Conservation Success Stories

Mar. 15, 2017
New England Forestry Foundation

With the help of landowners and supporters, NEFF conserved 1,196 acres of forestland in four states over the course of 25 days.

This sweeping run of conservation successes represents the culmination of years of hard work and commitment from landowners as well as NEFF staff. This momentum will spring us forward as we prepare for land protection projects on the horizon. We hope these stories of landowners, a conservation-minded developer, and forest advocates inspire you to join in our efforts to conserve and steward New England’s forests for future generations. With your help, this run of conservation success will kick off a landmark year for New England’s forests.

Conservation Easements

Conservation easements are tools that allow landowners to permanently protect their woods, continue to achieve their own land management goals, and maintain private ownership of their land. NEFF holds 145 easements, totaling over 1.14 million acres. With every easement NEFF holds, we make a commitment to the landowner to ensure that the conservation values of the property are permanently protected.

Geraldine D. Smith Conservation Trust Easement

82 Acres
Ossipee, NH
Conserved on December 19, 2016

The Geraldine D. Smith Conservation Trust donated a conservation easement on 82 acres of forestland in Ossipee, NH, expanding key wildlife habitat along NH Route 16. The Smith family Trust has been working with NEFF for more than 20 years to conserve a total of 320 contiguous forested acres in this region. This most recent donation achieves the vision that the family-based trust set out to accomplish in 1989.



The new NEFF easement completes permanent protection for nearly one mile of continuous forested road frontage, affording wildlife an important transit zone between wetlands east of NH Route 16 and the Ossipee Mountains to the west, as well as scenic views for travelers. The 2015 NH Wildlife Action Plan classifies the property as the “highest ranked wildlife habitat and Supporting Landscapes in the region.” As if to illustrate this point, a hefty bull moose emerged to greet NEFF staff on a recent visit to the property.

In addition to moose, the site supports black bear, bobcat, fisher, weasel, coyote, red fox, salamander, wood turtle, and various small mammals and birds. Hemlock-hardwood-pine and Appalachian oak-pine predominate the woodland, and a portion of the property is managed for old growth forest.

Family ties to the property go back 130 years, when it was primarily pastureland laced with granite stonewalls. Today the site is a forest of meaningful size and diversity, with productive soils, diverse wildlife and plant habitat, as well as scenic, recreation, and open space values. It stretches along a gentle glacial ridge strewn with erratic boulders.

“My sisters and I feel privileged to carry on the work that our aunt, Geraldine Smith, began decades ago to conserve forested green space,” said Elizabeth Gillette of Ossipee, who along with her sisters Lois Toomey of Chelmsford, MA, and Janet Kenty of Wolfeboro, NH, manage the family Trust.

Miss Smith died in 2003 at the age of 100, after a long career as editor of mathematics textbooks that are still in use. In 1989, she shared her thoughts with the family about why she valued conserving forestland and how she came to work with NEFF.

“It was many years ago–perhaps in the old Boston Evening Transcript–that I first read about the New England Forestry Foundation,” Miss Smith explained. “When loggers started to “knock at my door” summer after summer almost begging to buy or log my land, I recalled that article.”

In 1960, Miss Smith worked with local consulting foresters to conduct timber harvests on her land in Ossipee. In 1989, she founded the family Trust to donate 165 acres to NEFF as the Thissell-Smith Memorial Forest, in honor of her parents. She summed up her goal for doing so:

“It is my hope that the woodlands in this Memorial Forest will not only honor the memory of my stepfather, Theodore D. Thissell, and my own parents, Warren A. Smith and Gertrude Smith Thissell, but also provide an oasis in an area that is rapidly being developed and commercialized. I have entrusted it to NEFF knowing that the woods will receive the best of care.”

Echoing her aunt’s sentiment, Gillette elaborated on the Trust’s partnership with NEFF: “Working with NEFF has been especially rewarding, because over the years we developed trust and respect for the thoroughness with which NEFF professionals work, not to mention fun hikes and conversations, too.”

Tellman Easement

800 Acres
Bethlehem, NH
Conserved on December 12, 2016

Through the generosity and hard work of landowners Dave and Tanya Tellman, 800 acres in Bethlehem, NH have been permanently conserved through the donation of a conservation easement.

In 1969, the Tellmans purchased land in Bethlehem, NH as a place for the family to gather and put down roots. Since then, the Tellmans have purchased abutting parcels to create the existing 800-acre tract, which also currently serves as their primary residence. The property is located only miles from the White Mountain National Forest, and lookouts provide scenic views of the Presidential Range and Franconia Ridge. The land has been actively managed for timber for many years, and in 2007, the Tellmans received the New Hampshire Tree Farm of the Year Award.

“To see a piece this size, with the kind of diversity we have and the potential for views of the White Mountains, it is very satisfying to know that it will always be a woodland.” Tanya said of the property. “Our two special places are certainly what we call the ledges. They have about a 270-degree view of the White Mountains. The other is a fen which is home to all kinds of special plants.”

The habitat types present on the property are among some of the highest ranked habitats in New Hampshire, according to the NH Fish & Game Department’s Wildlife Action Plan (revised in 2015). Two types cover a majority of the property: northern hardwood-conifer forest and low-elevation spruce-fir. Other habitats include peatland and northern swamp. The NH Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB) designates both the northern swamp and low-elevation spruce-fir forest communities as very high importance for conservation. In addition, the peatland portions of the property are likely suitable habitat for five different species of peat moss (Sphagnum spp.) listed as threatened or endangered in New Hampshire.

The property also provides an important water resource, as it is located within the watersheds of the Ammonoosuc and Johns River, both major tributaries of the Upper Connecticut River.

The Tellmans have acquired and conserved tracts of forestland throughout New Hampshire. In 2014, the Tellmans donated a 66-acre property in Columbia, NH to NEFF as an addition that links NEFF’s Hemenway and Veraar Forests.

Community Forests

NEFF owns 143 Community Forests comprising over 27,000 acres, practicing sustainable forestry while providing opportunities for public recreation.

Headwaters of the Niantic River

166 Acres
East Lyme, CT
Conserved on January 6, 2017

The symbol for the town of East Lyme, the bay scallop shell, reflects the coastal town’s proud shellfishing roots. Unfortunately, water pollution in the Niantic River has threatened the local shellfishing industry and the essence of the community’s self-identity. In an effort to repair the health of the estuary and restore the fishing industry, local conservation groups have identified forestland conservation as a key strategy to protect water quality, highlighting the importance of the forestland surrounding the headwaters of the Niantic River.

In early January, with local and state support, NEFF purchased the Headwaters of the Niantic River, conserving 166 acres of coastal forestland. This conservation success will ensure that water flowing from this critical portion of the watershed will continue to be filtered by the forest and natural wetland habitat.

Grassroots support for the project originated from an unexpected place—previous property owner and local developer, Steve Harney. Harney provided a discounted sale price and helped rally town, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and United States Forest Service support for the project. Private support came from the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation, Bafflin Foundation, Ruth Lord Charitable Trust, Summer Hill Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and the Sasco Foundation. Several local families and individuals also contributed to the $1.7 million campaign to conserve the woodland.

Efforts are already underway to expand the conservation effort and protect more of the watershed. Phase II of this project, which will conserve 34 additional acres, has been awarded DEEP Open Space Grant funds and a grant from the US Forest Service’s Community Forest program. Additional public and private contributions will be needed to ensure Phase II is a success.

Like all of NEFF’s Community Forests, the property will remain open to the public for recreation. “Under NEFF’s stewardship, the Headwaters of the Niantic River will continue to provide all the benefits of a working forest, and it also will serve as a valuable recreational and environmental resource with a network of walking trails for the local community.” Explains NEFF’s Director of Land Protection, Whit Beals. With input from the local community and a consulting forester, NEFF will create a forest management plan that will include scheduled harvests and help facilitate efforts to create and maintain a trail system throughout the property.

Sumner-Mack Peace Woodland

76 Acres
Topsham, VT
Conserved on December 28, 2016

In January 2014, Nan McCowan Sumner-Mack contacted NEFF concerning the wish of her late husband, Robert, to donate their woodland to NEFF as the Sumner-Mack Peace Woodland. Nan wanted to see the woodland conserved in her own lifetime, but knew that an outright donation would not be financially feasible. NEFF staff worked with Nan to solve the problem, establishing NEFF’s first-ever gift annuity based on a bargain-sale price of the forestland.

Nan wrote a message to NEFF describing the process: “NEFF has been a tremendously patient partner in this process, and I am grateful that it was completed in 2016. Having tramped the parcel with Whitney [Beals] and Frank [Lowenstein] and seen their wonderful knowledge of the natural history of the land, I am certain of my husband’s wish to both protect and share what he cherished for so long…. With gratitude to you and all at NEFF for being there to carry out his dream of conserving a bit of nature for posterity to enjoy and treasure.”

The property consists of a mix of hardwoods and white pine, with a scattering of hemlock trees. A third of the property consists of young sugar maple and ash trees that have regenerated since the land was managed as a pasture 25 years ago. The soils are excellent for growing timber, and they support fine sugar maple stands that will grow and flourish over many years.

A Forest Legacy:

In 1984, Mrs. Charles H. Simmons donated 72 acres in Danby, Vermont to NEFF, establishing the Brookfield Farm Community Forest. The donation included a farmhouse on the property, which NEFF sold to fund further conservation in Vermont. NEFF will be using a portion of this funding to establish the Sumner-Mack Peace Woodland.

Huntress Addition to the Page Family Forest

75 Acres
Oxford, ME
Conserved on December 16, 2016

Fred Huntress, Maine forester and NEFF employee from 1958 until 1994, approached NEFF in early 2016 with an offer to sell his 75-acre woodland that abuts NEFF’s 556-acre Page Family Community Forest at a bargain sale. The woodland features a small, rocky brook that flows across the northern portion of the property. Huntress bought the property 52 years ago, and has been managing and taking care of it ever since.

“The first time I saw it, a couple loggers wanted to sell it. It was the biggest timber I’d ever seen.” Huntress said. “I didn’t cut anything on it for quite a few years. I just kept letting the logs grow, and then I made two timber sales that helped pay for my daughter’s college education.” Today, the woodland is well-stocked with hemlock, red oak, and other hardwoods, as well as a small volume of large white pines—a testament to Huntress’s sustainable management.

“This land has been an important part of the Huntress Family for over 50 years.” Huntress explained. “The first two years our children, Brian and Marlene, helped us collect acorns which we took home to Poland to feed our pig.”

For a number of years, blue herons established a rookery of nests in tall oaks along the edge of the road. “My mother and father took color photos of the nesting birds which they added to their collection of bird photos and showed to many bird clubs for several years.” Huntress said. Even after the herons moved on to another nesting site, Huntress refused to cut the oaks in hope that the herons would return to the rookery.

Huntress has been instrumental in conserving and stewarding woodlands throughout New England, and has served as a strong advocate for small woodland owners. Huntress has been a member of Maine Forest Products Council for over 50 years, serving as president from 1983 to 1985. Since retiring from New England Forestry Consultants in 2001, Huntress continues to steward and manage his own properties.