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The Environmental Hour explores Mount Sunapee’s rare old forest

Photo courtesy of Lisa Coté, host of The Environmental Hour on Portsmouth, N.H., community radio WSCA. Images from a June 2020 hike at Mount Sunapee State Park.

The Environmental Hour on Portsmouth, New Hampshire, community radio WSCA 106.1 FM recently explored the exemplary and old forest in Mount Sunapee State Park with Steve Russell, president of the Friends of Mount Sunapee. The state-documented 484-acre exemplary natural community system in the Park includes enduring, rare old-growth surrounded by mature forest.

“When I learned about this (old forest on Mount Sunapee) … I said I wanna go, I want to see what this is, I want to learn more about this,” said Lisa Coté, host of The Environmental Hour

Coté is a certified hydrogeologist as well as an avid hiker, skier, and environmentalist. She learned of the rare forest on Sunapee from listening to the Earth Day 2020 webinar hosted by the New Hampshire Sierra Club and the Friends of Mount Sunapee. After contacting FOMS and arranging for a hike through the old forest, Coté interviewed Russell on-air.

“What follows is an audio journey through the forest and the past and current efforts to preserve Mount Sunapee’s amazing forest,” says Russell.

Audio from WSCA The Environmental Hour, June 19, 2020

 

Related FOMS articles and resources

Old-Growth Forest Network: The Healthiest Forest

Created by the Old-Growth Forest Network, this film “takes you on a 4-minute journey that represents 300 years in the life of a forest. See how structure and biodiversity recover naturally, and how continued management like thinning and harvesting interferes with recovery.”

Related news articles

OGFN related articles

About the old forest in Mount Sunapee State Park (FOMS resource page)

Voices & Views

‘Time for a climb’ from New Hampshire Garden Solutions

Is it time for a climb and new discoveries? The delicate spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) welcomes forest hikers in New Hampshire, April through June. Friends of Mount Sunapee photo.

It’s Time For a Climb: New Hampshire Garden Solutions takes you along on a recent outing on Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard, N.H., and the discoveries made by taking the same trails again and again.

John Burroughs said “To find new things, take the path you took yesterday” and of course he was right. I thought of him last year when I found spring beauties I had been walking by for years and then I thought of him again on this day, when I found sessile leaved bellwort growing right beside the trail I’ve hiked so many times. I’m always amazed by how much I miss, and that’s why I walk the same trails again and again. It’s the only way to truly know a place.

See New Hampshire Garden Solutions, Exploring Nature in New Hampshire.

Voices & Views

Gale Straub: ‘She Explores – Women in the Outdoors’

“Enjoy. I find inspiration and comfort by connecting with women who share their outdoor experiences and stories.” A Friends of Mount Sunapee volunteer organizer shares She Explores, the podcast by Gail Straub of Dover. N.H.

Episode 149: Stories of Togetherness

Voices & Views

FOMS launches Voices & Views

A Mount Sunapee State Park spring wildflower, the red trillium, Trillium erectum. Friends of Mount Sunapee photo.

Welcome to Voices & Views, a Friends of Mount Sunapee blog dedicated to comments and images that speak about experiences in nature, land conservation, and environmental stewardship. With your help, Voices & Views will bring you timely comments and short takes from FOMS members, non-members, bloggers, and newsmakers.

The goal is to encourage and support creative narratives.

We invite YOU to share your interest and your creative side, perhaps in a short story, poem, sketch, painting, photo, video. For more info, contact FOMS or email Catherine@FriendsofMountSunapee.org.

Go to Voices & Views

“Nature’s peace will flow into you …”

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ― John Muir

Friends of Mount Sunapee President Steve Russell shares this photo from a local hike at Mount Sunapee State Park, the home to this “gnarly old guy.”

While we share this photo, we urge all to hike locally and responsibly and follow safe practices. There is still snow and ice in the mountains and an accident can endanger you and the first responders and put further strain on our healthcare providers.

Please see the NH State Parks Response to Covid-19 for updates and information.

When the Sunapee Chapter of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests published the “Manual of Mount Sunapee” in 1915, it chose to include the John Muir quote, shown above. The booklet details Mount Sunapee’s geological history, flora, birds, and ferns. You can view the manual via the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The under-told story: Mount Sunapee’s rare forest

Many people know Mount Sunapee as a fun place to ski. Few know the story of its rare forest. Yet, audiences at the Claremont MakerSpace and Goshen’s Brook Road Inn recently heard Steve Russell, president of Friends of Mount Sunapee, tell that story about an enduring, exemplary forest in Mount Sunapee State Park.

“Everlasting Forests: The Mount Sunapee Story,” is a FOMS presentation about preservation efforts that began over a century ago. It is also about a critical and vulnerable environment, which has no permanent protective status.

“I didn’t even know there were old-growth trees up there,” offered one member of these diverse audiences, “and I ski there all the time.”

The Friends of Mount Sunapee program “Everlasting Story” describes the ancient and exemplary forest at Mount Sunapee State Park.

In cooperation with the Sullivan County Conservation District for its most recent two presentations, FOMS has been informing citizens in towns that surround Mount Sunapee about this irreplaceable old forest.

Russell stressed the importance of thinking of this area on the mountain, not as separate parcels with ancient trees, but as an entire and interdependent biological entity: an exemplary natural community system (ENCS). Through natural processes, the ENCS supports and protects itself through flora and fauna cooperation.

Russell stated that attempts to develop even small areas of this ENCS would damage and diminish the system. If preserved, this exemplary and old forest can be viewed, studied, and enjoyed into an ongoing future.

More about Mount Sunapee’s rare old forest and the Friends of Mount Sunapee

Ice, water, and watersheds

Chandler Brook, Newbury, NH

Friends of Mount Sunapee recently added a Sunapee Mountain Watersheds page to the website. Check it out! And we welcome submissions of water and watershed related articles and media for publication. For more information, see our contact page.

Water: This, that, and the other

Chandler Brook, Newbury, NH.

Now available from New Hampshire Silver Jackets is the Spring Report of State Hydrology and Watershed Conditions, 2020. The report compiles information on the status of hydrology, watershed, lake, and river conditions in preparation for the spring snowmelt and runoff season in the Granite State. You can view and download the 2020 Hydrology Report via the Department of Environmental Services.

Did you know that the Sullivan County Conservation District has a demonstration stream table? It is available to teachers and organizations to loan for use in the classroom or at an event. And if you’re not sure how to use the stream table, the SCCD website offers helpful links to help you out. For more info, contact SCCD Educator Dawn Dextraze.

Additionally, the Sullivan County Conservation District provides “Water Health” educational programs and projects related to water quality monitoring, nitrogen pollution reduction, and rainwater retention.

And from researcher and environmental sciences and biology teacher Susan Pike, learn about pancake, anchor, and border ice in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Susan shares her love of ice in “Nature News: The Magic of Ice” via the seacoastonline.com.

And a reminder from New Hampshire Fish & Game. Be safe when heading outdoors. See the NH F&G Ice Safety brochure.

Photos courtesy of a FOMS volunteer: Chandler Brook, as viewed from along the Beach Access Road at Mount Sunapee State Park in Newbury, N.H. (February 23, 2020). 

New NH rule, if made permanent, will put endangered species at risk

A list of threatened and endangered wildlife in New Hampshire is available via Fish and Game.

Environmental organizations in New Hampshire “say a new state rule, which has support from the construction industry and could become permanent, puts endangered species at greater risk from development.” See the reporting of Annie Ropeik for NHPR:

Instead of “no adverse impacts,” the new rule says only that project designs must “not jeopardize the continued existence” of a protected species, or destroy critical habitat.

For groups like the Nature Conservancy, this implied that projects could be allowed to move forward as long as they didn’t cause extinctions – which raised serious concerns.

The Nature Conservancy wrote to DES about the issue in January, along with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Appalachian Mountain Club and the state Audubon and Lakes Association – See NHPR, Enviro. Groups Say New State Rule For Developers Puts Endangered Species At Risk (February 18, 2020)

A list of threatened and endangered wildlife in New Hampshire is available via Fish and Game. Or view endangered-threatened-wildlife-nh (pdf).

Protect Our Winters comes to NH

Protect Our Winters is coming to New Hampshire.

POW, an international group of outdoor enthusiasts and climate activists, will work this year in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

We’re coming to you [New Hampshire] this year to get to know your community and learn about all of the great outdoor opportunities your state has to offer,” wrote Anja Semanco for POW. “Nearly 70 percent of New Hampshire residents participate in outdoor recreation every year. With an $8.7 billion outdoor rec economy, it’s time to talk climate change and take climate action.”

Read the POW blog post “What we’re working on in 2019” via https://protectourwinters.org/what-were-working-on-in-2019/

If you are a climate activist or want to join a local climate action group, we’d like to hear from you.

CONTACT FOMS

‘The primeval forest of Mount Sunapee’

Conservation ecologist Chris Kane, on June 30, 2018, led a hike at Mount Sunapee State Park, where he shared his knowledge of the area’s rare ancient forest.

Courtesy of the Eagle Times, July 28, 2018, this article by Steve Russell, president of Friends of Mount Sunapee, reports on a recent hike with conservation ecologist Chris Kane.

“Mount Sunapee contains as much as 10 percent of all the known ancient forest in New Hampshire, and the great majority south of the White Mountains.” – Chris Kane, June 30, 2018

In a walk through time into a forest never logged or otherwise affected by human endeavors, Chris Kane, conservation ecologist, led our small group of hikers last weekend into Mount Sunapee State Park’s primeval forest. Over the course of a three-and-a-half-hour journey, we hikers heard this naturalist identify and interpret the complexity of Sunapee’s ancient forests…

So, like those who were drawn to Sunapee’s rare forests over a century ago, we emerged from the forest with a new appreciation for the uniqueness of this special part of Mount Sunapee State Park and with an understanding that these forests represent the last vestige of wilderness in this region of New Hampshire: they are what make Mount Sunapee State Park unique, and we should do everything we can to ensure that they are permanently protected.

Read more via the Eagle Times, The primeval forests of Mount Sunapee 

Or view The primeval forests of Mount Sunapee | Lifestyles | eagletimes.com (pdf)

The ancient forest on Mount Sunapee
  • For information about Mount Sunapee natural heritage and its ancient forest, see the FOMS library of documents.
  • For info about our work to protect Mount Sunapee, please contact us.

Forest Society working to buy popular trailhead for Mt. Sunapee hike to Lake Solitude

winter hiker smaller CDeegan IMG_1868

A hiker ascends the Andrew Brook Trail in Newbury. Courtesy photo.

When the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests (Forest Society) posted on Facebook a plan to buy a property in Newbury that hosts the trailhead of a hiking route to Lake Solitude on Mt. Sunapee, hikers who know the Andrew Brook Trail responded quickly.

They posted phrases like “Love this hike,” “One of my favorite spots” and “Best way to hike Sunapee.”

“Those posts told us we were working on a project that would make a lot of people very happy,” said Jane Difley, the Forest Society’s president/forester.

There are three major hiking trails on Mt. Sunapee, but only one, the Summit Trail, is entirely within Mt. Sunapee State Park. The Andrew Brook Trail is one of two others that cross private land before entering permanently protected land in the state park. Access to the trailhead has been at the generosity of the landowner and could be denied by any future landowner.

AndrewBrook_MailingMapv5-1

Click on map to enlarge.

The Forest Society offered to buy the land, 33 acres off of Mountain Road in Newbury, when it came up for sale recently, and has a purchase-and-sales agreement with the landowner. First, however, the organization must raise $110,000 to cover the purchase, legal fees and future stewardship costs.

“We are reaching out to the hiking community and friends and neighbors in the Newbury area to ask for their support of our plan to protect the trailhead,” Difley said.

The Andrew Brook Trail ascends along Andrew Brook and climbs through a beech, birch and maple forest for two miles before reaching Lake Solitude, a pristine pond surrounded by conifers. It then connects to the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway’s 75-mile trail system and continues to the scenic cliffs of the  White Ledges area and Mt. Sunapee’s summit.

“Most hikers of these heavily used trails have no idea that only the generosity of a private landowner allows access to the State Park,” said Gerry Gold, of the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway Coalition. “Thus it is a rare opportunity when the hikers and the hiking community have an opportunity to help purchase such important access and permanently protect that access for themselves and future generations of hikers.”

In 2006, the Forest Society led a campaign to purchase a conservation easement on 1,100 acres of land on the eastern slope of Mt. Sunapee. This easement protects the middle section of the Andrew Brook Trail and was a collaboration celebrated by partners including the Newbury Conservation Commission, Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew, the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, Friends of Mount Sunapee and the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway.

In 2010 the Goubert family of Sunapee donated 75 acres of land next to the 33-acre property the Forest Society now seeks to buy.

Difley said the property’s value for hiking is the most obvious reason to protect it, but it also contains hardwood forest that protects water quality of Andrew Brook and several feeder streams, and it provides excellent wildlife habitat. She said the organization is seeking to raise the money necessary to complete the project by Jan. 20.

More information about the project and how to donate, visit www.forestsociety.org.

Soar over Mount Sunapee via “To Be A Bird”

Enjoy stunning, soaring views over New Hampshire via “To Be A Bird.”  This video by Kris Roller captures the autumn landscape and precious mountain and watershed lands … including Mount Sunapee. At 20 seconds, you’ll find yourself flying over Mount Sunapee and taking in breathtaking views of Lake Solitude and beyond. Take flight via —

 

2015 NH Wildlife Action Plan provides new data and maps

FG_WAP_2015_goshen8x11habitat

Shown here: maps for Goshen and Newbury, NH. Click on maps to enlarge.

FG_WAP_2015_goshen8x11scoring

FG_WAP_2015_newbury8x11scoringThe NH Wildlife Action Plan has been updated, and there are new data and information now available, including new Wildlife Habitat maps. Check out NH Fish & Game for town maps showing the “highest ranked wildlife habitat by ecological condition.”

The 2015 Wildlife Action Plan is a blueprint for conserving Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats in New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s Plan identifies 169 SGCN, which represent a broad array of wildlife, and it focuses on the 27 habitats that support these species, such as lowland spruce-fir forest, salt marsh, shrublands, warm water lakes and ponds, vernal pools, and many others. – NH Fish and Game via http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/wap.html

F&G is hosting workshops around the state to explain what’s new in the 2015 plan. Registration information is available via www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/wap-events.html.

Share your interest in protecting important wildlife habitat on and around Mount Sunapee. Contact FOMS.

SooNipi Magazine: ‘Hiking Mount Sunapee’s Summit Trail’

SooNipiMagazineSummitTrail2015SummerEnjoy and explore the Summit Trail at Mount Sunapee State Park. The SooNipi Magazine, always a fun and informative read, delivers in its summer (2015) issue an article that takes you for a hike up the Summit Trail. Learn what makes this area of our state park so special and why this favorite hiking trail is now at risk! Read (download/view):

“Hiking Mount Sunapee’s Summit Trail” (SooNipi-Summer-2015 P.28-31)  (PDF 3MB)

You can pick up the SooNipi at various distribution sites in West-Central New Hampshire, or download/view the article by clicking on the link above.

For some, Mount Sunapee State Park conjures up images of alpine skiing. For many others, however, the park represents a smorgasbord of outdoor recreation opportunities – including hiking, hunting, nature study, backpacking, snowshoeing, and more. All are available at no cost in our public park. The Summit Hiking Trail on Mount Sunapee’s west flank offers access to all of the aforementioned non-skiing activities, and is a personal favorite…

The Summit Hiking Trail lies directly in the path of the proposed western expansion of the ski area. As currently planned, the hiking trail will be bisected at least half a dozen times by new ski slopes, and a new lift line will be gouged out of the heart of the ancient forest community. The closed forest canopy will now feature ski runs, towers for a ski lift, and pipelines and guns for snowmaking. The trail will still be there, possibly re-routed, but the peaceful woodland hike that exists today will be changed forever. – “Hiking Mount Sunapee’s Summit Trail” by Gary Stansfield

To learn how you can help protect the Summit Trail, contact FOMS today!

 

Is a ‘Timber Ripper’ coming to Mount Sunapee?

A Disney style amusement ride — a mountain coaster, which Okemo calls its “Timber Ripper” in Vermont — maybe coming to Mount Sunapee State Park. The agency that oversees NH parks recently approved a rollercoaster for Sunapee that will cut into and further diminish the wooded land near the base of the mountain.

A roller coaster at our jewel of a mountain state park? Have they no shame? Apparently not!  – Gary, an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.

It looks we’re on a fast ride downhill that turns our precious parkland into a common theme park. One has to ask: What next for our New Hampshire state parks! – Cathy from Sunapee

Mt. Sunapee Public Hearing

Help protect the integrity of Mount Sunapee State Park. Add your voice at the Mt. Sunapee Public Hearing on May 5 (6pm). Location: Mount Sunapee State Park, Sunapee Lodge, Newbury, NH.

For more info and to see how you can help,  Contact FOMS.

Check out Okemo’s “Timber Ripper” in Vermont, via YouTube:

 

How do you describe Mount Sunapee’s rare old forest?

Polygon D 2014OctQ. – The manager of Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort has repeatedly stated that there is no old growth in the proposed expansion area. How do you and the Friends of Mount Sunapee respond to that claim?

A. – It is essential to understand that, even among forest ecologists, there is some debate over the definition of the term old growth. Quite frankly, the wording can be a semantic trap. The resort operators are missing the point by focusing on the term.

The focus should be on the facts:

1) New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau (NHB) identified and documented the existence of exemplary forest communities directly in the path of the proposed expansion.

2) Because of this designation, these forests are protected under state law (Native Plant Protection Act RSA 217- A:7).

Profile sketch of reservation

See the description below.

3) These forests do contain large, magnificent, old trees. Some of the older trees within the mosaic of exemplary forest communities on Mount Sunapee have been found to be over 250 years of age. These ancient trees are part of an ecological community, a complex interplay of plants (both living and dead), animals (including microscopic organisms), fungi, and soils that are not found in other, far more common forests that have been historically managed (i.e. logged) by humans. These unmanaged areas are the last remnants of the primeval forests that covered much of this area prior to European settlement.

4) The forests on Mount Sunapee are living laboratories, valuable to forest scientists, for educational purposes, and for simple enjoyment by the public. And, they occur in Mount Sunapee State Park, land protected many years ago and held in the public trust.

5) The first priority of Hamsphire Parks according to state law (RSA 216-A:1) is “To protect and preserve unusual scenic, scientific, historical, recreational, and natural areas of the state.”

What better fits that mandate than these beautiful exemplary forest communities?

Figure 1 (above), included in the NHB study (1999) “Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area,” illustrates the reservation’s forest history on Mount Sunapee.

The reports states: “The original purchase of 656 acres in 1911 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests was initiated to protect land from extensive logging which started in 1906 (Ayres19150). By 1934, SPNHF owned 1,185 acres, including cut-over and old-growth forests. In 1948, the state took ownership of the mountain and opened the Mount Sunapee State Park with a ski area on the north face of the mountain (MacAskill 1981).” – NH Natural Heritage Bureau (1999)

Help protect the Summit Hiking Trail on Mount Sunapee

HelpProtectSummitTrail_WinterFOMS“The proposed ‘West Bowl’ expansion will fatally compromise the Summit Trail,” says Steve Russell, Newbury. “The trail as it now exists will be gone.”

“The trail, which provides the general public with all-season access to the park, will be cut through with ski runs at four different locations.”

Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort is seeking a major expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park that will extend ski infrastructure across the western flank of Mount Sunapee onto  hundreds of acres owned by the resort operator.

Proposed new ski terrain and a new lift will not only bisect the hiking trail, it will cut into the rare ancient forest in the park.

The western edge of the park is not yet impacted by ski trails, ski lifts, and snow-making. Steve and others want to keep it that way.

It is not necessary to expand skiing in an area where an equally important public use of the park already exists. The use of the park for skiing is already well established. The public also has a right to experience the mountain in a natural undisturbed state.

Add your voice to protect the Summit Hiking Trail

The Summit Trail, developed in the early 1990s, was designed “to provide hikers with a woodlands trail away from ski operations,” according to the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway Coalition (SRKG). “Development of the trail was related to the early history of the SRK Greenway Coalition, incorporated in 1993.”

The Summit Trail is part of the Greenway, a 75-mile loop of trails that connect four State Parks, thee State Forests, and New Hampshire Fish and Game protected lands, and town, and private properties. The SRKG also links with the 50-mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and Pillsbury State Park.

Copyright © 2020 Friends of Mount Sunapee