August 3, 2020

New Hampshire Towns of Gorham And Milan Expand Protection For Community Forests

COOS COUNTY, N.H. — The Town of Gorham and the Town of Milan, in partnership with The Conservation Fund, announced today the completion of efforts to add strategic forestland properties to the Gorham Town Forest and the Milan Community Forest. Funding for Gorham’s purchase of 2,020 acres and Milan’s purchase of 678 acres was made possible in part by the USDA Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program.

Located in the Great North Woods region of New Hampshire, the towns of Gorham and Milan are surrounded by vast forests, featuring high quality wildlife habitat and diverse recreational opportunities. Naturally, the timber industry and tourism have been the main economic drivers for both towns. The expansions of the town-owned community forests will provide economic resources for each town from sustainable timber harvesting, while offering opportunities for new access to these outdoor recreation destinations.

Michael Waddell, Chair of the Gorham Selectboard and the Gorham Town Forest Committee stated: “Gorham has secured title to 2,020 acres of vitally important land adjacent to our Paul T. Doherty Memorial Forest. This acquisition protects in perpetuity our existing landscape, public access and recreational trails, including Corridor 19, and will provide the Town economic opportunities with forestry and recreation. We are grateful to The Conservation Fund, whose patience and expertise allowed us to make this acquisition by partnering with state, federal and non-profit organizations.”

“The Town of Milan is pleased with this addition to our Community Forest,” said Randy Fortin, Chair of the Milan Selectboard. “We are very grateful to the agencies and organizations that provided the grants that made this purchase possible.”

One of the oldest Town Forests in the State of New Hampshire, the Gorham Town Forest, known as the Paul T. Doherty Memorial Forest, was established in 1936 to ensure clean drinking water for 90% of its residents. Over the years, this community asset has served as an educational resource for local schools and offers recreational access to residents and visitors. Revenue from the forest’s management has funded various town projects, including the renovation and preservation of Town Hall of Town Hall and repairs to the Fire Station. The 2,020-acre addition expands the Gorham Town Forest to 5,666 acres, protects the remaining drinking water supply lands, improves access for management of the existing Town Forest, and provides trail access for hiking and biking to ‘Corridor 19’, a connection trail for summer and winter motorized use.

Over the past 100 years, Milan came to own scattered forestland parcels throughout the town. Inspired by the success of the nearby community forests of Gorham, Randolph and Errol, the Milan Community Forest was established in 2012 as a community-led effort to acquire additional lands to create connectivity in the landscape and allow the town to manage for forestry, wildlife and recreational goals at a larger scale. The 678 acres acquired by Milan is made up of two properties near the Nansen Wayside Park—one directly to the west of NH Route 16 and the Androscoggin River, and the other directly to the east of East Side River Road and south of Stearns Brook. The purchase advances the town’s efforts to own and manage 5,000 acres, protects the first River crossing, provides a scenic ‘Gateway’ entering the Town of Milan, and creates a connected recreational landscape nearby, including trails for skiing and hiking.

Both towns recently acquired the properties from The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit whose dual mission focuses on providing environmental and economic solutions to communities across the country. The Conservation Fund acquired the tracts in 2014 as part of a larger 30,000-acre working forest purchase across four states from a timber investment company. The land was managed through its Working Forest Fund® program, dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests.

“The Gorham and Milan Community Forests, anchoring the historical timeline as one of the oldest and one of the newest Community Forests, are extraordinary examples of the unique forms these truly local ownerships can take,” said Sally Manikian Vermont and New Hampshire representative with The Conservation Fund. “Both of them share the common vision of public access, timber management, and educational opportunity, but have unique values that define each of them—with Gorham’s emphasis on drinking water and Milan’s bold goal of ecological connectivity and forest ownership at scale. As a resident of Coos County, within 10 miles of both projects, it is meaningful to work with my neighbors and friends to achieve their visions for their communities and landscapes.”

The towns’ purchases were made possible thanks to federal funding from the USDA Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (USDA-CFP); state funding from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), grant funding from the New Hampshire Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund for the Town of Gorham, and the New Hampshire Conservation Committee Conservation Grant Program; and private funding from the Open Space Institute’s Community Forest Fund and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“With the acquisition of important forest lands by the Towns of Milan and Gorham through the USDA Forest Service Community Forest Program, these rural communities will continue to enjoy the public benefits the forests provide. The growing recreational economy of both towns will benefit by keeping forests as forests for public recreational activities, and all the economic benefits from those activities occurring on the land will provide to the local businesses,” said Robert Lueckel, USDA Forest Service Regional Forester. “In addition to the economic benefits, the forests continue to provide environmental benefits such as surface and ground water protection and habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna that inhabit New Hampshire’s Great North Woods.”

The USDA-CFP program is funded annually by the U.S. Congress with strong support from New Hampshire’s U.S. Congressional delegation representing Coos County—U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and U.S. Representative Ann McLane Kuster—who also supported the towns’ requests for USDA-CFP funding for these projects.

“I join our leaders in Gorham and Milan in celebrating this news, which is a win for the North Country’s regional economy and New Hampshire’s longstanding commitment to conservation efforts,” said Senator Shaheen, who led a letter advocating for the project on behalf of the New Hampshire congressional delegation in 2018. “This land purchase will help ensure the protection of our forests while also allowing for sustainable timber harvests and investments in our state’s outdoor recreation economy, which is significant for the North Country’s workforce.”

“I am pleased that the towns of Gorham and Milan have partnered with The Conservation Fund to add nearly 2,700 acres of forested land to the Gorham Town Forest and the Milan Community Forest,” Senator Hassan said. “North Country forests help drive tourism, promote economic opportunity, and protect community drinking water. The acquisition of this forestland will benefit both Granite Staters and visitors alike, and I was proud to support the towns’ requests for the federal funding that made this acquisition possible.”

“Local conservation efforts are central to environmental protection in New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The expansion of the Gorham and Milan Community Forests was a true team effort, and I was proud to advocate for Forest Service funding to help add these important forestlands to the reserves of both communities. Through enhanced outdoor recreation and responsible forestry opportunities, as well as the protection of drinking water sources, this project will provide countless benefits for the North Country in the years ahead. Congratulations to all who made today’s achievement possible.”

“The Open Space Institute congratulates Milan and Gorham for stepping forward to conserve lands so vital to their communities, for drinking water, wildlife, wood products and way of life,” said Jennifer Melville, vice president for conservation grants at OSI, which granted $130,000 toward the two projects through its Community Forest Fund. “Across New England, citizens are creating Community Forests as an invaluable public legacy, and we are gratified to have supported this exciting achievement.”

Over the last decade, The Conservation Fund has placed more than 675,000 acres under conservation management through its Working Forest Fund® program, with the goal of purchasing and permanently protecting five million acres of working forests from fragmentation and conversion to non-forest uses over the next 10 to 15 years.

Manikian added: “The national trend in changing timberland ownership over the last 20 years from large ownership to smaller sub-divided ownerships has directly impacted not only the quality of the forests but the New Hampshire communities that depend on the resources these lands provide. We are so pleased that The Conservation Fund’s purchase of these forests gave Gorham and Milan the time they needed to secure funding to be able to add these properties to the community forests.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than eight million acres of land, including 54,830 acres in New Hampshire.

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |
Denise Vallee | Gorham Town Manager | 603-466-3322 |
Milan Town Office | 603-449-2484 |