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Gilford to spend conservation trust funds for land purchase

GILFORD — Selectmen have approved the spending of conservation trust fund money toward the purchase of now-private lands surrounding Mount Major as part of a larger land preservation effort.

The board approved the conservation commission’s request Tuesday night to spend $110,000 from land-use change funds toward the total cost of $210,000 of what is known as the Gage parcel, a 327-acre area in Moulton Valley on the slope of Piper Mountain, according to the commission’s Everett McLaughlin.

The commission has a purchase-and-sales agreement in place for the land, McLaughlin said.

It has taken commission officials a decade to get the owners to agree to sell the property, he said.

“We’ve been chasing that land for 10 years, but it’s been worth the wait,” he said. “That land is beautiful.”

Commission members are looking at numerous methods, including government grants, to pay the rest of the land’s cost. Once purchased, it would be owned and maintained by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, McLaughlin said.

The purchase is part of a larger land preservation and protection plan. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust are working to raise $1.8 million by Dec. 1 to purchase and protect the Gilford tract and three other properties, for a total of approximately 950 acres.

So far, the groups have raised $475,000, he said.

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. But the four parcels of land in between are privately owned.

The groups, working with the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, are working together to preserve the rest of the Belknap Range’s views, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats for present and future generations.

If the groups can raise the money and buy them, all four properties are kept open to the public for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities, McLaughlin said.


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