Archive | Environment

My Turn: Forget the labels – Sunapee trees are old – Concord Monitor

By Jolyon Johnson
For Concord Monitor – February 7, 2015

A recent report by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau confirms the existence of “exemplary natural communities” on Mount Sunapee’s west flank.

The study, conducted in the autumn of 2014, not only confirmed the findings of the 2004 study, it also enlarged the area formally designated as exemplary at Mount Sunapee State Park. These forests are directly in the path of the proposed expansion of the ski area. Continue Reading →

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

Polygon D 2014OctQ. – The manager of 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 important to understand that, even among forest ecologists, there is some debate over the definition of the term old growth. Quite frankly, the term 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 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 (ie. 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 the N.H. state park system 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)

AP News Break: Old forest may derail Sunapee expansion

Read the AP article:

Polygon D 2014OctOld forest may derail Sunapee expansion plan 

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.  Read more…

Resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park is unwise


Watercolor by Deb Flanders www.fellscovedesign)

When considering resort expansion at Mount Sunapee, remember that Mount Sunapee State Park is a state park with a ski area. It is not a private ski resort or amusement park, and the park is not just for skiing.

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 its special natural features and public use including quiet recreation, snowshoeing, hiking, picnicking, and exploration.

While skiing is one of many uses of the park, expansion of the ski area and development outside the resort’s current footprint on the mountain is unwise.

Expansion will negatively affect other park uses and resources. Okemo’s proposed expansion at Mount Sunapee will destroy the current hiking experience now enjoyed along the Summit Hiking Trial and diminish the state park’s natural heritage including exemplary forest and natural communities.

The proposed expansion will open the way to cross-border private development in Goshen, which will not only violate the mission of our park, but will diminish and fragment an ecologically important landscape—the Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands. Additionally, the resort-driven real estate development that will inevitably follow expansion will forever change the rural character of the communities in the mountain’s shadow.

For more information and to receive FOMS pamphlet about the proposed expansion, contact Friends of Mount Sunapee.

Friends of Mount Sunapee is a grassroots organization that seeks to preserve and protect Mount Sunapee State Park for its essential public values and preserve the region’s quality of life, clean waters and open spaces.

Watercolor by Deb Flanders (



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 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 wants 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.

Help protect the Summit Trail: Here’s how.

About the Summit 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 SRK Greenway Coalition.

“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 4 State Parks, 3 State Forests, and NH Fish and Game protected lands, as well as town and private properties. The SRKG also links with the 50-mile Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway and Pillsbury State Park.

A false argument: “expand or perish”

In response to a recent letter published in several New Hampshire newspapers regarding the proposed ski area expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park, we share this response from a Goshen resident, who wrote:

1. To frame the issue as either “expand or perish” is inaccurate. The current operators of the ski area have provided quality skiing for years now, and will continue to, with or without the proposed expansion. In fact, the resort operators have a large number of “improvement projects” already planned and approved for the existing ski area, that have not been implemented. If improvements are so critical to their success, it would make sense to complete approved projects before proposing a large expansion.

2. On the issue of old growth forest: Yes, New Hampshire is a heavily forested state. In general, well planned forestry operations pose no threat to the viability of the region’s forests. What the writer fails to understand is that 99% of the region’s forests have been cutover two or more times since European settlement. Old growth forest, such as what is found in Mount Sunapee State Park, has never been logged and is extremely rare, constituting less than one percent of existing forest. The mosaic of old growth forest in the park is the largest of its type in Merrimack County, and likely the largest in the state south of the White Mountains.

In addition, the undeveloped west flank of Mount Sunapee is the northern end of the Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlands, an unfragmented forest block that has been recognized by state wildlife officials as critical habitat and an important travel corridor for large mammals such as moose, black bear, and bobcat.The disturbance caused by the construction of proposed ski infrastructure (parking lots, snow making and grooming, ski lifts, sewage disposal areas, concessions, etc.) would greatly diminish the value of this habitat.

In considering these and other points regarding the proposed expansion, it is important to remember that this concerns a state park—public land protected many years ago for a wide range of public uses, not solely as a ski area, nor as a generator of wealth for corporate resort owners.

Forest Society speaks to old growth forest protection on Mount Sunapee

“… the mountain has a history of protection for the primary purpose of saving “primeval forest.” – NH Forests & Lands, Natural Heritage Inventory of Old Forests and Rare Plants at the Mount Sunapee Ski Lease Area (1999)

The full environmental fallout from resort expansion at Mount Sunapee State Park is unknown. What is known: Old growth forest is in the direct path of a proposed new ski lift and trails, according to a 2004 NH Natural Heritage Bureau evaluation of the ski expansion area.

The Forest Society believes the many questions raised about the expansion need answers by the lease operator “before the State considers how to respond to the proposal.”

Additionally, the Society recently addressed the State’s “standard of review” when considering old growth protection on Mount Sunapee.

One question is how the proposed “West Bowl” ski expansion will impact the ground that is presently in an undeveloped state.  Work done by the N.H. Natural Heritage Bureau (a division of DRED) suggests that there is good cause to further study the presence of old growth forests on the land now targeted for development.  A preliminary NHNHB study suggests the proposed West Bowl expansion will impact old growth forests presently on State Park land.  Ten years ago, a proposed ski expansion into the east bowl of Mount Sunapee was denied due to old growth forests there.  The same standard of review should apply to the west bowl expansion.

There are a host of other important questions looking for answers.  The sooner DRED asks and answers these questions, the better informed its decision will be about whether (and, if so, how) to proceed. – The Forest Society News, November 17, 2014

Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort failed to provide current and complete impact studies in its Environmental Management Plan (required by the State) and failed to acknowledge the existence of the old-growth forest on State Park land within the expansion area.

Related information:

Resort’s environmental plan is flawed (FOMS Latest News)

Old Growth Forest on Mount Sunapee (See FOMS library of Studies and Related Information)

The Forest Society’s comments delivered to a public hearing in August held by Commissioner Jeff Rose of the NH Department of Resources & Economic Development and a subsequent letter to the Commissioner.


“Could climate change mean the end of skiing?”

“We must take a deeper look at the future of using Mount Sunapee State Park as a skiing mountain,” says Sue from Newbury. Sue shares information about the impact of climate change on winter sports: Porter Fox, editor of Powder Magazine, has a new book—Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow. As he travels the world, Fox sees less and less snow everywhere.

‘Half of the 103 resorts in the Northeast will likely not be able to stay open, and that’s in the next 30 years, which is pretty shocking,’ he said. ‘That’s where I grew up skiing.’ — CBS News, February 27, 2014 — View the video and report here.

Also, view this video about Deep via…

Related article: Rising Temperatures Threaten Fundamental Change for Ski Slopes – NYTimes (12-13-2013)

Considering climate change,”the question remains, why are we looking at the expansion of the skiing area at Mount Sunapee State Park?” asks Sue “The changes to Our Mountain to undertake such an expansion are long lasting.”

Read Sue’s letter here…

Copyright 2018 Friends of Mount Sunapee