New Hampshire communities own more than 180,000 acres of undeveloped forests, fields and wetlands that generate about $146 million a year in economic benefit.
Until late 2018, when the Center, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension (UNH Extension), and the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions (NHACC) concluded their inventory of Town & Community Forests in New Hampshire, the extent of the town ownership was not known. The purpose of the study was to help communities recognize the value of their land and encourage them to protect more open space for environmental, economical, and cultural benefits.
The inventory documented:
- 180,439 acres—about 4 percent of New Hampshire forestland
- 1,691 total parcels
- 119,640 acres are permanently protected
- 97,888 acres are covered by stewardship plans
- 127,867 acres are managed with foresters or other natural resource professionals.
The project was designed to document the amount of community-owned land and to help towns understand the ways they can get the most out of the land they own through sustainable management, including both active forest management and permanent protection for natural resources and habitat.
John Gunn, a research assistant professor of forest management at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and UNH Extension, compiled the inventory data and calculated the economic benefit of the land. Using per-acre values from the North East State Foresters Association for the forest products industry and recreational uses, Gunn estimated the total economic benefits of community-owned land at $146 million a year, which includes $54 million from recreational uses and more than $92 million from forest-related industries such as logging, milling, wood products manufacturing, the maple industry, and Christmas trees.
Types of community ownership vary widely and include:
- official Town Forest designation—which puts the property management into the hands of a Town Forest Committee or the Conservation Commission, but does not guarantee permanent conservation
- conservation easements that permanently protect the land through a third party such as a land trust or state agency,
- the Community Forest model developed by the Center, the Trust for Public Land and the Quebec Labrador Foundation.
Forest Inventory Data
The data report municipal ownership information collected in the forest inventory project. Readers who have questions about their local data are encouraged to check with town officials and to notify their County Forester if any errors are confirmed. Download Excel file of Forest Inventory Data.
The winter issue of Forest Notes, the magazine of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, published a feature article about the forest inventory.
The U.S. Forest Service funded the project with a $148,000 grant, which UNH Extension, the Center, and NHACC matched better than 1:1 with their time and resources.
The Center's partners in the project included UNH Cooperative Extension strengthens people and communities in New Hampshire by providing trusted knowledge, practical education, and cooperative solutions.
The New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions, is a nonprofit conservation organization that provides education and assistance to New Hampshire’s local conservation commissions
The Northern Forest Center is a regional innovation and investment partner creating rural vibrancy by connecting people, economy, and the forested landscape.
Photos on this page by Jerry Monkman, Ecophotography.