juvenile Atlantic salmon.
Conte Refuge lands are open to the public for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other recreational activities.
Conservation of the Mohawk River Division is part of The Nature Conservancy’s role as a partner in the Friends of Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, a partnership of local regional, and national organizations working on conserving the important habitats of the 7.2 million acre 4-state Conte Refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains 550 National Wildlife Refuges, encompassing nearly 150 million acres of the nation’s most significant land and water resource areas for plants, fish, wildlife and people. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge was established by Congress in 1991, and named after the late Massachusetts Congressman who had introduced legislation to conserve the abundance and diversity of native plants and animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. For more information visit http://www.fws.gov/r5soc/
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