by Emma Lord, Natural Resources Specialist, NPS
In its first year, the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers Wild and Scenic Stewardship Council (Stewardship Council) is leading an ambitious effort to protect important forest areas from development and fragmentation in the Nashua River watershed. The Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers, along with their headwaters, flow through areas of southern New Hampshire and north-central Massachusetts that are under substantial development pressure. One of the best ways to ensure the rivers and their outstanding resources are protected is to conserve the land around them.
Administered nationally by the U.S. Forest Service and statewide in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) uses both fee-simple land purchases and permanent conservation easements to protect environmentally important forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. Partnering with local and regional land trusts, conservation commissions, state agencies, and other organizations, the Stewardship Council is working to identify tracts of important, threatened, and strategically located forested lands which, when aggregated together, could produce a competitive application for the federal FLP. Landowner outreach has been robust in the past couple of months, with the goal of working with willing landowners to commit +1,000 acres of forested land for protection.
The Wild and Scenic designation serves as the central theme to the Stewardship Council’s FLP application, and the FLP’s additional layer of conservation would help protect important scenic, cultural, fish, wildlife, ecological, and recreational resources around the rivers and their tributaries. The Stewardship Council and partners continue to communicate with prospective landowners and assess the competitiveness of an FLP application this year. Regardless of whether a FLP application is ultimately submitted and accepted this year, this collaboration and landowner outreach is building a strong partner network in the watershed and planting the seeds for future land protection opportunities.