Planning outreach in your community? Take a page from Campton's book and consider hosting an outdoor field event exploring local habitats. In 2012, Conservation Commissioners in Campton, NH decided to focus some attention on a special natural feature in their town, Bog Pond, that was identified as important habitat on the Wildlife Action Plan Highest Ranked Habitats map. They started by reviewing the Wildlife Action Plan maps for Campton to identify habitat types and highest ranked habitats. They then put together a mailing to about 28 landowners around Bog Pond, asking about landowner's interest in planning for the future of the bog. Here is a copy of the letter. The letter generated interest from a dozen landowners, who contacted the Conservation Commission wanting to know more about the bog, share wildlife stories and learn more about conservation.
After meeting with staff from the Taking Action for Wildlife Team, the Conservation Commission decided to plan several outreach events to raise awareness and generate interest in Bog Pond. The first was to ask neighboring landowners to help plan a winter snowshoe walk. They held an informal gathering, the purpsoe of which was to assemble neighbors to share wildlife sightings and knowledge of the bog's land use history over light refreshments. The turnout was small, but productive - those who attended showed interest in helping to organizet the public event, conceived as a "Frozen Bog Walk", planned for January, 2013. Planning for this winter event began, and the conservation commission met with UNH Cooperative Extension’s Grafton County Forester Dave Falkenham on a pre-walk around the bog to map out a general route, discuss talking points, and see what wildlife species were using the area. Extension also provided habitat stewardship brochures to share with participants.
To publicize the event, the CCC made up some Save the Date cards which were passed out on voting day. Fliers were also mailed to landowners in the area of Campton Bog and an announcement was posted in the local paper. They also used the large set of Wildlife Action Plan maps to generate interest in the various habitats of the area and wildlife seen there. They set up a copy of the Wildlife Habitat Map on Election Day, at the polls. Here's the report from one Conservation Commissioner, "As people went to vote today, they posted wildlife sightings on the map. What fun! There are now over 100 pins on the map and a growing list of wildlife sightings. We handed out Wildlife Action Plan habitat stewardship brochures, and “Save the Date” bookmarks for our Frozen Bog Walk. There were countless stories about wildlife and conversations about conservation, ideas for creating a walking path to connect two state forests in town, invitations to consider joining the Commission, and more."
Ten brave souls gathered on a sunny but frigid morning in January to join in on the Campton Conservation Commission’s first “Frozen Bog Walk”. Conservation Commission member Lea Stewart, also a member of the Newfound Tracking Team, led the walk. All were fascinated to find and follow two sets of mink tracks all along the North shore of the pond, one larger, presumably male, the other smaller and likely a female. There were also coyote, domestic dog, deer and even mouse tracks! Coffee and hot chocolate with homemade cookies rounded out the event back at the parking area, where everyone also had the opportunity to study NH Fish & Game’s Wildlife Action Plan maps and tracking cards. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed event and expressed interest in joining up again for a summer season bog paddle.
UPDATE: The walk was repeated the following year, with close to 20 people attending.