The Harris Center for Conservation Education has raised the funds to purchase and conserve two parcels south of Willard Pond, resulting in a total of 74 acres of new conservation in Antrim and Hancock.
The land is split between two connected parcels, one in Hancock off Weston Road and one in Antrim off Willard Pond Road. The Harris Center intends to close on the purchase of both properties this summer.
The project has been done in cooperation with several conservation entities, including New England Forestry Foundation, the Quabbin-to-Cardigan Partnership, the Antrim Conservation Commission and many private donors.
The center is buying the land from an anonymous citizen, who purchased the property off the open market in order to hold it and allow the Harris Center time to raise funds to acquire it themselves, said Jeremy Wilson, director of the Harris Center.
“Organizations like the HCCE are relatively slow-moving,” Wilson said, citing a long process of internal reviews, due diligence, appraisals and fundraising. “During fast-paced real estate markets like one, intermediate buyers like this are incredibly helpful.”
The Harris Center has been interested in these parcels for some time, Wilson said, because of their proximity to other conserved land, namely New Hampshire Audubon’s dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. Both parcels have been identified as a high-priority wildlife habitat by the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan. Preserving the land from development also preserves water resources that run through the property.
“The land shares a half-mile long border with the Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition, it is directly contiguous with more 8,000 acres of conserved land in Hancock, Antrim and Stoddard,” Wilson said. “Finally, it protects the shoreline on Willard Pond Brook, part of a high conservation value stream corridor.”
The protection of Willard Pond Brook has implications for other waterways it flows into, including Moose Brook, which flows through Hancock. Moose Brook has been identified by Hancock as a conservation priority.
“With this land protection, almost all the shoreline and wetland complexes surrounding Willard Pond Brook and Moose Brook will be protected between Willard Pond and Norway Pond,” Wilson said. “Contiguous protected land is valuable; if that protected land includes water flowing through a landscape, it is even more valuable as a wildlife corridor.”
Lands owned by the Harris Center are open to the public for no-impact or low-impact recreational activities. The parcels currently do not have any trails on them, but the Harris Center intends to work with the New Hampshire Audubon to determine if there are any opportunities to extend the existing Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary trail network onto the property.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.