Lawmaker wants members of huge, private hunting club to buy hunting licenses, just like everybody else

  • A photograph in Ernest Harold Baynes' collection shows a buffalo transported from Corbin Park in the early 1900s. (Courtesy Plainfield Historical Society)

  • A wild boar was killed by a vehicle on Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H. Tuesday, June 20, 2017. The animal likely escaped from Corbin Park according to officials from New Hampshire Fish and Game. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Monitor staff
Published: 1/13/2020 12:02:15 PM

A huge private hunting preserve near Claremont with a membership fee that runs into the tens of thousands of dollars is being targeted by a proposed bill that would require its members to buy a new class of hunting license.

“Every other hunter in the state, who doesn’t have access to Blue Mountain, ends up subsidizing the hunting in that reserve,” said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who sponsored the bill. “They have managed to exempt themselves. ... We shouldn’t have hunters that get to freeload.”

Cushing’s bill, House Bill 1573, would give the Fish and Game Department authority to require “any  person wishing to take exo t  ic game including wild boar or elk from a hunting preserve” to buy a special “safari hunting license,” with the cost to be determined by the commission. It targets Blue Mountain Forest Association, also called Corbin Park after the man who established it in the 1891, which is the state’s only private hunting preserve. The roughly 25,000-acre site covers parts of five towns: Newport, Cornish, Croydon, Grantham and  Plainfield.

Cushing said me  mbers currently don’t have to buy any state license when hunting in the preserve, which is surrounded by a 26-mile-long fence, but that Fish and Game incurs some costs overseeing the site. In particular, he pointed to the 2004 incident in which one hunter shot and killed another inside the park, requiring an investigation by the state.

“Those that go on safari for exotic game aren’t really paying their fair share to underwrite the Fish and Game Department at a time when Fish and Game is destitute for funds,” he said. 

While details about the park are scarce, its membership is said to be quite small – perhaps as few as 30 people – which is limited both by design and the five- or six-figure cost of joining. 

Another cost associated with the park comes from wild hogs that were imported into the park for hunting decades ago. These animals are a massive nuisance in other parts of the country, causing literally billions of dollars in agricultural and other damage, but cold weather has kept them from migrating to the Northeast – except around Corbin Park. Reports of loose feral hogs doing damage or getting hit by cars occasionally show up on police reports or in lawsuits, including one that made it to the state Supreme Court in 1956. The high court deferred a decision and sent the case back down. 

Although the park keeps a very low profile, local governments occasionally interact with it. IN 2011, for example, it had to pay $7,600 in property taxes and a penalty known as “doomage” because it built a hunting cabin without letting the town in question, Plainfield, know about it. 

Corbin Park was established by Austin Corbin, a 19th-century railroad tycoon and banker who was born in Newport and later returned to build a mansion in town. That mansion, now known as the Ruger estate because of a later owner, was recently sold.

Corbin is remembered today both for his business accomplishments and for extreme anti-Semitism, including leadership of a group called American Society for the Suppression of Jews. That history led Brooklyn to change a street that had been named after him. Because people living there didn’t want to alter their address, the change was subtle: From Corbin Place to M. Corbin Place, honoring Margaret Corbin, who became a Revolutionary War hero when she replaced her husband in helping defend a New York fort from the British. 

The bill is slated to be the subject of a hearing at the Fish and Game Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 14. 

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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