Canterbury tree farm gets easement protection
A 119-acre tree farm in Canterbury will forever remain a haven of wildlife, wetlands and forest, thanks to a grant from the Department of Environmental Services.
The New Hampshire Executive Council approved a nearly $69,000 grant last Wednesday for the Five Rivers Conservation Trust to purchase a conservation easement on Ames Road Forest.
“I’ve always believed we own wild lands for only during our lifetime. And we have a responsibility to be good stewards and to care for the land as good as we can while we have it, and to leave it for the next generation in a way that protects the wildlife, the vegetation, the water,” said Ned Therrien, who owns the land with his wife, Jean. “And that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
The Therriens, who live in Gilford, have owned the property for 31 years. The land had been cleared and logged several times in the distant past, and the couple has worked to restore the forest and wetlands to their natural conditions.
They also protect wildlife on the land and manage it for timber.
“I’ve been a birdwatcher
most of my life so we try to provide habitat both for growing old trees on the property and we are also in the process of using timber harvesting to allow for some younger vegetation and some younger trees,” said Ned Therrien, who is also a graduate forester.
Although they do not allow ATVs or vehicles on the property, the Therriens leave their land open for pedestrian uses, such as hiking, skiing or bird-watching, and allow hunting in season.
Under the conservation easement with Five Rivers Conservation Fund, the Therriens will continue to own the property and decide its uses, while Five Rivers will monitor it to ensure those uses fall within the tenants of the easement.
The easement becomes part of the property deed, and its regulations will apply to all future owners.
Melinda Gehris, chairwoman of the board of trustees of Five Rivers, said the easement is a common tool for conserving land because it allows the property to generally remain the same.
“They continue to own the land, and they will continue to do whatever they choose to do with it, within the parameters of the easement, which is generally some agriculture, or their personal business. They could harvest maple sugar or put up a barn,” she said. “What they can’t do is they can’t develop it or put some sort of industrial thing on it.”
The Therriens are excellent candidates for stewards of an easement since they have worked toward retaining the land’s conservation value for years, Gehris said. The concept of maintaining the land the way it is appealed greatly to the couple, especially Ned.
“Ned is very, very tied to this land,” she said. “He has worked hard for many years to do the right thing and to forest it right. . . . He values that property because it is what it is, it’s rural and it’s a habitat for animals. It’s got mostly forests, but a little clear-cut land. And he wants to make sure it retains that character.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan approved the $68,830 grant, whose funds will come from the Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund. The fund is comprised of compensation from applicants for wetland permits whose projects involve dredging or filling a wetland. When the effect on a wetland is significant, the applicants must compensate the Department of Environmental Services with the monetary value. The funds are then put toward restoring, creating or preserving other wetlands.
The funds granted to Five Rivers will have several uses, said Ken Stern, a member of the group’s board of trustees. Some will be used for transaction costs such as legal fees, and some will go to the Therriens for the development rights.
A portion of the grant will also go toward perpetual stewardship, which is the role Five Rivers is taking on through the transaction. By accepting the conservation easement, Stern said the group agrees to monitor the property forever, which includes fixing any issues with the easement that could arise with future property owners.
“Because we accept that obligation we’re compelled to build a fund which we can rely upon for costs in the future,” Stern said. “I like the analogy relating it to paying your baby sitter. If you’re trusting your child with someone, you want to make sure they do the right thing.”
Gehris said the Therriens have been incredibly motivated throughout the process, which has helped move the transaction along more quickly than it usually takes with government funds. But even so, the closing in which the easement changes hands could take anywhere from a few months to a few years.
“We hope to be able to do that by the end of the year, but there’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of people involved,” she said. “These things can take a year or so or they can take seven or eight or nine by the time everything gets in line and everything is ready to go. It really varies by project.”
Shortly before being approved for the Department of Environmental Services grant, the Therriens also received a small grant from the Conservation Commission of Canterbury.
Ned Therrien believes the approval of the first grant was crucial for the approval of the second grant.
“It showed that the Conservation Commission thought this property was important and that they want to see it saved with a conservation easement,” he said. “That meant a lot to us.”
The approval of the grant continues the good tidings the Therriens have received in 2013. Earlier in the year, the New Hampshire Tree Farm Committee named the couple the 2013 New Hampshire Outstanding Tree Farmers.
“We’re really excited about it mainly because it gives us a chance to share the property with other people,” Ned Therrien said. “I’ve spent something like over 13,000 hours working on the property. . . . We put our heart and souls into this property, and we’re proud of it, and this gives us a chance to share it.”
On Sept. 7, the Therriens will celebrate the award with a festival at Ames Road Forest. Visitors can tour the property, and biologists and foresters will be on hand to teach them about the timber harvesting and wildlife habitats on the land.
There will also be a pig roast, and entertainment will be provided by two of the best classical and flamenco guitarists in North America, Ned Therrien said.
(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or