Help the Forest Society protect 5,800 acres in Dixville Notch, NH

Help the Forest Society protect 5,800 acres in Dixville Notch, NH

Friday, December 30, 2011

Balsams Fundraising Still Climbing at $315,000

As the short holiday week comes to an end, supporters of conserving the Balsams landscape have donated a total of $315,000 so far. This means that we're now more than a third of the way toward reaching the $850,000 goal. Thanks to all.

Those of whom still want to make donation that will be tax-deductible for 2011 can still do so by sending a check (Forest Society, 54 Portsmouth St., Concord, NH  03301) or by donating online (just click the Donate Now link on the right side of the blog).

A Spectacular Landscape

The view of the Balsams in the photo above (that's me on Table Rock in the photo above) is nothing short of spectacular, and photos don't do it justice.

As part of the Forest Society team that spent nearly two weeks investigating the 5800 acres that is proposed for protection, I had a chance to see not only the well known views, but the remote corners of the Balsams land.

I've travelled most of the back roads and byways of New Hamsphire. At one time or another, I've been in every town, city and unincorporated place in the state. I can say, unquivocably, that the landscape at the Balsams is one the crown jewells of New England, if not the nation.

From the singular view from Table Rock (a short, but steep hike from Route 26) to the cliffs of Abeniki Mountain (where Peregrine Falcons nest) to the top of Sanguinary Ridge (where American Marten are frequent and Canada Lynx very likely) the high elevations of the land are stunning and accessible.

Then there's Mud Pond. What an unfortunate name for a remote, totally unspoiled high elevation pond that hosts the full array of North Country wildlife. I've been asked if it contains wild Eastern brook trout, and I suspect it does, but no angler so far has revealed its secrets.

The already existing trail system is astounding. When it is operating, the Balsams manages cross country ski trails over thousands of acres. It would take days to ski them all. Winter also provides opportunities for snowmobiling on designated trails maintained in cooperation with local clubs. One might wonder if there would be conflicts between skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers, but the system of trails is well designed to prevent such problems. In the summer, those same roads have been a favorite of Balsams guests on mountain bikes.

Without question, this land has been carefully managed for decades. While forestry has been part of this land for generations, careful planning by foresters with a sensitivity for unique natural features has left some extraordinary features intact. As anyone familiar with the history of New England knows, true "old growth" or original forest, is a very rare thing. But there are stands of hardwoods on the Balsams forest that contain trees that have been there since before this region was settled. During our investigations we found one fallen yellow birch that as more than 160 years old. And it wasn't even close to being one of the largest trees at that site.

Yes, the Balsams Resort is a national treasure in and of itself. We have great hopes that the new owners will be successful in renovating it and restoring it to its historic grandeur. But the Hotel, golf course and Wilderness Ski Area are just the tip of the natural "iceberg" in Dixville Notch.

The protection of this extraordinary landscape will ensure that generations of Americans will always have access to explore one of the nation's great places. I've made my contribution to the campaign, and I hope you will too.

$270K and Counting: Balsams Donations Keep Rolling In

Thanks to the many, many supporters who are not only donating themselves but asking their friends and relatives to consider making a donation as well, the Save the Balsams Landscape campaign keeps rolling on. As of the end of the business day Dec. 29 we have raised $270,000 toward the $850,000 goal that will allow us to purchase conservation restrictions on 5,800 acres of land surrounding the historic Balsams hotel in Dixville Notch.

As a reminder, these are tax-deductible donations and there are just two days left in 2011! So if you or someone you know would like to make a gift, you can do so online (just click the Donate Now button on the right-hand side of this blog) or send a check to The Forest Society, 54 Portsmouth St., Concord, NH  03301. Our offices are open today, Dec. 30, so feel free to call us at 603-224-9945 if you'd like more information or would like to make a donation over the phone.

And thank you to everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Balsams Landscape Fundraising Reaches $250,000

The campaign to conserve 5800 acres of the landscape surrounding the iconic Balsams Resort Wilderness hotel is nearly 30 percent toward reaching the goal. Driven by online donations the campaign hit the $250,000 mark on Tuesday, well on the way toward the $850,000 needed to execute the signed purchase-and-sale agreement with the Tillotson Corporation for conservation restrictions.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Long Trail to Conserve the Balsams Landscape

In September 2000, I stood on the patio of the golf club at the Balsams watching the setting sun with Neil Tillotson. He began telling stories drawn from the landscape before us. Starting at Mount Hereford where he was born, we wandered the rugged terrain from his youth to old age exploring its rocky ridges and boggy depressions, summers on foot and winters on snowshoes, moments of peace in nature and times of high adventure until we arrived back where we started as the sun slipped beneath the horizon. In the afterglow that highlighted the color-dappled forest, I broached the topic of conserving this land. He himself made the case that it offers encounters with wildness and a chance to develop self-reliance that can't be found many places anymore. We talked briefly of the practicalities of accomplishing this project, and I asked him how he would like to proceed. With the hubris that one is entitled to having lived in three centuries, he winked at me and said, “I'll take care of this when I do my estate planning.”

It is common knowledge that Mr. Tillotson never got around to doing much estate planning. He was too busy living life to its fullest to even consider that the time had come to attend to this. When he died the next year at age 102, there was no clear path to achieving the conservation of this property. It has taken many brilliant minds many years to sort out his estate and arrive at the point where this project that began more than a decade ago can be completed. It is in memory of him and for the people of New Hampshire that together we will conserve the Balsams landscape.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Sleigh Full of Gifts to Conserve the Balsams Landscape

Many people throughout the greater Northeast added the Conserve the Balsams Landscape Campaign to their gift giving lists. Each breaking news story brought a flurry of gifts as donors encouraged us to carry on in spite of the challenge by Northern Pass and then celebrated the favorable decision by the Director of Charitable Trusts by giving even more. Mid-week discussions with an anonymous donor about a $100,000 grant were encouraging and undaunted by any question about whether the project would proceed. In the time it has taken me to write these few words in the middle of Christmas day, another six gifts came in over the web, and a pledge came in by email. It is a testament to the importance of this project that so many people took time out of a busy holiday week to support our efforts. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Balsams Sale with Forest Society Approved by AG

The Division of Charitable Trusts today approved the sale of conservation restrictions and a powerline right-of-way to the Society for the Protection of NH Forests for $850,000. The Forest Society has a signed purchase-and-sale agreement to conserve 5800 acres and extinguish the right-of-way.

"We're pleased to be working with the Tillotson Corporation and we're happy that the Charitable Trust Division approved the of the sale of the conservation restrictions on the Balsams land," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "We are confident that those who appreciate the natural beauty and economic value of New Hampshire' forests and special places will step forward and help us achieve their conservation in Dixville Notch."

A copy of the letter from the Charitable Trusts division of the NH Attorney General's office can be seen here.

Northern Pass Interference in Balsams Land Conservation

The Forest Society is aware that Northern Pass continues to attempt to interfere in a transaction between two private parties, the Tillotson Corporation and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Curiously, PSNH and Northern Pass seem unclear on the fact that the negotiations are over and that they are an unwanted suitor. The Forest Society has a signed legal contract to acquire conservation restrictions and the power line right of way on 5800 acres of lands surrounding the Balsams Wilderness Resort, and we have every intention of completing that transaction by Jan. 15.

We would point out that as a 110-year-old non-profit land trust that holds more than 700 conservation easements, the Forest Society is uniquely qualified to determine appropriate conservation outcomes, acquire conservation easements, and monitor those easements. Northern Pass, a for-profit shell corporation seeking to build a private commercial transmission line, would not be in a position to make such judgements or to acquire such a conservation easement.

It's clear that Northern Pass and PSNH are unwilling or unable to understand that not everything has a dollar price. It's also evident that Northern Pass and PSNH will resort to any tactics in attempt to force private landowners to sell to them. This is what landowners across New Hampshire have to look forward to as Northern Pass and PSNH attempt to bully their way across the landscape for their private transmission project.

That said, we appreciate the publicity their actions are bringing to our fundraising campaign. Online donations may be made at More information about our campaign to conserve the iconic Balsams landscape can be found here

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa comes early to the Conserve the Balsams Landscape Campaign

Many New Hampshire residents deferred their Christmas shopping today to make a gift to Conserve the Balsams Landscape. We had a steady stream of visitors hand delivering checks in addition to those gifts made by phone, over the web and through the mail. This busiest day yet for the campaign was sparked by the news reports that Northern Pass is objecting to this conservation project. Donors expressed their disappointment, anger and disgust that Northern Pass would interfere with the conservation of this cherished landscape. We are working day and night to deliver to the people of New Hampshire one of the finest holiday gifts we can imagine: 5,800 acres of the North Country landscape for all to enjoy in perpetuity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Northern Pass Aims to Block Balsams Land Conservation

As Annmarie Timmins reports here in the Concord Monitor, Northern Pass is so unhappy about the Tillotson Corporation's decision to pursue a conservation outcome for the lands surrounding the Balsams that they had their attorneys complain to the NH Charitable Trusts Division. Their complaint? That Tillotson should have taken their offer instead, and was somehow obligated to do so.
We believe that the Attorney General’s office will agree with the Tillotson Corp that the transaction outlined in our Purchase and Sale agreement with them is in the best interests of the North Country. The attempt by Northern Pass to interfere with a transaction between two private parties is a clear indication of their desperation. It’s the moral equivalent of using eminent domain to force a private landowner to sell to them.
"We understand that corporations like Northern Pass are focused on the bottom line," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "However, like many of our fellow landowners and our conservation partners, we also understand that money isn’t the only thing that matters in New Hampshire. Our forests, our land, scenic views and iconic places matter deeply to us. And they can’t always be bought."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

$100,000 Milestone Reached Toward Save the Balsams Landcape Goal!

Donations are flowing in and the momentum is building leading us across the six-figure threshold today in our efforts to save the Balsams landscape. One hundred is the theme for today...we received our 100th contribution bringing us over $100,000. Thank you to everyone who helped us reach this milestone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Please don't wait...

If you are planning to support the conservation of the Balsams landscape, please make your gift now. We have several major funders who are watching the level of public support for this project, and the size of their grants will be influenced by the number of people who have made early gifts and the total amount of funding that has been committed. People are asking what will happen to their gifts if we don't succeed. The answer is that we will return the money unless the donor chooses to have us apply it to a different project. That said, we are planning to succeed, but we can't do it without your help. Thanks!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week One Yields $50K Toward Goal

The campaign to save the Balsams landscape enjoyed a fabulous first week with $50,000 raised. The phone has been ringing off the hook (603-224-9945),  and the website has been busier than ever for one of our campaigns to conserve land. Thank you to everyone helping to spread the word.

 Falcon eyrie (nest) on Abeniki .
 Photo by Mike Pelchat
By the way, our land protection folks observed that there is a longtime Peregrine Falcon nest on the cliffs on Abeniki Mountain within the proposed conserved area.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Campaign to Conserve Balsams Land Off to a Fast Start

Donations Hit the Web within First Half Hour

Within minutes of announcing a campaign to conserve 5,800 acres surrounding the BALSAMS Resort in Dixville Notch, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests started receiving donations via its website,

“People are really jazzed about this conservation project,” said Susanne Kibler-Hacker, vice president of development at the Forest Society.  She attributed the interest to several factors.

“Many people from across New England know the BALSAMS landscape and appreciate its unique beauty because they’ve driven through the Notch or had the privilege of staying at the Resort,” Kibler-Hacker said. “They’ve also heard that our window of opportunity to conserve the land surrounding the hotel is short—we have until Jan. 15 to raise the $850,000 we need—and so they are responding quickly.”

“And for some donors it’s important that the proposed conservation restrictions would eliminate the chance that Northern Pass towers and transmission lines could be built on the land,” she added. “They are very motivated.”

People looking to make a tax deductible contribution can do so online (, by phone (call Susanne Kibler-Hacker at 603-224-9945), or make checks payable to:  Forest Society-Balsams Project and mail to Forest Society, 54 Portsmouth Street, Concord, NH 03301. The Forest Society is a 501-C non-profit organization.

Forest Society Agrees to Pursue Conservation of Balsams Land

Nearly 6,000 Acres, Scenic Views, Working Forest

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests came to agreement with the Tillotson Corporation to conserve much of the land surrounding the historic BALSAMS Hotel in Dixville Notch, NH. A purchase and sale agreement was signed that will enable the Forest Society to hold conservation restrictions that will forever protect the working forest, scenic views, and 30 miles of recreational trails that the public and BALSAMS guests have enjoyed for decades. The land will be owned in fee by the new owners of the BALSAMS Hotel.

“We have long sought to protect this special place in New Hampshire,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. “We are grateful to the board of the Tillotson Corporation to be given the opportunity to do just that.”

The purchase and sale agreement gives the Forest Society a window of opportunity to raise the $850,000 necessary to close the transaction. The conservation restrictions will prohibit further subdivision and commercial development while allowing sustainable forestry and recreational access.

The land that will be protected surrounds the site of the hotel. The site of the hotel, the golf course and the ski area will not be part of the conserved area. The conserved land will include the popular outlook known as Table Rock that offers a spectacular vista across Coos County to Maine, Vermont and Canada. The 30 miles of recreational trails include hiking and snowmobiling trails as well as a section of the Cohos Trail that runs from Crawford Notch in the White Mountains to the Canadian border in Pittsburg. Other conservation values include wildlife habitat, extensive water resources such as Mud Pond, healthy stands of sugar maple and areas of likely old growth forest.

“Given the extraordinary conservation values on the property, including the extensive scenic views of the land and from the land, we’re confident that donors will step forward to help us achieve this conservation outcome,” Difley said.

The Forest Society is a private, non-profit land trust and forestry organization established in 1901. It currently holds more than 750 conservation easements statewide permanently protecting more than 100,000 acres of New Hampshire’s landscapes. The Forest Society also owns 171 forest reservations constituting more than 50,000 acres in 95 New Hampshire communities.