Archive | public policy

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

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

Councilors want more info on Mt. Sunapee lease amendments – audio 10.17.2018

Here is the audio of the Executive Council discussion on Oct. 17, 2018, about Mount Sunapee and the proposed lease amendments. (eight minutes, mp3)

 

Last week, the Executive Council voted 5-0 to table lease amendments for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park. The councilors asked for more information and time before deciding on three lease changes, including a West Bowl amendment.

Vail Resorts took over the lease and operations of the state-owned ski area last month.

Executive Council Public Notice 10.23.2018

Executive Council Mount Sunapee meeting Oct. 23

The council will hold an information meeting on Tues., Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. at the State House (Executive Council Chambers). The meeting is open to the public. Click on the public notice (to the left).

Questions and comments about Mount Sunapee

It is essential to contact the Executive Council members with your questions and comments on the lease changes proposed for the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.

We welcome your comments and questions, as well. See FOMS contact page.

See FOMS prior post for more info.

 

 

DNCR announces Sunapee lease transfer and amendments

Read FOMS latest Enews

The state-owned ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park recently took another significant turn.

Commissioner Sarah Stewart of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) consented to a lease transfer request that allows industry giant Vail Resorts to take over the lease and operations of the Mount Sunapee ski area.

Proposed lease amendments accompanied the announcement and will go to the Governor and the Executive Council this month.

The commissioner delivered the decision at a public meeting at the park on September 26. View the meeting and lease amendment discussion via Newport Community TV Online.

DNCR proposed lease revisions to:

  1. Extend to Vail Resorts the 2016 lease amendment that enables resort development of the West Bowl.
  2. Add a “change in control provision.”
  3. Reference an advisory commission.

Read more…

 

 

DNCR to announce Mount Sunapee lease decision at Sept. 26 meeting

Special Alert: Mount Sunapee State Park Public Information Session – Wednesday, September 26 (6 pm) at Mount Sunapee State Park (Sunapee Lodge), Route 103, Newbury, N.H.

New Hampshire DNCR Commissioner Sarah Stewart (Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) will announce her decision on the Mount Sunapee ski area lease assignment to Vail Resorts at a public meeting on Wed., Sept. 26, 2018.

We encourage the public to attend this important meeting. There will be an opportunity for public comment and questions.

Per the DNCR release: “The Department has received a request to consent to the assignment of the lease to The Sunapee Difference, LLC, which will be indirectly owned by VR NE Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. (“Vail”). After careful consideration of public comments and working with the Attorney General’s Office, Commissioner Sarah Stewart will release the decision on the proposed transfer and details related to the decision.”

DNCR will post the decision and related documents on its website after announcing its decision on September 26.

NH Parks posted on Monday additional materials about the potential lease assignment. We’ve added these documents to FOMS website:

Background
In June 2018, Vail Resorts announced that it was seeking to acquire the ski area lease and operations at Mount Sunapee.

The September 26 meeting will be the second information session in two months on the Triple Peaks sale to Vail Resorts. On July 25, Commissioner Stewart and N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald hosted a session that included remarks by Tim and Diane Mueller (current operator/Triple Peaks), a presentation by Vail representatives, and public comment.

View the July 2018 Mount Sunapee State Park information session via Newport Community TV.

FOMS advocates for diligent and transparent management of the state-owned ski area. We seek public policy and process decisions that restore public trust and honor the original intent of leasing a significant portion of our iconic state park to a private operator.

“New Hampshire citizens look to the State to exercise vigorous oversight and defend the public trust, no matter the operator or leaseholder at Mount Sunapee State Park. We also look to lessees at the park for leadership and operational and development plans that reflect local concerns and interests and respect our state park’s public values and the RSAs that protect our parks and natural heritage.” – Friends of Mount Sunapee, at the July 25 Mount Sunapee State Park Information Session.

FOMS Mount Sunapee submitted comments called for:

  • A “public hearing” to review the lease transfer request
  • Immediate formation of an Oversight and Administration Commission to manage the lease
  • An independent financial and operational audit of lessees to ensure lease compliance
  • Protection of the 484-acre exemplary forest within the State Park
  • Permanent protection of Mount Sunapee’s western slopes from resort development, land conservation that respects the original leasehold area.
  • Compliance with signage and advertising requirements to indicate state (public) ownership of the ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park.

See FOMS comments, August 6, 2018.

See Vail’s June 4, 2018, announcement.

Join us on Wed., Sept. 26 at Mount Sunapee State Park
The upcoming public info session will help give insight into the potential changes coming to the ski area and Mount Sunapee State Park and possible future impacts to our local communities and region.

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)

Sunapee plan for state park is “unprecedented in NH” – FOMS ENews Jan. 2015

Mount Sunapee from Gunnison Lake, Goshen - January 2015

Mount Sunapee from Gunnison Lake, Goshen, N.H.  – January 2015

Friends of Mount Sunapee E-News, January 9, 2015

Dear Friends,

Read the Concord Monitor Editorial against the Sunapee Expansion!

Their editorial says this proposal for the park “is unprecedented in New Hampshire.”

Want to help us protect Mount Sunapee State Park? Here’s how.

For more information, see our website: www.FriendsofMountSunapee.org

Background: In the early 1900s, Herbert Welsh, a summer resident of Sunapee, worked with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to preserve Mount Sunapee. At that time, logging threatened the mountain’s ancient forest and natural beauty. In 1948, the state took over, formed Mount Sunapee State Park, and opened the ski area.

Now, our state park and its remarkable natural heritage face a new threat from resort-driven private development.

The ski area at Mount Sunapee State Park is currently leased to CNL Lifestyle Properties, a Florida-based real estate investment trust. CNL and the operator, Okemo/Mount Sunapee Resort, want to build out the resort to the west into Goshen, where Okemo/MSR owns hundreds of acres that abut the park.

Commissioner Jeffrey Rose, Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), is now considering this proposal, which is part of Okemo’s suggested master plan (2015-2019) for the Mount Sunapee ski area.

The State Should Say “No” to Sunapee Expansion

In its editorial, the Concord Monitor succinctly wrote:

Get it wrong and a premier part of the state, and land left in trust to its people, could be forever altered. [DRED Commissioner] Rose’s response should be to withhold judgment pending more public hearings and answers to a host of questions. Should he ultimately recommend in favor of expanding the ski area, its fate will be up to the Executive Council and Gov. Maggie Hassan. If it comes to that, like her predecessor, governor John Lynch, Hassan should say, ‘No.’”

“Anyone who wants to get a sense of what the Sunapee area could become should visit Ludlow, Vt., home to the Okemo ski area and soon to yet another ‘village’ of summer homes and condominiums. Is that what New Hampshire wants for its state parks? Read the Concord Monitor editorial, “State should not sign off on Sunapee plan.”

Read the full editorial at the Concord Monitor website.

Your Help is Needed to Preserve and Protect Mount Sunapee

Learn how YOU can help.

Mount Sunapee State Park was created by land purchased, gifted, and taken by eminent domain for public good, not private gain. The Friends of Mount Sunapee believes that cross border development is wrong for Mount Sunapee and wrong for our state; it will set a dangerous precedent for state lands across New Hampshire.

FOMS  supports improving our state park. However, we oppose Okemo’s western expansion plan for Mount Sunapee, which opens the way to cross-border private development. This not only violates the mission of our park, but will diminish an ecologically important landscape—the Sunapee-Pillsbury Highands.

Resort-driven real estate development will inevitably follow expansion and threaten the rural character of the communities in the mountain’s shadow. Additionally, other park uses and resources will be impacted. The expansion will destroy the current hiking experience now enjoyed along the Summit Trial, the only public hiking trail on the western side of the park, and it will cut into and diminish the park’s remarkable natural heritage including rare ancient forest.

We invite you to join us in our work to preserve our state park for its essential public values and to protect the region’s quality of life, clean waters and open spaces. For more information, please contact us.

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