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With Lake Winnipesaukee below, hikers ascend the summit of Mount Major. (COURTESY)

Conservation groups work to protect Mt. Major

ALTON — Two land conservation management groups are working to raise $1.8 million by Dec. 1 to protect the lands surrounding Mount Major, which has one of the most-hiked trails in the Lakes Region.

To preserve the area — which includes a 3.4-mile loop with views of Lake Winnipesaukee — the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust are working to purchase four key properties of about 950 acres being sold by separate landowners, said the Forest Society's Brenda Charpentier.

One of the parcels, 331 acres with parts of four recreational trails, is in Gilford's Moulton Valley on the slope of Piper Mountain. The other three are on or near Mount Major, society officials said.

The groups, working with the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, are hoping to preserve the rest of the Belknap Range's views, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats. Mount Major is on the eastern end of the Belknap Range. The state owns the Route 11 parking area and the summit, which are part of the 60-acre Mount Major State Forest.

"The Belknaps, along with the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill, form the natural setting for Lake Winnipesaukee. Protecting these uplands has been an important priority for many years," said Don Berry, president of the conservation trust.

Most hikers have no idea that there's nothing to stop a "no trespassing" sign from going up on trails that cross private land on their way to the summit, officials said.

"We anticipate being able to announce soon commitments of up to $385,000, leaving $1.12 million still to be raised by Dec. 1," Jane Difley, president of the Forest Society, said in a news release.

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