Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of New Hampshire that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Conserving the Northern Forest and increasing wildlife habitat at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. John Lynch and the state of New Hampshire, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of New Hampshire and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in New Hampshire highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
The Northern Forest covers some 30 million acres across New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York. Its forests are diverse, ranging from the extensive broadleaf deciduous and mixed forests to montane and lowland spruce-fir and low-elevation forests of oak, pine, and hickory. Forests help define the region's character and are integral to its economy.
Federal partners have made notable investments in recent years through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy program. Public-private conservation has enabled significant conservation in this region — conserved lands have increased from 4.3 million acres in 1997 to more than 6.5 million acres today. Many opportunities remain to ensure that this largest remaining contiguous forest east of the Mississippi River continues to provide the products, outdoor recreation, and wildlife benefits that communities will continue to rely on for generations to come.
In particular, conservation of land in and around national wildlife refuges in the region can contribute to the region's economic and ecological integrity. This project supports the AGO priorities of large landscape conservation and conservation of rural working lands.
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
The Connecticut River, New England's largest, flows 410 miles from its source at New Hampshire's northern tip to its mouth on Long Island Sound. Along the way the river drains a 7.2-million-acre watershed in four states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Federal areas include Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the only multi-state watershed unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System. To date, the Silvio O. Conte Refuge has protected 35,134 acres of land in targeted areas in all four states, including 7,400 acres in the Mohawk River and Pondicherry divisions of northern New Hampshire. The USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program has also been a critical contributor to protecting land in the Connecticut Valley through working forest-conservation easements, most notably the 171,000-acre Connecticut Lakes project in New Hampshire that protects the river's headwaters. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail traverses the Connecticut Valley, and the National Park Service has acquired land and scenic easements along the trail corridor. The National Park Service also manages the 150-acre Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.
The Connecticut Valley boasts many state, local, and private conservation lands, including Pisgah, New Hampshire's largest state park, and the 25,000-acre Connecticut Lakes Natural Area. Besides land protection, other efforts like the Fifteen-Mile Falls Mitigation and Enhancement Fund support local projects to restore the river and protect wetlands and shorelands.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In New Hampshire for example, the Department could provide funding for a project in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to promote connectivity in the Connecticut River watershed and Northern Forest. The Department could also provide financial support to acquire land and conservation easements at Umbagog (Androscoggin River headwaters) and Silivo O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Mascoma River headwaters).
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.