May 3, 2013

Lewis Easement Connects Balsams, Blocks Northern Pass

The Forest Society closed recently on a conservation easement on 295 acres in Columbia, N.H., owned by the Lewis family. The land lies just south of the protected landscape surrounding the Balsams Wilderness Resort and abuts a parcel acquired by Northern Pass. By conserving it, the Lewis family and the Forest Society have accomplished two key goals.

The Lewis property immediately connects the Balsams landscape with the state's Nash Stream Forest, creating an interconnected conserved ecosystem. In fact, the property is part of a larger contiguous block of formally protected land totaling over 65,000± acres thanks to the diligent work of several conservation organizations. This larger block of land stretches for almost 20 miles from Highway 26 to the north, south to Highway 110 in Coos County. Landscape connectivity is critical to a wide range of wildlife species such as pine marten, fisher, northern goshawk, and Canada lynx.

"The Lewis's have a strong conservation ethic and we commend them for taking steps to permanently protect the land they love," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society.

The Lewis conservation easement prohibits Northern Pass--or any other proposed elective transmission line--from completing a route from the Canadian border in Pittsburg to Dixville and Millsfield to the east. The Forest Society has also blocked the primary intended route of Northern Pass through Stewartstown.

Thanks to the support of more than 3,000 donors from nearly every town in New Hampshire and over half the states in the country, the Forest Society's Trees Not Towers campaign to date has permanently protected 8,000 acres in northern Coos County from towers and transmission lines. In spite of spending $40 million on land acquisitions, Northern Pass has not been able to complete a route.

The property's upland and wetland natural communities support a wealth of flora and fauna ranging from blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), red baneberry (Actaea rubra), and twisted stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius) to eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), black bear (Ursus americanus), fisher (Martes pennanti), long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), moose (Alces alces), and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). During breeding season and migration many bird species utilize the property’s varied habitats. More than 40 bird species were observed on the property including more than a dozen neotropical migratory warbler species.