CARROLL — With the acquisition this month of more than 500 acres straddling Carroll and Whitefield, the Pondicherry wildlife refuge will now connect to the White Mountain National Forest.
The 510 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat that had belonged to Dodge family are now a part of the Pondicherry division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, bringing the area to more than 6,000 acres.
The refuge, with its rail trail that leads out to Cherry Pond and Little Cherry Pond, is popular with hikers and bird watchers.
“This is a terrific addition to Pondicherry. Not only does it expand one of the North Country’s (federally designated) Important Bird Areas, it both connects people to nature and the White Mountain National Forest to the Refuge,” said Daryl Burtnett, state director of The Nature Conservancy, which assisted the US Fish and Wildlife Service in acquiring the property.
The Nature Conservancy worked with the Dodge family for several years to protect the biologically rich area, by directing the deed at closing to the USFWS, after paying the purchase price of $385,000.
Money for the acquisition comes from the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which receives a large part of its funding from the sale of waterfowl hunting licenses known as Duck Stamps.
The Dodge tract will provide protection of land along the Presidential Rail Trail, which extends into the refuge and conserve spruce forested wetlands and brooks that feed in tot he Moorhen Marsh.
It will provide buffer protection to Cherry Pond and John’s River, which is identified as a “critical habitat” for migratory birds.
“We have enjoyed the land for many years and look forward to continuing to enjoy it and it’s wildlife as part of the Refuge,” said David Dodge.
Pondicherry is not only rich in biological habitats, it also offers stunning views of the Presidential and Kilkenny mountain ranges.
The meandering walk along the rail trail draws hikers and especially bird watchers.
According to TNC, the area has long been known to offer exceptional avian habitat, supporting about 230 species of birds, of which 125 species have been confirmed as breeding.
Pondicherry is also documented to harbor a greater diversity of birds than any other similar-sized area in New Hampshire, and harbors breeding occurrences of five Category 1 bird species, which are threatened, endangered, and of special concern.
Species of particular conservation interest include common loon, northern harrier, sore, rusty blackbird, whip-poor-will, and American black duck.
Twenty species of reptiles and amphibians, 41 species of mammals, and 17 species of fish have also been documented to use the Pondicherry Refuge site.