Grant Protects Rabbits, Establishes Contiguous Land

 

The town of Londonderry and its Musquash Conservation Area will be one of 20 projects to benefit from a New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Aquatic Resource Mitigation (ARM) grant, out of funds totaling $2,403,740.

The ARM Fund, established by law, is a mitigation option for certain projects impacting wetlands and not able to provide other forms of mitigation.

According to a DES press release, an ARM Fund Site Selection Committee is charged with identifying proposals to be funded by selecting high-priority projects that most effectively compensate for the loss of functions and values from the projects that paid into the fund. According to the law, the projects determined to be appropriate for receipt of ARM Fund monies are subject to approval by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the New Hampshire Wetlands Council.

Londonderry will receive $400,000 to permanently conserve two parcels of land totaling 149+/- acres adjacent to the Musquash Conservation Area.

This project is a partnership between Southeast Land Trust which will hold the easement on the property and NHFG which will own the property. The property is located in a focus area identified for recovery of the New England cottontail (NEC), a state-endangered species. Parcel #1 has the potential for the creation of high-quality habitat for the species through management in the upland forest present on the property. Nearly the entire property is identified as either Tier 1 or 2 in the WAP. Both parcels are located in an area of dense residential development and could easily be developed. Parcel #1 has more than 500 feet of road frontage along the residential development to the south including direct access to Preserve Drive.

Conservation Chair Marge Badois wrote in an e-mail, “Conserving this property will result in approximately 1,550 acres of contiguous conservation land.”

The grant will allow an important piece of land to be protected, and accessible to the public, without the need to spend conservation funds or town tax dollars for the purchase, according to Badois.

Accepting the grant will allow Londonderry to protect the New England cottontail rabbit, an endangered species. Badois explained, “Londonderry has been identified as one of the last locations in New England where New England Cottontail rabbits have been found.  Fish and Game has been working for years on plans to create habitat that will help the cottontails thrive and re-establish colonies. Several years ago approximately 25 acres in the Musquash were cleared to promote the growth of rabbit habitat.  Another cut was just completed this month off Davis Drive.  The plan is to create a corridor utilizing the power lines that will allow the rabbits to migrate and expand their colonies. There is currently a colony located at Stonyfield Farm.”

The land in question is owned by the Mathes family, Badois wrote in a subsequent e-mail. She wrote, “We have been trying for years to work out deal to purchase this land, but kept running into obstacles.  The addition of this land to the Musquash will give us another trail head entrance on Preserve Drive.  Fish and Game will have restrictions, but has agreed to allow us to add parking and a trail that connects to the other Musquash trails from the Preserve entrance.”

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