Nancy and Charles Butterfield stand at the edge of their lawn in Hinsdale, N.H., overlooking the 224 acres of land they had conserved. (Zachary P.
Nancy and Charles Butterfield stand at the edge of their lawn in Hinsdale, N.H., overlooking the 224 acres of land they had conserved. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Tuesday May 21, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- Charles and Nancy Butterfield have filled the doughnut hole.

The couple recently finished the paperwork necessary to conserve 224 acres of their property, which Monadnock Conservancy Communications Manager Katrina Farmer said was a speck of unconserved land surrounded by Pisgah State Park and other protected territory. Now, Farmer said, the Butterfields' decision will result in all updated conservation maps marking the space as conserved land.

"It is a piece of property that has been of interest to many local conservation groups for several years," Farmer told the Reformer.

Charles Butterfield said conservation means structures can never be built on it. He said he and his wife wanted to conserve the acreage because they didn't want it to ever be sold off for the purposes of housing developments, like he has seen with two farms in the area.

The couple also knows how close the acres are to land that was already protected.

"This piece of land backs up against a very large amount of protected land. On the east, Daniels Mountain is preserved, on the north there's Indian Pond, on the west there's Wantastiquet Mountain -- and we're right in the corner of all of that," he said Friday. "So by adding the 224 acres, we have enlarged the area that will never be developed."

Founded in 1989, the Monadnock Conservancy is the only land trust dedicated exclusively to the 35 towns of the Monadnock Region in southwestern New Hampshire.

The newly protected land will add to two other conservation areas -- the Wantastiquet Mountain Natural Area, which is protected by the state, and the Madame Sherri Forest, owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Together with these lands, the Butterfields' property expands the conservation area of unfragmented forest to 1,897 acres.

Farmer said Tom Duston, the chairman of the Chesterfield Conservation Commission, was instrumental in the process, having kept in touch with the Butterfields for years. Duston told the Reformer the parcel of land is just south of a trail that connects Wantastiquet Mountain and Monadnock Mountain.

Butterfield, who said he and his wife are in their 80s, had been thinking about conservation for about 10 years and is relieved the whole process is completed. The Butterfields do not have any children and are pleased the land is protected forever.

Hiking, hunting and fishing are allowed on the land but use of motorized vehicles is prohibited.

Butterfield -- who purchased the land in 1962, when he moved to the area to teach at the high school in Brattleboro -- said he and his wife still own the 224 acres and must continue paying property taxes on them. The couple now has 23 acres not conserved, and the husband said that may get sold or eventually added to the conservation.

Farmer said the Butterfields seemed very proud after signing the final paperwork at a meeting of the Monadnock Conservancy Board of Trustees on Friday, May 10. She said conserving the land will secure a lasting legacy for the couple.

Nearly all of the Butterfield property is labeled by the N.H. Wildlife Action Plan as Tier I wildlife habitat -- the highest ranking possible in New Hampshire.

This indicates that the dense forests, rocky talus slopes and streams support good biological diversity, as evidenced by the presence of deer, black bears, turkeys, porcupines and bobcats on the property.

The parcel is the site of a dry Appalachian oak forest, a rare plant community at the northernmost extent of its range in southern New Hampshire that thrives on hot, dry soils. There also is at least one statewide endangered species -- the running groundsel, a golden-yellow wildflower in the Aster family that blooms April through June, according to the Monadnock Conservancy.

A statement from the conservancy says that in addition to protecting valuable wildlife habitat and endangered species, the acquisition serves the public's best interest because trails on the abutting properties offer sweeping views of the Butterfield property.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.