NH Audubon - Conservation Partnership Results in Land Exchange

Conservation partnership results in land exchange between two New Hampshire wildlife refuges

Errol, NH - An unusual public-private conservation land exchange in New Hampshire reached completion on Tuesday when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conveyed an 83.8-acre portion of the John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, including historic buildings and grounds, in Newbury to the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. In exchange, the agency acquired 727 acres from The Trust for Public Land for the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in Errol.

The Service, a natural resources agency, has turned an historic estate over to more appropriate owners and, in turn, has acquired land that better supports its wildlife conservation mission.

The Fells, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization, has purchased the 83.8 acres in Newbury from the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. The Service retained 79.9 acres o f undeveloped land on the refuge south of the estate, which it will continue to manage for fish and wildlife.

“Our organization has maintained and managed the buildings, gardens and grounds of the refuge since 1997, working within the constraints of not owning the property,” said Karen Zurheide, Executive Director of The Fells. “Now as owners, we expect to more effectively fund and accomplish our missions of caring for the property and engaging the public in history, horticulture and ecology through this significant site.”

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg commented, “This exchange will significantly benefit two of the important cultural and environmental resources in New Hampshire. Both the Lake Umbagog Wildlife Refuge and the John Hay Wildlife Refuge, especially the unique historic buildings and grounds there, greatly contribute to the way of life we cherish in our state. I want to thank the Trust for Public Land, New Hampshire Audubon, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Fells for the commitment they have made to protecting these vital conservation areas and to enhancing the public’s ability to enjoy them.”

“N.H. Audubon is proud to have helped to make this transaction possible because it will have lasting value to wildlife, our federal wildlife refuges, and all those who love the Fells Estate for its history and significance in the community,” said Rick Minard, president of N.H. Audubon.

The Fells was the historic summer estate of John Hay, personal secretary to President Abraham Lincoln and secretary of state under both Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. The buildings and grounds, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be managed and open to the public by The Fells organization according to a historic preservation easement with the State of New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.

The Service acquired the land at the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in exchange for a portion of the John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, and additional funding approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The property includes the headwaters of Mollidgewock Brook, diverse wetlands, and important habitat for migratory birds.

The acquisition is the first phase of a larger, ongoing conservation effort in Errol that will permanently p rotect five thousand acres recently purchased by The Trust for Public Land from Thomas R. and Scott A. Dillon. TPL has been able to hold the property off the market through generous below market rate financing through the Open Space Institute, allowing time for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assemble the funding and approvals for this complex transaction.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.3 million acres nationwide, including over 200,000 acres in New Hampshire. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.

New Hampshire Audubon is an independent statewide membership organization whose mission is to protect New Hampshire’s natural environment for wildlife and for people. It operates five nature centers throughout the state that provide educational programs for children and adults. It is also involved in statewide conservation research and wildlife monitoring projects, protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, and advocates for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on New Hampshire Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, and publications, call 224-9909 or visit www.nhaudubon.org .