The Foss property, which is under a purchase & sales agreement, is proposed as a community forest, meaning that the community will own and manage it. Its working name is the Easton – Sugar Hill Community Forest, as these two communities have a direct stake in the land and have been talking about conserving the land for several years. This conversation has been facilitated by the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), the North Country’s regional lands conservancy based in Bethlehem.
This land is a central in our community recreationally, culturally, and ecologically. In addition to partially abutting the White Mountain National Forest, it is adjacent to or near other conservation lands including many with working forest conservation easements (please see Context Map). The land is seen from other conserved lands, from dozens of hiking trails in the WMNF, from summits, and from other higher elevation viewpoints.
The P&S agreement for $600,000 was negotiated by ACT after much discussion with the towns and the landowners. Permanent ownership and governance of the Forest will be determined through a public planning process that is now underway. A Planning Committee will lead the process over the next year that will culminate in an expanded Community Forest Plan which will including forest management, public recreation management, protection of natural communities and wildlife habitat, and ownership, governance, and management structures. Representatives of Easton, Sugar Hill, Landaff, and ACT are involved in the planning process. The deadline for raising funds and closing is June 2013.
The purpose of the community forest is to ensure that by passing from private to community ownership, the land will forever be available to all members of the surrounding communities and remain as a working forest.
Description of the property
The proposed Easton – Sugar Hill Community Forest is 840 acres in the town of Easton, Grafton County, in northwestern New Hampshire. The land is at the edge of the White Mountains, is partly adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest, and is one of the highest elevation privately held properties in the region. Rising from 1,600 feet to 2,645 feet in elevation, its topographic prominence makes it one of the most visible lands outside the WMNF from Sugar Hill and Landaff, and from parts of Easton.
The land has been managed for timber for many generations. It was most recently harvested over several winters, ending nine years ago. The public uses the land for recreation including hunting, birding, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and wildlife photography and observation.
There are multiple access points to this property. The primary public access route to the property is from Jericho and Trumpet Round roads in Sugar Hill. These are public roads maintained by the town. There is also Class VI road and gravel logging road access from Landaff. (map)
Forest Type and Vegetative Cover:
The UNH Cooperative Extension Grafton County forester has walked this property and reported the type and condition of the forest stands here. Although this property has been heavily logged in the past, there are three distinct forest cover types that are regenerating on the property. The northern third of the property consists of sapling and pole sized northern hardwoods, with some softwoods mixed in, with the hardwoods being the dominant cover type. Tree species consist of yellow birch, American beech, paper birch, aspen, red maple, sugar maple and some white pine, balsam fir and red spruce mostly as inclusions throughout the stands. Average diameter is 4-6 inches for all species. Slopes on the property are Northeasterly and range from 8% to 25%.
The central third of the property is the most steep and generally the highest elevation of the property. Slopes go in all directions from the summits of the hills and range in steepness from 8 to 60 percent. Forest cover type here is a softwood mixture of balsam fir, red spruce and some white pine in the sapling to pole size classes There are areas of dense, young softwood mixed with scattered pockets of hardwoods. The hardwoods consist of striped maple, red maple, paper birch and yellow birch that are all well suited for this higher elevation. Most of the hardwoods have been heavily browsed by moose and will likely not contribute to overall future timber stand.
The southern third of the property is the most recently logged area, thus stand development is in a regenerative state, with some residual pole sized trees. The mixed vegetation of high elevation hardwoods (yellow birch, paper birch, red maple and striped maple) has been heavily browsed by moose. There are also small areas of spruce, fir and pine in early stages of development. Over time the moose browse will allow the softwood species to flourish as it has in the central portion of the property. Slopes are generally northwest ranging from 8-25 percent
Soils on the property are very good for forest stand growth with the only limitations for forestry and recreation being steep slopes. The entire property has either group IA or group IIA soils, the most fertile forest soils in New Hampshire. The only major differences in these two forest soils groups are elevation and slope which create some limitations for equipment use in forest operations. Almost 85% of the property is covered with the Tunbridge-Lyman soil series (Group IIA) and 15% of the property is covered with Marlow and Peru soils (Group 1A). Future growth of high quality/high value tree species is likely as this growth and regeneration is already happening.
A comprehensive natural resource inventory will be completed as part of the early planning process for the Community Forest acquisition and stewardship.