Proposed Acquisition Summary

From: Mascoma Watershed Conservation Council

Re: Bird-In-Hand Farm, Canaan, NH

The board of the Mascoma Watershed Conservation Council (MWCC) met on March 20, 2016 and one agenda item was a discussion of the Bird-In-Hand Farm on LaFortune Rd. in Canaan, NH.

The 232 acre Bird-In-Hand Farm was protected through the Land Conservation Investment Program administered by the State of NH in 1990. The owner, Brownlee McKee, ran a kennel and lived out most of the rest of her life on the homestead. Since then, a series of owners and/or renters have occupied the homestead and presently the property is in disrepair. The previous owners defaulted on their mortgage, and the property is now held by Mascoma Savings Bank. Mascoma Savings Bank was approached by representatives of both the MWCC and the Canaan Conservation Commission to discuss acquiring the property.

Significance:

The Bird-In-Hand Farm is bordered by the Bear Pond Natural Area (BPNA) along a portion of the property’s western border as well as the entirety of the property’s northern border. (See Bird-in-Hand Regional Map tab above). Directly to the west of BIHF and to the south of BPNA is the 100 acre town forest (TF) that was voted by warrant to become one of two parcels in Canaan with this designation. In 2007, The Canaan Conservation Commission (CCC) used funds from the Canaan Conservation Fund to construct a Nature Hut using volunteer labor and the expertise of the Mascoma Valley Regional High School shop teacher and his students for the use of the community. A network of trails was also established by the CCC on the property.

The juxtaposition of these properties and events create an opportunity that has been discussed among members of the conservation community in the surrounding area. The unique and strategic location of the Bird-In-Hand Farm relative to the other properties and combined with the Mascoma State Forest (MSF) could develop into a regional resource of over 1700 acres for environmental education and ecological research. Further, the Wellborn Ecology branch of the NH Charitable Foundation, an Upper Valley based entity with expertise in the current state of place-based educational opportunity throughout the Upper Valley, has identified the Mascoma Valley as an area in particular need of such curricula.

Another outstanding feature of this property is that both the Indian and Mascoma Rivers border and come together along the property’s boundaries. The Mascoma River runs down the length of the eastern side of the property, bisects the property along Rt 4, then exits the property in the SW corner where it joins the Indian River. The Indian River serves as the southern border of the property. In 2010, the New Hampshire Legislature designated the Mascoma River from Canaan Center to West Lebanon as a Protected River under the State Rivers Management and Protection Program. The Mascoma River provides safe drinking water for the City of Lebanon, sufficient water to power several hydroelectric stations, and supports a variety of industrial uses. The Mascoma River Watershed is valued for its scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, and year-round recreation uses.

Mission:

By combining the resources of the MWCC, the CCC, as well as community fundraising, it is hoped that the funds could be secured to both purchase the BIHF and renovate it to accommodate a regional resource center for environmental education and ecological research. Ecological research has already been ongoing since 2003 on the BPNA and TF.

At the close of the discussion of this topic, a motion was made, and the MWCC voted unanimously, to contribute 50% of a $1,000 binder for a three month window to negotiate and secure financing toward the property’s purchase. On April 4, 2016, the CCC voted to donate the remaining 50% to the MWCC.

The MWCC and CCC believe that this particular parcel, due to its location, ecological diversity, and conserved status, offers a unique opportunity to link together existing parcels in a way that would maximize its potential as a regional conservation resource.