Tucker Family and French Family Forests
563 acre Reservation in Kingston, Danville, and Brentwood
In August 2010, the Tucker and French families completed the conservation of their land totaling 563 acres of forestland and wetlands in Kingston, Danville, and Brentwood. These lands, conveyed to the Southeast Land Trust subject to conservation easements held by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, create the Land Trust’s largest ownership and represent the culmination of three years of work.
Both the Tucker Family Forest and French Family Forest fall within a conservation focus area within Kingston and Danville identified in 2005 by the Southeast Land Trust as a top priority for our work. [see map] The properties represent the highest co-occurrence of natural resource values within the area, with significant wetland resources, including more than 170 acres of diverse wetlands that include streams, 20+ vernal pools, emergent marsh, scrub-shrub, and forested wetlands and frontage on the Little River. In addition, the acquisitions will ensure continued public access for outdoor recreation, including hiking, skiing, fishing, and hunting.
“The protection of these lands will ensure that this large block of open space remains undeveloped and available for the public’s benefit and enjoyment,” notes Brian Hart, Executive Director of the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire. “Because of the landowners’ patience, we were able to come to agreement on an approach that achieves their goals, and those of the Town and the Land Trust.”
In 2007, brothers Bill, John, and George Tucker first approached the Land Trust to discuss the conservation of land they inherited upon the passing of their parents, Moses and Ellen. Located off Tucker Road and North Road in Kingston, the 193 acres were acquired by their parents over the course of decades. John described the forest as “my father’s playground,” where Moses conducted periodic timber harvests – of course with his children’s help. The Tucker Forest includes extensive frontage on the Class VI portion of Tucker Road and a large beaver-influenced wetlands complex that provides habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and several turtle species that are in decline.
The second property acquired consists of seven parcels of land owned by Meadowsend Timberlands Limited Partnership, a forest products business owned by the French family. The Frenches have a long commitment to land conservation, with family members serving various conservation organizations including the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the national Land Trust Alliance. This land, to be called the French Family Forest, totals 370 acres, with the majority of the land adjacent to and near the Tucker Family Forest.
“Our family has a great interest in preserving the remaining rural qualities of Rockingham County, having owned property here since 1928,” explained Steve French, managing partner of Meadowsend Timberlands. “Because Kingston has been the home of our lumber business since 1970, we really wanted to see the land stay as an asset for the benefit of town without costing the town people a lot of money. The Wetlands Reserve Program seemed like the ideal way to do that.”
Both families conserved their lands through two transactions. First, each family sold a conservation easement on the property to the federal Wetlands Reserve Program. The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property.
“The Tucker and Meadowsend properties are a great example of how the Wetlands Reserve Program has grown to be an important vehicle for the protection and restoration of New Hampshire’s wetlands”, said Rick Ellsmore, NRCS State Conservationist. “Conserving and restoring properties with a diversity of wetlands is the goal of our Wetlands Reserve Program. Thanks to the hard work of the Land Trust, and this important Federal program, this land and its critical wildlife habitat, wetlands, and forestland will now be protected and restored.”
The WRP goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection. Following the conveyance of the conservation easement to WRP, the families conveyed the now- protected land to the Land Trust, which will own and manage it with a focus on wildlife habitat, wetlands preservation, compatible recreation, and forestry. Additional funding was provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act program.
“We are pleased to know that these lands will be conserved as open space and productive forestland, and in the good hands of the Southeast Land Trust,” notes French. “They worked tirelessly for more than a year now to bring this deal to completion. In fact I would say the deal would not have happened if it wasn’t for the Land Trust’s efforts and commitment.”
While the acquisition is complete, much work remains to ensure that the important conservation values of this land are protected and enhanced. With a myriad of trails and skid roads throughout the properties, off-highway recreational vehicles have historically had unfettered and unwelcome access, causing significant erosion and sedimentation. With funding from the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Land Trust will be installing gates and other access controls this fall to prevent additional damage. Over the next year, additional work will be done to fix the damaged trails and close unneeded trails.