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January 18. 2013 12:06AM

Anonymous $500k donation to fund land conservation, trail-building effort

CONCORD - Staff members at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests are marveling that an anonymous donor has given the society $500,000 to fund land conservation projects and enhance a Quabbin-to-Cardigan trail-building effort over a 100-mile stretch between western New Hampshire and north-central Massachusetts.

"Generally, anonymous donations are a fairly common occurrence," said Chris Wells, the society's senior director for strategic projects. "But this scale is not something we see every day. This is a very significant gift."

At times, Wells acknowledged, the society agrees to keep a donor's identity confidential, while knowing where the funds came from. That's not the case this time, he said Thursday.

"I honestly have no idea who the donor is; we really don't know who it is. As far as I know, it's an individual. It might be a family, but it's not some institutional, foundation-type of thing," he said.

The funds will flow to the forest protection society through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation which "keeps many pots" of donation money ticketed for various agencies and purposes, Wells said.

And, he added, the new money couldn't have arrived at a better time.

"The (Quabbin-to-Cardigan) Partnership's land conservation grants program was out of money and about to shut down. Now we will be able to continue making grants for at least the next two years and help protect thousands of additional acres in western New Hampshire."

The long north-to-south stretch varies in width between 20 and 30 miles. The area helps delineate the Connecticut River valley and the Merrimack River valley, according to Wells.

"It's one of the last places you still will find unfragmented forests in the southern half of the state; it's forest at the edge of population."

The project has been a boon that aided 36 key land conservation projects in the region - 12,360 acres of land - which stretches from the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts to the Granite State's Mount Cardigan and the White Mountain National Forest, according to Jane Dilfey, the society's president and a forester.

"Many of these acres would not have been conserved without these grants. We're confident that keeping this program alive will inspire many additional projects to keep intact the forests we value for their recreational opportunities, wildlife habitats, water quality protection and scenic beauty," she said in a news release.



bhookway@newstote.com


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