Conservation Commission Narrows Options for Rabbit Management Projects

The Conservation Commission voted 5-0 to authorize New Hampshire Fish and Game staff to move forward with the groundwork for a New England Cottontail habitat management project on the Davis Drive conservation property.

After the Town Council approved a memorandum of agreement with the State to clear and manage a new, 80-acre habitat on Town conservation land, Wildlife Biologist Heidi Holman said they hired New Hampshire Forester Charles Moreno to complete site assessments to determine what costs would be associated with various projects and what types of challenges different parcels could present.

Moreno detailed the harvest method and projected revenue for harvests at a number of Town-owned conservation properties, including the Davis Drive property and several new clearings in the Musquash conservation area.

Holman said she favors the Davis Drive property because it would offer access to the new habitat through the Eversource substation, which would be potentially easier for the State to negotiate in the short term than an agreement with a private landowner, as the utility company is a partner in the effort to conserve the rabbits.

With additional funding down the road, Holman said she sees the additional projects in the Musquash as important to creating core habitat for the rabbits, as well as connections between the properties they are managing.

Because one of the properties in the Musquash they would like to manage for the rabbits would require construction of an access road, Holman recommended against pursuing that project in the short term.

“We’re happy to help pay for the laying out of the project, and we could assist with this access road; but, if the road is for the long-term use of the Town, we could have trouble justifying it to the funders of the grant,” she said, noting the access would cost an estimated $25,000 to complete.

Commissioner Deb Lievens said the Commission is working with the Fire Department to consider the construction of emergency access roads in the Musquash, which the Town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan calls for.

Construction of the access roads is considered a longer-term project, and the Town will look to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for grants to help with construction costs.

Commissioner Mike Speltz said he thinks such a project, funded by both Fish and Game and the Town, would be attractive to FEMA.

“It’s not something we could do right away, but down the road it may be something we could support,” Lievens said.

“The challenge will be if Fire agrees they need the access where we need the access,” Speltz said.

Looking to Holman’s more immediate need to move forward with projects that would qualify for the initial $30,000 available for the creation of new habitat in Londonderry, Lievens said it’s important they be careful not to create a project that will generate an expense to the Commission or Town.

“Until we have the funding, it’s important to not be too exotic with the location. The project needs to be a basic one,” she said.

“I’m thinking the Davis Drive parcel has potential to be something we could accomplish in the timeline of the grant to show positive movement,” Holman said. “What will likely happen is we will continue to pursue projects on state properties on the timeline of the grant and backfill with other funding sources.”

In addition to the grant money available for the project, Moreno estimates the timber harvest of the Davis Drive parcel would generate a net $38,000 in revenue.

Moving forward, Holman said she will determine exact costs for completing the Davis Drive project, as well as look further into the potential for partnering with the Town for future projects in the Musquash.

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