Aerial photo showing several stages of New England cottontail management at the Musquash Conservation Area in Londonderry. Photo courtesy of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
On April 18, 2019, the Town of Londonderry’s Conservation Commission was awarded the NH Fish and Game Commission’s “Conservation Organization” Award of Excellence. Since 2011, the Conservation Commission has collaborated with New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG) to steward their conservation lands in support of the Department’s mission to conserve, manage, and protect the fish and wildlife resources of NH, to inform and educate the public about these resources, and provide opportunities for the public to use and appreciate these resources.
As an active, “hands-on” conservation commission, the Londonderry Conservation Commission has promoted sustainable forestry and ecologically-based habitat management for species such as the state-endangered New England cottontail rabbit, and turtles of conservation concern; as well as game species such as ruffed grouse, moose, whitetail deer, wild turkey and the American woodcock. Most recently, they partnered with NHFG to undertake approximately 75 acres of shrubland and young forest management benefiting the New England cottontail and other shrubland species. Additionally, they have supported NHFG’s efforts by participating in regional conservation programs aimed at monitoring turtle populations and designing future habitat improvement projects.
As one shining example of their work, the Conservation Commission has now preserved over 1,500 acres of natural open space in their Musquash Conservation Area, through active cooperation with the NHFG, the Southeast Land Trust (SELT), and other organizations and private landowners, with the stated goals of “preserving wildlife habitat, developing recreational opportunities, and establishing an active forest management program”. The Musquash Conservation Area is widely recognized as an exemplary landscape that provides protection for critical wildlife, wetland and forest resources, while providing recreational opportunities for the public.
To enhance the public’s appreciation and use of this parcel and others, the Conservation Commission promotes recreational opportunities such as hunting, hiking, wildlife observation, trail biking, horseback riding, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. They’ve also promoted educational opportunities for hundreds of Londonderry and other New Hampshire residents, including hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers during their annual Musquash Field Day, and Londonderry Old Home Day.
Marge Badois, Chair of the Londonderry Conservation Commission (pictured left), commented on the award: “We are extremely honored by the recognition, but feel that recognition should also go back to Fish and Game for all they do for us. Fish and Game’s continued efforts to enhance habitat for the New England Cottontail has provided us with an opportunity to educate the public and create awareness of the need for natural habitat. We are also grateful for Fish and Game’s collaboration with other organizations that resulted in protecting the highly prized Mathes property that added to our Musquash Conservation Area. We look forward to continuing this valuable partnership.”
As town-owned and preserved lands like the Musquash Conservation Area become increasingly surrounded by development throughout New Hampshire, their importance to both human and wildlife will only increase. For more information on town-owned lands, see the Taking Action for Wildlife Winter 2019 newsletter, https://takingactionforwildlife.org/article/town-and-community-forests-study-revisits-overlooked-and-underused-resource. For more information on stewarding land for young forest and shrubland species like the New England cottontail and American woodcock, please visit: www.newenglandcottontail.org , www.youngforest.org, and www.timberdoodle.org.
By Tom Brightman, NH Fish & Game Department
Spring 2019 Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter