Land deal has something for everyone

(Note: Look at the state and federal TAXPAYER DOLLARS being used for this boondoggle! Read past the 'generous picture' being painted to see what it's costing every American taxpayer for this 'land deal.')

April 2, 2002

By NORMA LOVE/Associated Press Concord Monitor Online P.O. Box 1177, Concord NH 03302 603-224-5301  (letters to the editor)

North Country

A huge swath of northern New Hampshire land that includes the headwaters of the Connecticut River will be saved from development under a deal among two logging companies, the state and two nonprofits.

International Paper Co. sold 171,500 acres - an area about one-quarter the size of Rhode Island - to the Trust for Public Land on Friday for $32.7 million.

The trust then sold 25,000 acres to the Nature Conservancy for $5.5 million. The conservancy will hold it and eventually resell it to the state as a nature preserve.

The rest of the land will be resold to Lyme Timber Co., but with easements that prevent development. The state will own the easements.

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican, spearheaded efforts to secure state, federal and private money for the eventual purchase of the land and easements by the state. They appeared yesterday at a news conference with the rest of the state's congressional delegation and those who negotiated the deal.

"We will make sure all generations who come after will benefit from these lands," Shaheen said. "It would not happen without this kind of partnership."

"We did it the New Hampshire way," added Gregg. "We brought everybody together around a table - interests, in other states, that might not speak to each other."

David Houghton, field officer for the trust, said it could take a year for the sales to be completed.

Lyme Timber Co. will log its share of the property, but easements will prohibit the company from developing or subdividing the land.

The company also must use sustainable logging techniques and grant access to the public for activities such as bird watching, hiking, trout fishing and snowmobiling.

International Paper, which put the parcel up for sale last July, had allowed snowmobilers, hunters and fishermen generous access to the land.

"It demonstrates conservation in this state is not about locking up land and throwing away the key," said Jane Difley, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Lyme Timber has paid a $12 million deposit for the parcel. The final sale price for the land and the value of the easements will be determined after a new appraisal, officials said.

Lyme Timber will pay property taxes, filling a critical need of local governments for operating cash.

The state plans to manage 25,000 acres as a natural area for environmentally sensitive wildlife, such as the three-toed woodpecker and Canada lynx. Special attention also will be given to 54 rare plants growing there.

The state will buy 100 acres for the Deer Mountain Camp Ground area of the Connecticut Lakes State Forest.

The state already has committed $2 million toward buying the land through the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which offers grants for conservation and preservation projects.

The Legislature is considering borrowing up to $10 million more for the deal. The House approved the money in February. The Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Gregg also has secured $3.6 million in federal funds.

Houghton said the trust hopes to get an additional $8 million from the federal government. The trust, forest society and Nature Conservancy have pledged to raise $8 million to establish endowment funds to manage the lands.

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