City seeking to conserve woodlands

NASHUA – As Robert Frost might say, whose woods these are the city knows.

Now officials have to convince the private owners of select wooded properties to either sell their land or conservation easements on the land to the city. To keep pristine woods, meadows and marshes out of developers’ grasps, the city is seeking help from a state conservation group.

The crux of the conservation effort will be setting undeveloped land aside “for perpetuity,” laying the groundwork for conservation efforts that “can’t be undone at a future date,” said Kathy Hersh, community development director.

For help in navigating the process of acquiring either land outright or conservation easements on land, the city has contracted with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ Center for Land Conservation.

Representatives from the center will meet soon with the city conservation commission to begin its work assistance the city’s land preservation efforts.

The city has $2.9 million in a conservation fund. The money can be used either to purchase private land or conservation easements on the land.

Conservation easements restrict development while allowing the land to remain in private ownership.

The Center for Land Conservation was created in 2001 andover the past eight years has helped cities and towns, including Amherst recently, with conservation efforts.

The center has helped match parcels with various groups that could hold easements depending on the qualities that make each parcel attractive for preserving, said Dijit Taylor, the center’s director.

For the center’s $50,000 contract with the city, that might mean working with the Audubon Society if a parcel is important for its wildlife habitat, or with the Nature Conservancy for other land, Taylor said.

Through the process, the center will assist by working with the city on land prioritized for preservation, she said.

Those priorities were set in 2006 when the city completed a community-wide natural resource inventory.

The conservation committee compiled the inventory with the help of environmental consultant Moosewood Ecological Services.

Qualities that make land ripe for conservation include wetlands, flood zones, water resources, un-fragmented landscapes, critical habitat, potential for development and proximity to other protected parcels.

Several of the parcels earmarked as being high priority have large, unbroken landscapes with woodland and wetland features.

Top priority is given to land adjacent to the Northwest Conservation Area, which lies between the Nashua Municipal Airport and Pennichuck Brook, and between Farley Road and Northwest Boulevard by Two C Pack Systems.

Other high priority parcels lie in the city’s Southwest Quadrant, along the Nashua River corridor from the Hollis line to the eastern edge of Mine Falls Park, near Lovewell Pond, near scattered pine barrens located primarily in the Northwest Quadrant and surrounding the airport.

Center representatives will meet with landowners, coordinate appraisals, surveys and other services and negotiate conservation easement terms, Hersh said.

“Their technical expertise will help to conserve important natural resources, as well as increase the ability of the commission to negotiate future land transactions,” she said.