The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2020 recipients of its sixth 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 $25,800 to 3 projects that will conserve a total of approximately 211 acres of land. The total value of the land to be protected in the latest grant round is conservatively estimated at $1.7 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 forestland 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.

Artichoke River Woods, West Newbury, MA

Applicant: Essex County Greenbelt Association, Inc.
Acres to be conserved: 38
Protection Method: Land purchase
MCP Grant Award: $7,500
Estimated Total Project Costs: $1,279,030

Greenbelt has entered into an historic partnership with two municipalities and a state agency to preserve critical watershed land and open space bordering the Upper Artichoke Reservoir in West Newbury.  The land’s permanent protection will ensure it is forever managed and protected for drinking water, wildlife habitat, intact forests, scenic landscapes, climate resiliency and passive public recreation. It will also provide a significant trail link in a greenway stretching from Maudslay State Park to West Newbury’s Withers Conservation Area.

Stillhouse Forest Addition, Northfield, NH

Applicant: Society for the Protection of NH Forests
Acres to be conserved:  76
Protection Method: Land Purchase
MCP Grant Award: $10,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $318,754

The Forest Society plans to purchase 76 acres of land adjacent to its 215-acre Stillhouse Forest. This additional land includes 1,200 feet of river frontage, several perennial streams, 8 acres of wetlands, 2 confirmed vernal pools and is located with the Wellhead Protection Area of 3 Penacook-Boscawen Water Precinct wells directly across the river. The land will be a permanently protected property open to the general public for hiking, bird-watching, hunting, fishing, and other passive recreational activities. Once protected, this parcel will become part of an uninterrupted riverine corridor for boating, fishing, and swimming, complete with both a state- and a town-maintained river access/parking area.

Bloomfield Conservation Easement, Epsom, NH

Applicant: Bear-Paw Regional Greenways
Acres to be conserved: 97
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $8,300
Estimated Total Project Costs: $115,800

Bear-Paw Regional Greenways is working with Epsom landowners to protect nearly 100 acres of forest with a conservation easement. The landowner will retain the right to conduct agriculture and forestry activities. Nearly all of the property is among the most highly ranked wildlife habitat in the state. It is traversed by Deer Brook as well as an unnamed stream, and a large wetland system covers most of the eastern part of the property. The property is located between two of the largest unfragmented forest blocks in the region and these protected lands will contribute to the future success of wildlife movement. Although the land will remain privately owned, public access will be allowed to the extent appropriate.

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