AP News Break: Old forest may derail Sunapee expansion plan

Polygon D 2014Oct Old forest may derail Sunapee expansion plan 

Read the AP article (1/30/2105) by clicking on the link above.

New Hampshire Forest & Lands confirmed this week the existence of exemplary natural communities on Mount Sunapee State Park’s west flank, directly in the path of the proposed expansion.

This is very good news for our cherished Mount Sunapee State Park and the protection of the park’s natural heritage and scenic beauty.

In addition to being rare, the forests on Mount Sunapee are found at the northern edge of the 30,000 acre Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands Corridor, increasing their ecological value, according to the state report.

mage from Natural Heritage Bureau 2015 report shows location of exemplary natural community in Mount Sunapee State Park. Click on map to enlarge.

Image from Natural Heritage Bureau 2015 report shows location of exemplary natural community in Mount Sunapee State Park. Click on map to enlarge.

The recent release by the Natural Heritage Burean affirms what hikers and back-country enthusiasts have enjoyed for decades: Mount Sunapee State Park protects some of the most precious and important forest in the state.

Mount Sunapee’s rare forests

The NHB study, conducted in the autumn of 2014, confirmed the findings of the state’s 2004 evaluation and enlarged the area formally designated as “exemplary.”

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.” N.H. Natural Heritage Bureau

Exemplary natural communities are defined by their rarity, size, ecological condition, and landscape context.

Mount Sunapee State Park - stag headed yellow birch - Photo from NH NHB study (2004) of proposed ski expansion area.

Mount Sunapee State Park – stag headed yellow birch – Photo from NH NHB study (2004) of proposed ski expansion area.

The forests contain large yellow birch, sugar maple and red spruce. Based on tree cores taken in 2004 and 2014, the NHB determined that some of the trees exceed 170 years of age.

The recent NHB report also quotes from the N.H. Native Plant Protection Act stating that “actions funded or carried out by state agencies shall not jeopardize the continued existence of any protected plant species or exemplary natural community.”

The proposed expansion, as presented by Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort in 2014, will cut through these rare forest tracts, and thus destroy, degrade and fragment these exemplary communities.

From its creation as a nature reserve in 1911 to today, Mount Sunapee’s public lands have been protected as a park for the preservation of special natural qualities and for quiet recreation including hiking, snowshowing, picnicking, and exploration. While skiing is one use of the park, expansion of the ski area beyond the resort’s current footprint is unwise and, according to this report, could violate state law.

A Call to Protect Mount Sunapee

The Friends of Mount Sunapee asks Governor Hassan to direct the Department of Resources and Economic Development to end consideration of the proposed expansion, and ask Okemo/MSR to bring forth to the public a Master Development Plan for Mount Sunapee State Park that:

  • stays within the existing footprint of the ski area,
  • leaves all identified exemplary forest areas untouched, and
  • limits its future projects to areas of the park already disturbed.

For more information and to sign-up to receive FOMS ENews and Alerts, contact Friends of Mount Sunapee.

Copyright 2018 Friends of Mount Sunapee