SHELBURNE — The Mahoosuc Land Trust and other partners have been working closely with the Shelburne Conservation Commission in this small town of less than 400 people to permanently protect 853 acres from development, along with 14 miles of scenic river frontage on a quiet section of the mighty Androscoggin River.
The non-profit land trust, which works in western Maine and northern New Hampshire out of Bethel, Maine, seeks to raise approximately $1 million to acquire a series of 22 islands and a dozen mainland parcels along an 8.7-mile stretch of river, ending in Gilead at the Maine state line.
This heavily forested section — now owned by Bayroot LLC, a timber investment management organization managed by Wagner Timber Management of Lyme — is a favorite of canoeists, kayakers, paddleboarders and anglers. These parcels were formerly owned by Mead/Westvaco Corp.
All of the lands in the Riverlands project will be open to the public for quiet recreation.
Three of the 12 mainland parcels have the potential for extensive trail development, including winter cross-country ski and snowshoe routes.
The project is also designed to provide permanent trail access over the last section of the locally loved historic Philbrook Farm Inn “White Trail” to the Crow’s Nest, completing a conservation corridor from Philbrook’s to Crow Mountain Farm.
Formed a decade ago, the Shelburne Trails Club plans to help Mahoosuc Land Trust lay out and maintain hiking paths.
The land trust plans to form a stewardship committee with Shelburne residents as members who will help guide the management of these lands it will own.
This section of the river widens and is braided with oxbow and flood channel wetlands. The project includes half of the town’s floodplain forest, helping protect both the town and the Brookfield hydroelectric dam, owned by Great Lakes Hydro America, LLC, from upstream and downstream flooding.
The property provides a significant wildlife corridor along the river as well as between the larger forests of the White Mountain National Forest and the Mahoosuc mountains. Moose, bear, deer, otter, beaver, nesting eagles and many waterfowl live along this section.
A remarkable 53 percent of the proposed preserve is rated as “Highest Ranked Habitat” in the N.H. Wildlife Action Plan.
Stan Judge of Shelburne, serves both on the select board and conservation commission, explained why he supports he project.
"I have lived in Shelburne for 58 years, and I treasure the beauty of the Androscoggin Valley,” he said. “The Shelburne Riverlands project ensures that future generations can experience the same river that I’ve known."
Founded in 1989, the Mahoosuc Land Trust is nationally accredited. It holds 6,000-plus acres of conservation easements, including First Mountain (130 acres) and Crow Mountain Farm and its two mountain peaks (300 acres) in Shelburne, and it owns 2,500-plus acres in fee.
The Shelburne Riverlands project is part of Mahoosuc Land Trust’s Campaign for the Androscoggin, which also includes 973-acre Tumbledown Dick Mountain located 3 miles downriver in Gilead and is a portion of the 15,000-acre Chadbourne Tree Farm.
Land conservation attorney Kirk G. Siegel, who earned his bachelor of science at Dartmouth and law degree at the University of Maine School of Law, is Mahoosuc Land Trust’s executive director.
The Chadbourne lands were recently acquired by The Conservation Fund, which is partnering with the Mahoosuc Land Trust on both the Shelburne Riverlands and Tumbledown Dick projects. Tom Duffus is the The Conservation Fund staffer who is also working with Mahoosuc Pathways, Western Foothills Land Trust and the U.S. Forest Service.
Earlier in process when Bayroot’s land went up for sale, Sally Manikian of Shelburne, The Conservation Fund’s Vermont and New Hampshire representative, explored other options with the local ConComm.
Shelburne has a long history of conservation, according to the Shelburne Trail Club’s handy map and guide, published in 2016.
A year after passage of the federal Weeks Act of 1911, the Carter-Moriah Mountain Range was purchased to add to the new White Mountain National Forest. These 16,000-plus acres make up some 48 percent of Shelburne’s land base.
The U.S. Forest Service manages another 1,300-plus acres of the Appalachian Trail Corridor in the Mahoosuc Range. Public lands also include the 202-acre Leadmine State Forest and 40 acres of town-owned protected forest.