MERRIMACK CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCES 2021 LAND TRANSACTION GRANT AWARDS

The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2021 recipients of its seventh 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 $45,994 to 4 projects that will conserve a total of approximately 166 acres of land. The total value of the land to be protected in the latest grant round is conservatively estimated at $1.69 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 2021 grant recipients and a brief description of their projects.

Artichoke River Woods Expansion, West Newbury, MA

Applicant: Essex County Greenbelt Association
Acres to be conserved: 8
Protection Method: Land purchase
MCP Grant Award: $7,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $365,960

The Essex County Greenbelt Association is working to acquire and preserve 8 acres of forested watershed protection land on the Artichoke Reservoir. The land abuts the existing 38-acre Artichoke River Woods Reservation. Already-established hiking trails on this expansion parcel will be incorporated into the trails on the reservation, expanding opportunities for free recreational hiking. Protection of this parcel ensures it will remain undeveloped, so that it will continue to provide outstanding wildlife habitat connectivity, productive forests, and water quality protection for communities which draw water from the Artichoke River Reservoir.

Corliss Hill Conservation Project, Haverhill, MA

Applicant: Essex County Greenbelt Association
Acres to be conserved: 22.45
Protection Method: Land purchase
MCP Grant Award: $9,000
Estimated Total Project Cost: $427,705

The Essex County Greenbelt Association (ECGA) will purchase more than 22 acres of land nestled next to 400 acres of preserved watershed land in the City of Haverhill. The City has assigned its option to purchase the land to ECGA, who will purchase the fee and then sell 13 acres of forestland to the City for water supply protection, retaining the remainder. Both parcels will be held under reciprocal conservation easements. Trails that exist on the property will be open to the public and connect to existing recreation trails on the City’s adjacent protected land. The open fields near the road have been historically farmed for more than a century and the landowners on the adjacent parcel have pledged to grant a conservation restriction on the majority of their land (the other half of the original farm) when this piece is successfully preserved.

Potter Family Farm, Concord, NH

Applicant: Five Rivers Conservation Trust
Acres to be conserved: 88
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Easement
MCP Grant Award: $20,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $515,000

Five Rivers will purchase a conservation easement on 88 acres of land that has been farmed by the Potter Family for centuries. The current farmer will use the funds from the sale to purchase the land and continue to operate the farm, including agriculture, forestry and some low-impact agritourism activities. The existing snowmobile trail will remain open to public access. By ensuring that this land will continue to be used for agriculture and forestry, this easement will protect the water quality of Turtletown Pond and add to a block of nearly 600 acres of conserved land in Northeast Concord.

Eastern Greenway/North, Harvard, MA

Applicant: Sudbury Valley Trustees
Acres to be conserved: 45
Protection Method: Purchased Conservation Restriction
MCP Grant Award: $9,994
Estimated Total Project Costs: $518,035

Sudbury Valley Trustees has the opportunity to protect the Eastern Greenway/North property by purchasing a Conservation Restriction (at 80-percent fair market value) over 45 acres of land held by the Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT) and located along an unused utility corridor in Harvard. These parcels knit together surrounding protected lands in a contiguous corridor, important not only for wildlife passage but also for connectivity to the existing trail network on surrounding open space. Protecting these parcels will safeguard critical connecting parcels within the High Ridge natural resource area, which will enhance the ecological resilience of this region. HCT intends to expand the existing trail network and provide new connections to nearby conservation lands.

For more information about the MCP, please contact Brian Hotz at (603) 224-9945 or bhotz@forestsociety.org.  Information is also available at http://merrimackconservationpartnership.org.

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