Federal-State Land Swap Secures Link in “Ride the Wilds” ATV loop

January 1, 2014

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Reporter

ERROL — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service exchanged a 233-acre parcel of land in the Town of Errol for a conservation easement on the state’s Big Island State Forest in the Unincorporated Place of Wentworth’s Location.

The Big Island State Forest conservation easement area has become part of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, and a new state forest was created in Errol. The deeds were signed on Thursday, Dec. 19, and recorded on Friday, Dec. 20, in Lancaster.

“The Big Island land exchange between the State of New Hampshire and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Errol allows the 1,000-mile ‘Ride the Wilds” ATV loop to connect from Gorham-Berlin to Errol-Millsfield and onto Colebrook-Pittsburg,” explained Harry Brown of Stewartstown, president of both the N. H. Off-Highway Vehicle Association and North Country Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Coalition, in an e-mail exchange.

“Without this ‘land swap,’ this vital economic stimulus for Coös County would not have been able to proceed. “This is a great example of multiple agencies working together – not-for-profits, federal, state, and local – along with the consumer to get something accomplished for the good of all citizens that own the property.

“What was even more astounding was that a temporary usage agreement was done so that the trail could open last summer, Brown continued. “I hope at an appropriate time that a public ceremonial signing will be held so that all the parties can be acknowledged publicly.”

Speaking on behalf of the members of both the OHRV organizations he heads up, Brown also thanked the many partners who worked on this project, including administrator Bill Carpenter of the Land Management Bureau of the state Division of Forests and Lands.  “This is a win-win deal for wildlife and people,” said Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge manager Paul Casey in a prepared statement. “High-quality wildlife habitat will be managed by the Refuge while the public will permanently gain an important connection in the new North Country ATV trail.”

The exchange also gives the USFWS rare silver maple floodplain forest and mixed wood habitat that supports migratory birds and waterfowl, including rusty blackbirds, wood ducks, common goldeneyes, and many warbler species, he added. To complete the exchange, USFWS will pay the State of New Hampshire $6,200 in addition to the 233-acre parcel itself. For this, USFWS now has a conservation easement of over 280 acres on both sides of Route 16 in Wentworth’s Location.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) facilitated the transaction. “We were pleased to help,” said Rodger Krussman, N. H. Director for The Trust for Public Land, in a prepared statement. “We want to protect land for people to enjoy, and this announcement means people who use ATVs will have access to the Seven Island Bridge and the ‘Ride the Wilds’ ATV trail system. It also will maintain high-quality wildlife habitat protection around Lake Umbagog and the Magalloway River.”

The State and the US FWS have been working n this exchange for over a year, each driven by its commitment to its mission.  The Refuge will manage the wildlife habitat of Big Island State Forest consistent with their management of adjacent Refuge lands. The State will establish a new forest with the exchanged Refuge lands that includes a key connection in the ATV and snowmobile trail network.

“Beyond the benefits that this exchange provides to our sporting citizens and guests, the new 233 acre State Forest ensures that the land will remain a working forest providing jobs and forest products,” said Interim Director of the Division of Forests and Lands Brad Simpkins in a prepared statement.

It will be named the Androscoggin River Reservation. He, too, praised the USFWS team for its cooperation and timeliness in moving forward with the exchange.

The Umbagog Nation al Wildlife Refuge, which spans northern New Hampshire and western Maine, was established in 1992 with the primary purposes of protecting wetlands and wetland-associated wildlife as well as migratory birds.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) founded in 1972, has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a TPL park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.

Go to tpl.org for more information


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