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Londonderry officials hail acquisition of two conservation parcels on 'wish list'

Union Leader Correspondent

November 05. 2017 11:39PM
Keene resident Julio Razquin, second from left, strolls along a trail Wednesday afternoon in Londonderry's Musquash Swamp Conservation Area with Alan Glass, far left, and his children Kimberley and Richard. The Glass family is visiting New Hampshire from Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER Correspondent)

Londonderry’s Musquash Conservation Area off Hickory Hill Drive. The town announced it will have a new 150-acre wildlife management area known as the Musquash Swamp WMA, as well as a 26-acre conservation easement protecting scenic farmland acquired by the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER)

LONDONDERRY — Conservation officials in Londonderry are hailing a collaborative effort that created a new 150-acre wildlife management area and the acquisition of a 26-acre conservation easement to protect scenic farmland and streams within the town.

Mike Speltz of the Londonderry Conservation Commission said this project is “probably the most important piece of conservation land on our wish list.”

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has created the Musquash Swamp Wildlife Management Area, a diverse land part of the “Musquash Expansion” that conserves wetlands vital to many reptiles and amphibians.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire (SELT) helped acquire the 26 acres for a conservation easement. While the easement maintains agriculturally important property, it also protects waterways within the Pennichuck Water Works public drinking water supply.

“It’s great because this is the first time in about five years we’ve actually added to our open space, and it’s wonderful to see that starting up again,” Speltz said. “It’s a very big deal. We have been working ... to acquire (this) land literally for decades. And to finally be able to do this is fantastic.”

Both areas now add to the 1,000-plus acres within the Musquash Swamp Conservation Area.

And at a time when the town is the fastest growing municipality in the Granite State, Speltz said it is great to strike a balance between economic development and preserving Londonderry’s woodlands and agricultural fields.

“It’s really important that we conserve part of our remaining open space because, maybe (in) as little as 10 or 15 years, we’re going to be built-out or conserved-out, so what we don’t conserve, we’re going to turn into pavement and rooftops,” he added. “It is a balancing act, and we’ve tried to identify those areas in town that are most ripe for development and those areas that are most important to conserve.”

Town officials say the state Fish and Game Department and SELT provided a significant partnership with Londonderry in these efforts.

“These conservation projects protect important reptile and amphibian habitat, and the oak-pine forest provides a significant amount of hard mast for deer, turkey, and bear,” said Richard Cook, a land agent with Fish and Game.

SELT Executive Director Brian Hart praised the important wildlife habitat benefits of the projects and said they achieved “the shared goals of two landowners that included ensuring their lands remained undeveloped for the public to enjoy.”

A ceremony celebrating the completion of the conservation project will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the end of Preserve Drive in Londonderry. Speltz said the public is welcome to attend.

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