KEENE, N.H. >> On April 25, the Monadnock Conservancy finalized three long-awaited conservation agreements on 688 acres spanning parts of Chesterfield, Keene and Swanzey, including the summit of West Hill, visible from downtown Keene. The properties are now permanently protected from future development, with public pedestrian access guaranteed, under the terms of the agreements. The agreements are in the form of permanent conservation easements, and all three properties remain in private ownership.
The N.H. Department of Environmental Services Aquatic Resources Mitigation Fund, the towns of Chesterfield and Swanzey, the city of Keene, the Quabbin-to-Cardigan Partnership, the N.H. State Conservation Committee Conservation Grant Program (aka Moose Plate), an anonymous family foundation and many generous donors all provided funding to purchase the three conservation easements.
All three properties fall within the California Brook Natural Area, a large block of undeveloped land in the California Brook watershed that provides a greenway and wildlife corridor stretching from Pisgah State Park to Keene's Horatio Colony Preserve. These three properties support a variety of wildlife species, including moose, black bear and great blue heron, as well as several unique plant communities. California Brook is an important tributary of the Ashuelot River.
"In all of southern New Hampshire, the California Brook Natural Area together with Pisgah State Park is the largest block of forest that remains uncrossed by major roads. That's really important for wildlife because large intact forest blocks can support a wider diversity of wildlife species than small forest blocks," said Conservancy Land Protection Director Anne McBride.
"Conserving this land has long been a goal of the communities of Keene, Chesterfield and Swanzey, the Monadnock Conservancy and other conservation organizations," said Ryan Owens, executive director of the Monadnock Conservancy. "The enthusiasm and partnerships that developed over the last several years made this a reality, and we are so grateful to all who played a role."
All three properties are primarily forested and feature numerous streams and wetlands. There are also several cellar holes of interest to local historians. The largest parcel, which abuts the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve, includes 452 acres spanning the crest of Keene's West Hill. While no formal trails are currently planned for the properties, the land will be open to public pedestrian access and exploration.
To learn more about this partnership, visit www.q2cpartnership.org.