Natural Heritage Studies of Mount Sunapee

Area Inventory of State Lands: Mount Sunapee State Park

This page includes important new information about Mount Sunapee’s ecologically important forest — “exemplary” natural communities. (Updated Dec. 2015)


Click on chart to enlarge.

The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB) evaluated in 2004 (see below) the area at Mount Sunapee State Park proposed for ski area expansion. (Okemo has proposed a major expansion on Mount Sunapee in three different master plans — 2004, 2009 and 2014, which is now under consideration by the Department of Resources and Economic Development.)

NHB  recently re-evaluated the proposed expansion area on Mount Sunapee and the Bureau issued an addendum to their 2004 study.

Download/read the addendum here:

Addendum_NHB_MtSunapee 2015 January 26 (PDF 1MB)

The 2015 addendum states:

“There are three natural communities within the exemplary northern hardwood – conifer forest system (Image 1) on Mt. Sunapee State Park:

(1) high-elevation spruce – fir forest;
(2) sugar maple – beech – yellow birch forest;
(3) northern hardwood – spruce – fir forest.

The sections of mature trees found in the exemplary natural community system add significant value to the larger forest mosaic of Mt. Sunapee. This mosaic in turn has a high ecological value because of its connection to the extensive Sunapee Highlands Corridor. Large, intact systems are more resistant to impacts from natural disturbance, insects and disease, and human disturbance.

According to the Native Plant Protection Act (RSA 217-A:7): “All state agencies, consistent with their authority and responsibilities, shall assist and cooperate with the commissioner to carry out the purposes of this chapter. To the extent possible actions funded or carried out by state agencies shall not jeopardize the continued existence of any protected plant species or exemplary natural community.”

The 2004 report identifies areas of exemplary forest considered of local and statewide significance.

NH NHB Evaluation Mt Sunapee Map 2004

Click on chart to enlarge.

Read/download the report:

NH-NHB Evaluation of proposed ski lease area expansion on Mt Sunapee – 2004 (PDF 4 MB)

“Evaluation of proposed ski lease area expansion on Mt. Sunapee – 11/23/2004” says:

On September 13, 2004 staff from NH Natural Heritage Bureau (NH Heritage) and a volunteer (Chris Kane) conducted a field survey of the newly proposed ski lease area expansion (hereafter proposed expansion) within the current boundaries of Mt. Sunapee State Park. Two areas were assessed: the ~175 acres proposed for addition to the existing Ski Lease area (the so called “west bowl”), and a patch of forest within the current lease area between the Upper Ridge and Beck Brook trails that would also be impacted by the proposed expansion (i.e., the northern section of the “New Ridge Trail”).

Stag headed yellow birch NH NHB 2014

Photo of “stag-headed yellow birch.” See Natural Heritage Bureau evaluation of proposed ski expansion area at Mount Sunapee State Park, 2004.

Natural Heritage Inventory of the East Bowl at Mount Sunapee State Park 2003(pdf 3.3mb)

A comprehensive assessment of the ecological context, land-use history and present status of the East Bowl of Mount Sunapee. An analysis of historical land use and vegetation information is combined with field survey results to (1) describe the locations of exemplary natural communities in the East Bowl with an emphasis on old forests, (2) describe the state and regional ecological significance of Mount Sunapee’s forest communities, and (3) recommend Natural Area designations. 51 pages, maps, figures, 8 color plates.

The Natural Heritage Bureau (N.H. Forest & Lands) studied the ski lease area at Mount Sunapee in 1999 and mapped and inventoried the old-growth forests and rare plants in the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. Read/download the report:

Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area (1999): Natural_Heritage_Inventory_MSSP_1999 (PDF 5.2MB)

What are exemplary natural communities? Why are they important?

For more information about these reports contact:

NH Natural Heritage Bureau

Division of Forests and Lands, PO Box 1856, Concord, New Hampshire 03302-1856.

Phone (603) 271-2214




Copyright 2017 Friends of Mount Sunapee