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Watershed protection
Coalition seeking donations to conserve land

06/01/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 The Merrimack River watershed is one of the most threatened watersheds in the country, and local environmentalists are working to gradually preserve some of the surrounding forest land from development.

Brian Hotz, the vice president of land conservation at the New Hampshire Forest Society, said the Merrimack Conservation Partnership was first formed in response to a 2010 report by the U.S. Forest Service, which ranked the Merrimack River as the country’s No. 1 most threatened watershed. 
Today, it’s still listed as the most threatened due to the development of forest lands; it also ranks fourth for threats to water quality related to development and seventh for loss of habitat for animal species at risk.
“You’re at a point where if you don’t come and act, you will end up having a degradation of the resource,” Hotz said.
Last year, the Merrimack River watershed was listed in the Top 10 of America’s Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers. In its report, it noted that the river is not only important to an abundance of fish and wildlife, but it’s a drinking water source for an estimated 600,000 people in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Hotz said the partnership is focusing its immediate efforts on projects that will help protect drinking water quality. Working with Manchester Water Works, the partnership is raising funds to create a permanent conservation easement around 1,870 acres of land surrounding Tower Hill Pond in Candia and Hooksett.
So far, it’s raised $1.65 million largely from grants from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and from the state’s Water Supply Land Protection and Aquatic Resources Mitigation programs as well as funds from the partnership. 
Now, they’re turning to the public to raise the remaining $250,000 to cover the total project cost of $1.9 million. So far, Hotz said the Forest Society has raised $28,000 of the $250,000 through a letter campaign. 
Hotz said they’re hoping to reach that goal by June 30. The project is slated to close by mid-September, pending survey work and documentation.
Tower Hill Pond is used as a water storage supplement for Lake Massabesic, so if anything happens to threaten that land, it could impact water quality. Right now, the city owns the land, but it could choose to sell it. A conservation easement will protect it from development permanently. 
“The more that we can do to conserve those wetlands and those more forested uplands that contribute to that or the … headwater streams, the better the water quality will be down in the main river, where they’re drawing the water,” Hotz said.
Lake Massabesic is a source of drinking water for 160,000 residents of Manchester and parts of Auburn, Bedford, Derry, Londonderry and Goffstown.
The land around Tower Hill Pond is used for recreation like kayaking, fishing and hiking, but not swimming. That won’t change if the land is conserved, according to Hotz.
If you’d like to donate to the Tower Hill Pond conservation project, contact Susanne Kibler-Hacker at 224-9945 or skh@forestsociety.org. 





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