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December 13. 2012 11:12AM

Society to Protect N.H. Forests purchases easement near center of town

The Society to Protect N.H. Forests has purchased a conservation easement on 80 acres of land in Weare to protect an important agricultural property near the center of town from development. The purchase was made possible by several grants and strong local support and collaboration.

Under the easement, Dale and Barbara Purington will continue to own the land and operate a small beef farm. The easement includes scenic frontage on Quaker Street and along Breed Brook, a tributary of the Piscataquog River that offers exemplary wildlife habitat. Since the Purington land abuts the Forest Society’s 52-acre Breed Forest, conserving it enlarges the protected lands within the area. In addition, the easement will guarantee public pedestrian access for hiking, hunting and fishing.

“This property incorporates a lot of conservation value into a relatively small parcel of conserved land,” said Brian Hotz, senior director of strategic projects for the Forest Society. “It’s difficult to raise funds nowadays, but for this project we were able to piece the funding together to achieve a wonderful outcome.”

The Forest Society raised $15,000 in private donations, but the bulk of the easement purchase price came from the USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program ($132,000), the Russell Foundation ($65,000), Mildred Hall Trust ($70,000), Weare Conservation Commission ($15,000) and the Emma Sawyer Trust ($32,000).

Andrew Fulton, chairman of the Weare Conservation Commission, said the project meets the town’s master plan goal of preserving open space, agricultural lands and prime farmland soils.

“We strive to maintain the rural underpinnings of our town in the face of modernity’s onrush,” Fulton said. “Farm and range land is a precious commodity, and by helping the Purington Farm maintain its viability, this project is an example of our community coming together to preserve that which we so greatly value.”

A former dairy farm, about two-thirds of the property offers important agricultural soils. This heritage was one of the reasons the project was awarded a Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program grant, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the USDA. Since the start of the program in 1996, the NRCS has funded more than 120 agricultural easements in New Hampshire, protecting an estimated 7,500 acres.

“Partnerships like this are critical to ensure protection of prime agricultural land, particularly in Hillsborough County where developmental pressure is high,” said Rick Ellsmore, NRCS state conservationist.

Local grants were also very important to the project, which took three years to complete.

“The local support given to us by the town of Weare through the conservation commission and the trustees of the Mildred Hall and Emma Sawyer trusts was crucial to the funding of this project,” Hotz said.

Ian McSweeney, the director of the Russell Foundation, said the Purington project, one of several partnerships with the Forest Society, meets the foundation’s goals for conserving lands in the Piscataquag River watershed.

“We have been focused on creating contiguous green space connecting existing conservation lands near the center of town, which is great for human access to the outdoors and also just public awareness,” he said.

“It’s a place people recognize along a well-traveled road.”

“We greatly appreciate the Forest Society’s work to bring all these participants together to manage the project, secure the funding and continue to have a strong presence in Weare,” McSweeney added.

Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is the state’s oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. Supported by 10,000 families and businesses, the Forest Society’s mission is to perpetuate the state’s forests by promoting land conservation and sustainable forestry. For more information, visit www.forestsociety.org .


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