The Nature Conservancy, along with local partner the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, announced today a campaign to protect over 1,300 acres of land (2 square miles) in Conway NH. Once completed, the project will expand The Conservancy’s existing 3,500 acre Green Hills Preserve, which provides the scenic backdrop for North Conway village.
“This is an exciting and rare opportunity to protect important natural resources and ensure continued public access to the high quality recreational opportunities that are so important to the economy and quality of life in the Mt. Washington Valley,” said Mark Zankel, New Hampshire State Director. “Here in New Hampshire, opportunities like this do not come about that often. We just couldn’t pass this up.”
The Conservancy will need to raise $1.4 million to complete the project. About half of the funding has already been secured through a combination of private donations, foundation grants and public support including funding from the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game and the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP).
“We are very pleased to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this project,” said William Abbott, Executive Director of the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. “This area is a conservation priority for the Land Trust. Protecting the southern flanks of the Green Hills will make a lasting difference here in the Valley. Our members and the community are excited about it.”
The project area is rich in natural resources, including high quality wildlife habitat, important water resources and exemplary natural communities. In addition to providing habitat for migratory birds, deer, black bear and moose, the land features extensive wetlands and over 7 miles of headwater streams that support Eastern brook trout, a species of conservation concern.
“When we looked at the property closely, what really jumped were the outstanding natural features on the land,” said Jeff Lougee, TNC’s Director of Stewardship and Ecological Management. “Some of the forest types on the property are very unique – including a stand of trees that may be over 400 years old. Those features, combined with seven miles of streams and brooks flowing into the Saco River, made this a must do project.”
The Conway Conservation Commission supports the project. They explained that the expansion “will serve to protect additional exemplary communities and provide expanded recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.” The property will remain on the Conway tax rolls, continuing to provide important revenue for the community.
While the natural features of the property are important, it is recreational resources that draw visitors to the area. The Green Hills is The Conservancy’s most visited preserve in New Hampshire, with iconic Black Cap a favorite destination for thousands of locals and tourists each year. In 2012, the Boston Globe named the Green Hills one of the ten best family friendly hikes in New England. In addition to hiking, responsible mountain biking, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing are enjoyed on the land.
The Nature Conservancy intends to add between 3 and 5 miles of new multi-use recreation trails, including a new southern trailhead for increased public access. The Conservancy’s plan is to connect the existing Green Hills trail system with trails on the addition – providing visitors with new opportunities to explore the varied landscapes and forests of the Green Hills area.
“The Nature Conservancy works to protect landscapes for the benefit of people and nature,” remarked Zankel. “We invite the public to come onto our land and experience nature in their own way – whether it’s hiking, bird watching, hunting or fishing – the value of this project is the connection between the land and the community. Our hope is that by protecting it and ensuring that it remains open and accessible, more people will use it and appreciate all that nature has to offer.”
Since 1961, The Nature Conservancy has helped to protect over 280,000 acres of land in New Hampshire by utilizing sound conservation science, developing innovative strategies, and working collaboratively with a wide variety of public and private partners. The Conservancy’s mission is to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.