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.
See link below to full data set from inventory.
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.
Milan, NH — 265 acres acquired; more in progress
In April 2016, the town of Milan acquired 265 acres and established the Milan Community Forest, the first step toward its goal of some day owning and managing 5,000 acres of forestland. Residents decided to create a Community Forest to support their local economy based on healthy forest management, and to honor the town's historical, cultural and economic ties to the forest.
“This has been a long time coming and we couldn’t be more excited,” said George Pozzuto, chair of the Milan Community Forest Committee. “The Milan Community Forest Committee has been working for four years to acquire land. Owning our own productive timberland and important recreation land will bring so many benefits to Milan."
The Center and the Trust for Public Land are continuing to help Milan residents identify new parcels to combine with existing town-owned land to expand the Community Forest.
The Community Forest is owned by and for the people of Milan and permanently conserved for future generations. The core property, located on Oak Hill just east of the Androscoggin River, and other other town-owned parcels provide economic benefits to the community through timber revenue and jobs in the forest products, tourism, and recreation industries. The forest also provides outdoor education and recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat protection, and cultural resource protection.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Milan played an important role in the Androscoggin Valley’s forest industry, feeding sawmills and pulp mills, and providing workers in the forest and in the mills, while the river itself ferried logs downstream. Since the late 1990s, changes in the forest industry and the local economy have hit the community hard: local forestland has changed ownership multiple times, and the quality of forest management declined.
The town sees its new Community Forest as an important new way to support the local economy based on the natural landscape.
Grand Lake Stream, ME, — 21,870 acres completed
The Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) has completed acquisition of the 21,870 acre West Grand Lake Community Forest (WGLCF), completing an eight-year, $19.4-million campaign.
The land was purchased from The Lyme Timber Company of Hanover, NH, and protects over 17 miles of lake shore and over 90 miles of stream shore. Bordering Big Musquash Stream on the eastern side and West Grand Lake on the western side, the WGLCF adjoins the Farm Cove Community Forest to the west and the Sunrise Easement to the north and south. The WGLCF will be combined with the land trust's adjoining Farm Cove Community Forest to total more than 55,000 acres of Community Forest.
The Center helped make the Community Forest project possible by facilitating the Lyme Timber Company's purchase of the land in 2008 (read about our New Markets Tax Credit funding program). Lyme Timber committed to managing the forest sustainably and working with the community and the Downeast Lakes Land Trust toward eventual community ownership of the land. This first purchase protected the forest from liquidation harvesting and a subsequent conservation easement guarantees the forest will remain undeveloped. The new Community Forest helps fulfill a 370,000 acre community-led conservation vision in the Downeast Lakes region.
In the Downeast Lakes region of Maine, the forest is key to local economy and the region’s outdoor recreation-based economy and its culture. The project is centered in Grand Lake Stream, a town of 128 people with an economy that relies on hunting, fishing and other recreation activities.
The Community Forest will provide timber harvesting revenue and, together with the Farm Cove Community Forest, a total of 56,000 protected acres of forests and lakes on which the region’s guides and sporting camps depend. Leadership from the Downeast Lakes Land Trust has built project support, local knowledge, and a greater sense of community. This extraordinary example of local leadership and natural resource stewardship has attracted national attention.
Bethel, ME — 2,411 acres completed
The 2,411-acre Bingham Community Forest is owned by the town of Bethel, Maine, but is located in the adjacent community of Newry. The forest, originally managed to protect Bethel's drinking water supply, is now managed for water quality protection, wildlife habitat protection, public recreation, and sustainable timber management.
Bethel's interest in recreation is strong, particularly for hiking and mountain biking, and the town is creating a network of trails on the property to complement existing recreational opportunities in the area. The Bethel Forest Commission manages the property.
The upland property has an estimated 5 miles of streams, many of which are mountain cascades with some waterfalls. The property is visible from the village of Bethel and the entire Androscoggin River valley.
The Center assisted the Town of Bethel by educating town officials and residents about the Community Forest Model and making recommendations regarding the process as the town transitioned the property to its new role. The town completed a management plan for the Bingham Forest in 2012 that encompassed all the key elements of the Community Forest Model.