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Located in the ancestral homeland of the Abenaki and Wabanaki people
Tucked within a bend of the Pemigewasset River, Hersey Mountain’s primarily northern-hardwoods forestland provides prime wildlife habitat.
A rigorous ecological survey completed in 2003 by Rick Van de Poll, Ph.D., found more than 20 natural communities and 42 vernal pools on Hersey Mountain. Including 68 acres of old-growth forest and 513 acres of Significant Ecological Areas, this diverse habitat supports an incredible array of wildlife: 13 species of amphibians, five species of reptiles, five species of fish, 31 species of mammals, 105 species of birds, and 126 taxa of insects.
With these unique characteristics of the forestland in mind, New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) worked with Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT) and Sweetwater Trust to designate 2,100 acres of the property as the Hersey Mountain Wilderness, and roughly 1,100 acres of Hersey Mountain as a working forest. This diverse conservation approach is crucial. To successfully address the climate and biodiversity crises, experts at NEFF and NEWT agree New England needs an interconnected system of unmanaged wild forestlands and well-managed working forestlands. Hersey Mountain demonstrates in miniature that this balance is possible.
NEFF conserves its Community Forests through ownership, and they are open daily, free to visit, and offer outdoor recreation opportunities. Unlike NEFF’s Community Forests, land protected by NEFF conservation easements—a legal tool—aren’t open to visitors unless their owners explicitly state so, because many belong to private individuals.
NEFF uses easements to conserve land owned by others. When a landowner grants NEFF an easement, it means they have permanently donated or sold to NEFF the landowner’s right to develop their own property, while the landowner otherwise retains ownership of their land; NEFF ensures the easements’ terms are met and enforced.
This beautiful, mountainous New Hampshire forest has come to exemplify the outsize ecosystem impact protected land can have when it’s conserved collaboratively and with an eye to the wider landscape. Hersey Mountain Forest is partially surrounded by contiguous protected forestlands, with additional conserved land nearby.
Hersey shares a border with two properties conserved by NEFF easements—Julie and Bayard Henry completed their 655-acre easement with NEFF on a southerly property in 1997, and to the north, John and Nancy Conkling completed their 84-acre NEFF easement in 2007. NEFF also shares a border with the George Duncan State Forest.
Further afield, Hersey Mountain is located within 10 or so miles of seven NEFF Community Forests and eight Conservation Easements as the crow flies, as well as a host of protected areas, including two more state forests and a state park.
Much of New England’s remaining private forestland—particularly in the southern portion of the region—has been carved into parcels that are too small to single-handedly support the full suite of native wildlife. Roads and house lots that proliferate in this fragmented landscape can cut animals off from reproductive partners and force them into degraded habitat as they seek food and shelter. By strategically conserving contiguous land parcels that connect to important habitat, New Englanders can give wild animals safe passage to the resources they need to thrive—and, for species more prone to wandering, simply provide them with enough space.
As of 1994, NEFF began to proactively seek out and purchase properties for protection, rather than exclusively relying on land donations from members of the public to expand its network of Community Forests. As always, donated land was—and still is—a welcome and celebrated component of NEFF’s conservation program, but NEFF’s expert land conservation team could now move quickly to acquire high-priority forestlands.
The proposed Hersey Mountain Forest was an ambitious project for NEFF—to this day, it remains our largest Community Forest—but it was also an exciting and unique opportunity that was supported by a number of people and organizations working in close collaboration.
NEFF had recently purchased one large parcel—the Mike Burke Memorial Forest—that would eventually be folded into the larger forest, and longtime NEFF supporters Julie and Bayard Henry planned to donate their sizeable Knox Mountain Tree Farm to drive the Hersey Mountain project forward. Funding from Sweet Water Trust helped secure the seven other parcels that ultimately filled in the rest of the forest.
Details about what made Hersey Mountain such a special conservation opportunity were not fully known until 2003, when Rick Van de Poll, Ph.D., conducted his ecological survey.
As of 2007 and 2012 respectively, and with additional assistance from Sweet Water Trust, NEWT holds a forever-wild easement on the 2,100 acres of Hersey that are home to this remarkable habitat and wildlife, and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests holds a conservation easement that allows for sustainable forestry on Hersey Mountain’s remaining 1,100 acres. NEFF retains ownership of the full 3,200 acres. Forest reserves—or forests set aside as unmanaged wilderness areas—and forests managed to Exemplary Forestry standards both have a part to play in addressing the dual climate and biodiversity crises, and Hersey is showing how these two approaches can coexist and complement each other.
NEFF staff and Board of Directors members recognize New England Forestry Consultants forester Mike Burke; the Mike Burke Memorial Forest was named in his honor after he died abruptly from leukemia in 1995.
Want to head out and explore? Our interactive map of all NEFF Community Forests will help you get on your way. It provides property-specific trail maps you can download, as well information about each forest’s history, recreational opportunities, natural features, and more.