State awarded $1 million to protect Barrington forestBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent January 10. 2017 12:24AM
BARRINGTON — The state of New Hampshire will receive $1 million to help protect 1,500 acres of land known as the Stonehouse Forest in Barrington.
According to Duane Hyde, a land conservation director for Southeast Land Trust in Exeter, conserving the land will ensure public access and provide a safe habitat for a 450-year-old Black Gum tree, rare flowering plants and reptiles that live on the property, which abuts Stonehouse Pond. Stonehouse Pond is a 13-acre conservation area owned by New Hampshire Fish and Game. It is a popular recreation spot.
Hyde said the $1 million federal grant will be sent to Fish and Game, and then dedicated to purchasing the land from a European investor. The project is expected to cost $3.5 million. Because of donations by the town of Barrington, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, the New Hampshire moose plate program, Open Space Institute and others, only $300,000 is now needed to cover costs, Hyde said.
“It gives us great confidence we will be able to complete the project,” Hyde said.
The land is home to Round Pond, Little Round Pond and large wetlands. All of the water from the forest eventually reaches the Great Bay Estuary via the Lamprey River or Bellamy River.
“We are proud to help conserve important coastal wetlands in the Northeast like the Great Bay Estuary-Stonehouse Forest Coastal Wetlands property,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service northeast regional director Wendi Weber said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Wetlands are valuable natural resources for wildlife as well as for people, providing flood protection, improved water quality, economic benefits and recreational opportunities.”
Once the deal closes in September, officials plan to open the land to the public. Hyde said there are a number of existing roads through the woods, and they plan to build parking areas for vehicles.
New Hampshire Fish and Game’s grant was part of more than $17 million awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to 20 projects in 10 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 13,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.