James Donovan, owner of a wooden boat building yard in Chatham, Massachusetts, contacted New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) in August 2018 looking for opportunities to purchase and conserve recently harvested Maine timberland. NEFF staff steered him toward a variety of tracts, including an opportunity in Hiram. Mr. Donovan went on to purchase 353 acres in Hiram, and just this December donated the land to NEFF—making his generous gift the last major conservation success of NEFF’s 75th anniversary year. The property is now known as the Merrill Mountain Community Forest, and is part of the beautiful and dramatic Hiram Hills.
The Hiram Hills lie near the confluence of the Saco and Ossipee Rivers and encompass an unfragmented habitat block of about 7,900 acres that include five peaks: Mt. Cutler, Peaked Mountain, Mt. Misery, Gould Mountain and Merrill Mountain.
Merrill Mountain Community Forest, NEFF’s new portion of the hills, includes a small concentration of vernal pools and high elevation views, and primarily features white oak, red oak, and white pine. It’s also part of a wildlife hotspot that will grow more important over time.
The Hiram Hills have been identified by the State of Maine and The Nature Conservancy as a priority connected and resilient landscape with known concentrations of rare or unique species and communities. Due to the area’s geology, topography and microclimates, species will be able to migrate within this area to find new, suitable habitat as the climate changes.
People also stand to benefit from Merrill Mountain Community Forest, which will both provide a range of recreational opportunities and help keep drinking water clear. The forest is located within the Saco River Watershed, a major drinking water source for southern Maine.
Look for more information about this exciting property and how NEFF will manage and rebuild its forests in upcoming issues of our Into the Woods newsletter.
View a map of Merrill Mountain Community Forest.