Merrimack Conservation Partnership Announces 2019 Land Transaction Grant Awards

The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2019 recipients of its fifth round of Land Conservation Grants, which help underwrite conservation projects that protect the ecologically important Merrimack Valley Watershed region of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In the latest grant round, the MCP awarded grants totaling $94,502 to 7 projects that will conserve a total of approximately 870 acres of land. The total value of the land to be protected in the latest grant round is conservatively estimated at $4.8 million.

In 2010, the Merrimack was identified by the US Forest Service as the most threatened watershed in the nation in terms of projected loss of private forest land over the next 20 years. The two-state region of the Merrimack Watershed spans a total of 2.1 million acres and 3,275 square miles of which 54% is in NH and 46% in Massachusetts. The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, NH and flows through eight of NH’s largest cities, then continues through Massachusetts to its mouth at Newburyport.

Launched in 2012, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of private organizations and public agencies working on land conservation in the Merrimack Valley Watershed. The partners share a vision of conserving (on a strictly willing-seller/donor basis) the region’s most ecologically significant forests and the key connections between them for wildlife passage and human recreation.

The Merrimack Conservation Partnership Land Conservation Grants program underwrites transaction costs—appraisals, surveys, title research, staff time, etc.—on conservation transactions that protect land identified in the Merrimack Valley Regional Conservation Plan.


Below is a list of the grant recipients and a brief description of their projects.

River Road Reservation, West Newbury, MA

Applicant: Essex County Greenbelt Association, Inc.
Acres to be conserved: 31
Protection Method: Land purchase
MCP Grant Award: $15,146
Estimated Total Project Costs: $579,660


Greenbelt is working in partnership with the Town of West Newbury to acquire and protect 31 acres on the Merrimack River. The property includes frontage on the Merrimack River and wooded upland with streams. Greenbelt will maintain the property as publicly accessible conservation land and the Town of West Newbury will be granted a perpetual Conservation Restriction over the property. This property is in an area of impressive conservation land and is in close proximity to approximately 500 acres of protected land along the Merrimack River. Once protected, this property will be open to the public for passive recreation from dawn to dusk, including wooded footpaths and a potential for food and paddle access to the Merrimack River.

Koerber Family Forest Conservation Easement, Dunbarton, NH

Applicant: Five Rivers Conservation Trust
Acres to be conserved: 133
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $20,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $380,400


Five Rivers Conservation Trust will purchase and then hold a conservation easement on 133 acres in the Koerber Family Forest. The easement will include 150 ft. of frontage along Route 13 and a reserved right for the Town of Dunbarton to establish a parking lot for trail users along this frontage. The easement includes vernal pools, wetlands, and four headwater streams. With the addition of this land, 770 conserved unfragmented acres will ensure that this forest block remains resilient to climate change and continues to support wide-ranging species, including moose, bear, and the endangered Blanding’s turtle. Public access to existing trails at Dunbarton Elementary School enables use of the property as an outdoor classroom to build outdoor literacy among the student body.

Nissitissitt River Headwaters, Mason, NH

Applicant: Piscataquog Land Conservancy
Acres to be conserved: 274
Protection Method: Land Purchase
MCP Grant Award: $15,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $642,555

4 Photo 1 Kettle Hole - PLC Nissitissitt Headwaters

The Piscataquog Land Conservancy will purchase 274 acres in 1st order headwaters of the National Wild and Scenic Nissitissitt River and provide permanent protection through LCHIP and NH DES. The tract contains over 5,800 linear feet of the headwater of Spaulding Brook and its tributaries and 8 acres of wetlands including more than 14 confirmed and potential vernal pools. This project will protect valuable wildlife habitat on highly developable property as well as downstream aquatic habitat and water quality. A major focus of the project for the Mason Conservation Commission is low-impact public recreation. Existing logging roads will make an excellent basis for trail development, public recreational access will be guaranteed.

Morrill Dairy Farm, Boscawen, NH

Applicant: Society for the Protection of NH Forests
Acres to be conserved: 115
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $10,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $382,120

Photo 3-Morrill Dairy Farm

The Forest Society is working together with the Town of Boscawen to purchase from the Morrill Dairy Farm a conservation easement on 115 acres of high-quality agricultural land on Long and Water Streets in Boscawen. The farm was founded in 1925 in Penacook, NH, has won several national awards, and is well known for its red and white Holsteins. The fields are alternated between growing hay, corn, and recently a mix of other grains for non-dairy markets. The agricultural fields and brushy edges provide open land habitat for ground-nesting birds and the frontage on Little Pond and its 13-acres of open shrub wetlands are home to numerous species that utilize its shallow marsh habitat. The property has a sweeping view over the open fields with Mt. Kearsarge in the background. This property abuts the 144-acre Cummings Easement held by the town.

Parker Farm Conservation Easement, Auburn, NH

Applicant: Society for the Protection of NH Forests
Acres to be conserved: 87
Protection Method: Purchased conservation easement
MCP Grant Award: $10,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $893,120

Parker Farm - Photo 1

The Parker Farms Forest Easement is a joint effort of the Forest Society and Manchester Water Works (MWW) to conserve the majority of the last undeveloped parcel of land on Lake Massabesic not owned by MWW. Lake Massabesic is the surface water drinking source for more than 165,000 residents of the City of Manchester and surrounding towns. Lake Massabesic is a rich ecosystem containing a number of rare and threatened species of plants and animals. Approximately 25 acres or 30% of the land (primarily shoreline) is classified as Tier 1 wildlife habitat. The Forest Society will acquire a permanent conservation easement on the land and be responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of the easement. The easement will guarantee that the land will remain undeveloped and be managed for water quality protection, and wildlife habitat.

Murray Mill Brook, Auburn, NH

Applicant: Southeast Land Trust of NH
Acres to be conserved: 220
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $15,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $1,417,720

Murray Mill Brook_MCP_Photo 1

The Murray Mill Brook project will permanently protect 220 acres of fields, forest, and wetlands through the acquisition of a conservation easement held by Southeast Land Trust. The property lies within the Massabesic Lakes watershed and abuts a 775-acre block of land owned by the Manchester Water Works. The conservation easement deed will prohibit further residential development and industrial or commercial uses, except agriculture and forestry which will be further restricted to protect the water and other natural resources on the property. The will be open to the public for passive pedestrian access.

Stoddard Property, Berlin, MA

Applicant: Sudbury Valley Trustees
Acres to be conserved: 21
Protection Method: Donated Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $9,356
Estimated Total Project Cost: $624,475


The Stoddards will be donating a Conservation Restriction on their 20.98-acre property to Sudbury Valley Trustees in order to protect it from development. This property is nearly all open hay fields that provide habitat for bobolinks and other grassland birds; and the nearby stream pond and undisturbed upland provide habitat for Blanding’s turtle, a Massachusetts Endangered Species. This property abuts the conserved 39-acre Great Oak Farm and is part of a multi-year effort to preserve priority farms, woodlands, and wetlands in a band of high-priority land in Clinton, Berlin, Bolton, and Stow. The Stoddard Property will remain private, but a future owner could allow a trail easement from neighboring Great Oak Farm through to potential conservation lands to the north.

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