Published DateCONCORD — The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has signed purchase-and-sale agreements with four landowners to put conservation easements on more than 1,500 acres of land in Coos County. The land under agreement lies directly in the path of the proposed Northern Pass transmission project and could potentially disrupt the project's ability to move forward with that route.
The conservation easements will be perpetual, running with the land regardless of who may own the land in the future. In order to acquire the easements, the forest society is seeking to raise $2.5 million by Oct. 31.
"Northern Pass's intended route through Coos County would scar some of New Hampshire's most scenic forested and agricultural landscape with unsightly towers and powerlines," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the forest society. "By conserving these 1,500 acres we are taking another step toward compelling Hydro Quebec, Northeast Utilities and PSNH to realize that they need to look at other alternatives for their private, commercial power line project."
The forest society's objective is to protect New Hampshire's scenic rural landscape from Northern Pass.
"It is clear from Hydro Quebec's business plan and Northeast Utilities' property acquisitions that they are thinking beyond this one project," said Difley. "It's no secret that Hydro Quebec seeks to export four times the power that would be transmitted by Northern Pass alone. New Hampshire needs to protect itself from an industrialized corridor that could support multiple transmission lines in the future regardless of the outcome of the immediate Northern Pass proposal. For that reason we are doing what we do best — permanently protecting our state's forests from reckless, unnecessary development by working with willing landowners."
The forest society's "Trees Not Towers" campaign is the beginning of a strategy to ensure that an industrialized corridor with multiple transmission lines does not happen to New Hampshire's lands and scenic vistas. The forest society has reached agreements with landowners of 1,500-plus acres, and continues to discuss with other landowners the possibility of additional easements as deemed necessary.
The forest society has opposed Northern Pass as it has been proposed, in part because of the society's legal and ethical obligation to protect existing conserved lands. If built as proposed, the Northern Pass transmission line and 1,100 towers would directly and indirectly impact more than 15,000 acres of conserved land involving 153 different parcels owned by private individuals, local communities, land trusts such as the forest society, the state of New Hampshire and the federal government.
"We are taking action to protect land in Coos County as a way to defend conserved lands across 180 miles of New Hampshire from Pittsburg to Franklin to Deerfield," Difley said.
Among the impacted conserved landscapes would be a stretch of 10 miles through the White Mountain National Forest, which the forest society was founded to help establish and protect. Also directly impacted would be the forest society's Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, which was protected specifically because of its outstanding views of the Presidential Range.
"For more than a century the forest society has worked to protect New Hampshire from threats like Northern Pass," said Carolyn Benthien, president of the forest society's board of trustees. "Decades ago Franconia Notch was threatened by a proposed four-lane highway. We prevailed then and we intend to prevail now."