WAKEFIELD, N.H. - A new, 122-acre Wildlife Management Area on Marsh Road in Wakefield has been conserved through the collaborative work of N.H. Fish and Game, Moose Mountains Regional Greenways, the Town of Wakefield Conservation Commission and the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests.
N.H. Fish and Game acquired the property to protect its outstanding wildlife and water resources, and to provide the public with recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, hiking and nature study. Conserving the property brings protection to more than a mile of shoreline on the Branch River and Union Meadows.
"The Branch River is home to the bridle shiner, a state threatened species, and the lower stretch of the river along the property is great waterfowl habitat, as is all of Union Meadows," said Rich Cook, a N.H. Fish and Game land agent. "This property has been identified in the state's Wildlife Action Plan as the highest ranked habitat in the State by ecological condition."
Town of Wakefield Conservation Commissioners Dave Mankus and Peter Kasprzyk worked with the landowner, who expressed an interest in conserving the property and offered to sell it at below market value.
"Folks on the Wakefield Conservation Commission worked very hard to make this project happen," Mankus said. "We negotiated with the landowner and lined up surveys and appraisals, wrote grants, and did much of the work it takes to complete a project of this size. We are very happy that it is now over the finish line."
Funds for the purchase came from a variety of sources. Moose Mountains Regional Greenways helped write grants to raise funds for the purchase of the property and also contributed more than $18,000 from its own conservation fund to cover expenses for surveys, appraisals and legal work. Other funders were N.H. Fish and Game, which allocated $100,000 of federal Wildlife Restoration funds to the purchase; the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), which awarded a $50,000 grant for the project; and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), which provided $4,000.
Designating the property a Wildlife Management Area permanently protects it from future development. 'When you walk in off the Marsh Road entrance you are very quickly in a different world, high on a natural gravel berm deposited by the glaciers, with the Branch River rushing by below. It is a truly special property and now it will remain available for the public to enjoy forever," said Keith Fletcher, Director of Land Conservation for Moose Mountains Regional Greenways.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests acted on behalf of Fish and Game to acquire the property. But Forest Society land protection land specialist Mike Speltz, who brought the deal to completion, credited the landowners for making the project happen. "In the end it was the generosity of Ginny Harding and her friend Flora Belle Weber, and their love for this land, that made this possible," Speltz said.