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Oyster River Forest and Amber Acres Farm Conservation Easements Celebration

Sprucewood Event Group Pic
Back Row from Left to Right:  Ann Welsh, TPL Advisory Committee, Gregg Caporossi, TPL, Rick Ellsmore, NRCS, Rodger Krussman, TPL; Front Row from Left to Right:  Lori Sommer, DES, Robin Mower, Town of Durham (Town Councilor), Todd Selig, Town of Durham (Town Administrator), Dijit Taylor, LCHIP, and Judith Spang, NH State Rep.


Oyster River Forest and the Amber Acres Farm
Conservation Easements Celebration Event

By Ryan DuBois

Durham, NH – On Thursday June 6, 2013, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire (SELTNH) held a celebration event at the Oyster River Forest (formerly called the Sprucewood Forest) off Mast Road in Durham, NH.   USDA NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program conservation easements were placed on two abutting parcels that are now the Oyster River Forest and a Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program conservation easement was put on the Amber Acres Farm, which is next to the Oyster River Forest.  Representatives from the Town of Durham, TPL, NH – Land and Community Investment Program (LCHIP), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Department of Environmental Services (DES), NH Fish and Game, and many Durham town residents came to enjoy guided tours by Phil Auger and Emma Carcagno who spoke about the environmental benefits and unique qualities of the property such as the habitat for the New England Cottontail Rabbit, a candidate species for the endangered species list, or the abutting Sprucehole bog, a National Natural Landmark.  Speaking at the event, Rick Ellsmore, NRCS State Conservationist, expressed his appreciation to the partners for their remarkable collaboration and hard work making these conservation easements a reality and thanked his staff:  Sue Knight, Ryan DuBois, and Jeremy Lougee who ensured that the projects received funding through the Farm and Ranch Lands and Wetlands Reserve Programs.  Ellsmore said "without the perseverence of all these fine individuals, we would not be standing here celebrating the conservation of this important resource for the people of New Hampshire". 

Rick at Sprucewoods Event Hart Give Ellsmore Recognition
Rick Ellsmore, NRCS State Conservationist Brian Hart, SENHLT recognizes Rick Ellsmore and the NRCS contribution to the project

Sprucewoods Map

These easements were successful because of the strong community action and financial support which consisted of 115 donations from private landowners and foundations.   The Trust for Private Land spearheaded a fundraising campaign that came to be known as the Oyster River Initiative, which consisted of several organizations that collaborated and pooled their resources.  In addition to the USDA NRCS, the organizations involved were the TPL, SELTNH, DES, LCHIP, NH Mooseplate Program, Lamprey River Advisory Committee, and the Town of Durham’s Conservation Commission.

This project used two NRCS easement programs, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program on the 39-acre Amber Acres Farm, and the Wetlands Reserve Program on the abutting 171-acre Oyster River Forest.  The Oyster River Forest was transferred in fee to the Town of Durham and is now open to the public.   Together, the 210-acre area joins nearly 2,200 acres of protected land, and helps maintain water quality with approximately 4,600 feet of frontage along the Oyster River.  The river serves as the drinking water source for Durham residents and the University of New Hampshire, including nearly 16,000 people using the municipal water system.

After the guided tours, talks were given by some of the lead organizations.  The theme of the day was collaboration and partnerships.  This project is an excellent example of a team effort approach to conservation.  With limited funding and budgets becoming tighter, this project could be used as a model for future conservation efforts.

The NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program contributed $765,000, 50% of the appraised value of the Amber Acres Farm conservation easement and the Wetlands Reserve Program contributed $2,464,200, 100% of the value of the two parcels that now make up the Oyster River Forest.

Sprucewood - Phil
Phil Auger explains the environmental benefits
and special qualities of the property.