Summit Trail Mount Sunapee State Park
Good news! The effort to permanently protect Mount Sunapee’s 484 acre state documented exemplary forest just received an important endorsement from the Old Growth Forest Network. The Maryland based organization whose goal is, “to locate and designate at least one protected forest in every county in the United States that can sustain a native forest” recently penned a letter to the State urging permanent protection of Mount Sunapee’s Exemplary Natural Community System, the only forested system of its type that is exemplary in the State. (see attached letter)
OGFN joins NH Sierra Club in supporting FOMS initiative for the permanent protection of this irreplaceable NH treasure.
Date: March 23, 2021
To: Commissioner Stewart, DNCR and the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee
Dear Commissioner Stewart, DNCR and members of the Mount Sunapee Advisory Committee,
The Old-Growth Forest Network identifies remaining old-growth forests throughout the nation and has been operating in the Northeast since 2012. We offer the following comments on the currently submitted 5 year Master Development/Environmental Management Plan by Vail Corporation.
Our comments specifically concern section VII Forestry Management, Part B, entitled Old Growth Forest, on page 16 of the Environmental Management Plan. The projects referenced in this section of the MDP/EMP would directly impact the Exemplary Forested system on Mount Sunapee.
As documented by the State of New Hampshire’s Natural Heritage Bureau, the 484 acre Exemplary Northern Hardwood Conifer System within the leased area of Mount Sunapee State Park is the only forested system of its type that is exemplary in the state of New Hampshire. Yet, it is not mentioned in this proposed 5 year MDP/EMP. Section VII, B, Paragraph 2 references a plan to build Lift J and associated ski trail within a portion of Polygon 23 outside of the area identified as having old-growth characteristics and maintaining a 200-foot natural wooded buffer. While this plan may sound like it sufficiently protects the old-growth forest within Polygon 23, it does not. Multiple state studies have been conducted on the Exemplary Natural Community System and the mature forest surrounding and sustaining it. Both the Division of Forests and Lands and the NH Natural Heritage Bureau have concluded that any development activities within Polygon 23 would have a detrimental effect on Mount Sunapee’s old forest.
Not mentioned in Section VII, B is the planned Williamson and Porky’s trail widening, which would directly affect two areas containing old-growth forest, specifically the East Bowl of the Exemplary Natural Community System and Polygon 20.
Section VII, B, Paragraphs 3 and 4 state the Resort’s intention to expand within the West Bowl in order to avoid the East Bowl old-growth forest. While this may sound like a protective measure, the MDP/EMP fails to reference the NH National Heritage Bureau’s official findings that the proposed expansion area, Polygon D is considered statewide significant (a) because it appears to never have been logged, (b) because it contains rare, old examples of this natural community type, (c) because Polygon D is part of a larger mosaic of this old forest type on Mount Sunapee, and (d) because it is contiguous, forming the northern extent of the large forest block to the south. Instead of reporting the official NH National Heritage Bureau’s findings, Vail Corporation reported the unofficial conclusions of W.D. Countryman, commissioned by the Resort, which “did not find any areas of old-growth forest or areas with ‘old-growth characteristics’ within the West Bowl expansion area.
The Old-Growth Forest Network feels that the information contained in this MDP/EMP is both incomplete and misleading. We strongly recommend that the findings of the official state studies be included in place of the non-official reports commissioned by the Resort. We also strongly recommend that Mount Sunapee’s unique Exemplary Natural Community System be acknowledged here as the treasure it is. This information is critical to NH citizens’ understanding of the magnitude of what would be lost if Mount Sunapee’s Exemplary Natural Community System were endangered by Resort expansion.
Mount Sunapee’s state designated Exemplary Natural Community System is irreplaceable as it includes old forest representing the last remnants of original forest in the State of New Hampshire. It is the only forested system of its type designated as exemplary by the state representing the best remaining examples of New Hampshire’s biodiversity. Mount Sunapee’s exemplary forest is extremely rare, containing as much as 10% of all the known old forest in New Hampshire with trees documented at 350 yrs. Additionally, it provides exceptional wildlife habitat, attractive hiking trails, and a connection to area history.
The national Old-Growth Forest Network respectfully requests that:
1) Detailed information from the official, state-sponsored reports be cited in this EMP,
2) All previously approved projects impacting Mount Sunapee’s Exemplary Natural Community
System be withdrawn from consideration and
3) Mount Sunapee’s forested area be granted formal, permanent protective status.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Network Manager, Old-Growth Forest Network
We encourage you to write Dept. of Natural and Cultural Commissioner Sarah Stewart urging permanent protection of Mount Sunapee State Park’s unique forest.
Send comments to :
Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources
Sarah L. Stewart, Commissioner