Gardner Ridge is the signature backdrop of Lyman, N.H.
1,100 acres protect key habitat, working forest, recreation
A significant portion of Gardner Ridge in the Connecticut River valley, the scenic backdrop for Lyman and critically important wildlife habitat, has been conserved. Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and The Trust for Public Land announced that the conservation easement on the 1,081 acres encourages timber management, protects important habitat, and guarantees public access, but restricts development not related to agriculture or forestry.
This property has been managed for timber for many years, and the current owner, the Merrill Family Trust, wished to see the property conserved rather than developed. In 2004 a wind farm development along Gardner Ridge was proposed and rejected by Lyman voters. Around the same time, the late John Merrill offered the town the opportunity to buy the land. Several residents approached Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), the North Country’s land conservancy, for assistance in how to accomplish a purchase. ACT enlisted the help of The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization that has brokered many similar projects.
Working together, the residents, ACT, and TPL proposed a community forest for Lyman, but residents voted down a bond for purchasing the property in March of 2009. TPL and ACT then pursued an alternative conservation strategy, conserving the land with an easement but keeping it in private ownership.
The land has now been sold to a new owner, who will operate it as a commercial working forest subject to the conservation easement. Continued forestry will be done on a sustainable basis and will continue to support New Hampshire’s rural economies. ACT will manage the easement.
“Land protection projects often take a lot of time and work, as this one did,” said ACT Executive Director Rebecca Brown. “I’m sure we all wish John Merrill had lived to see this happen. It’s a great tribute to him and his family, and a tremendous gift to people everywhere who care about seeing our landscape conserved for future generations.”
“Gardner Mountain is a remarkable Lyman landmark worthy of protection,” said J.T. Horn, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. “Our sincere thanks to the Merrill Family, New Hampshire’s LCHIP fund, our other funding partners, and the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust for seeing this project through to the end.”
Gardner Mountain includes some of the most important wildlife habitat in New Hampshire. Paddock Mine, an abandoned copper mine on the property, is now home to the second largest bat hibernacula in New Hampshire. Bats are under severe stress from a new and mysterious disease known as White Nose Syndrome, which is causing high mortality rates among several common species of bats. New Hampshire Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believe that conservation of the Paddock Mine hibernacula is a critical part of the response to White Nose Syndrome in New Hampshire.
“We appreciate the work that ACT and The Trust for Public Land and have done in protecting this land,” said Emily Brunkhurst, wildlife biologist for the NH Fish and Game Department. “Conserving this hibernacula provides a safe wintering habitat for bats who survive white-nose syndrome and their offspring. As you enjoy this newly conserved land, please help save our bats by staying out of the mine to allow them to hibernate without disturbance.”
Lyman is a rural community that set goals to maintain its heritage of agriculture, forestry, and open recreational access. The property contains a significant portion of the Gardner Ridge, Lyman’s scenic backdrop with western views from the church and fields in the center of the Town. The property will also remain open to pedestrian access for hiking, cross-country skiing and hunting. Visitors will be able to enjoy the dramatic views from the property toward Mount Moosilauke and the Kinsman Ridge in the White Mountain National Forest.
Funding for the $600,000 project came from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), Open Space Institute – Saving New England Wildlife Fund, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation – Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, the McIninch Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation, the Byrne Foundation and many private individuals.