Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
For a small state, New Hampshire has a whole lot of forest. In fact, 82% of the state is forested. And there’s one organization that’s determined to make sure that forest is protected until the end of time: the aptly named Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
Founded in 1901, the Forest Society perpetuates the forests of New Hampshire in three essential ways. The first is through conservation easements and outright ownership of the land. All totaled, the organization is the third-largest private landowner in the state, having title to 57,000 acres scattered through 190 parcels in 100 local communities.
The second way the organization fulfills its mission is by modeling and promoting sustainable forestry for private landowners. “If a private forest owner is able to harvest sustainably and generate some income over time, they’re less likely to subdivide off land for development,” explains Jack Savage, president of the Forest Society. “By giving forest land an economic value to a private landowner, they’re likely to keep it as forest.”
Advocacy is a third tool in the Forest Society’s toolbox. Recently, the organization was heavily involved in an effort to block the construction of the Northern Pass, a proposed 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line from Canada through New Hampshire to bring electricity to load centers in greater Boston.
That’s where the Lewis Family Foundation comes in. The Forest Society has the capacity to address legislative issues at the state and local level, and by connecting the Forest Society with other local nonprofits, the Foundation helped to create powerful opposition to the plan. The effort was successful. On July 19, 2019, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion affirming the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s decision to reject the Northern Pass.
The Forest Society has since turned its focus to other projects. Currently, it is restoring The Rocks, the organization’s main education center. Located in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, the site was devastated by fire in February 2019. When the new center is open, it will be used to reinvigorate conservation efforts in the North Country of New Hampshire. Other current projects include improving the recreational infrastructure at Mount Major, a popular hiking destination, and a documentary film chronicling the state of the Merrimack River, a critical economic resource not only to New Hampshire, but also to northern Massachusetts.
The Lewis Family Foundation has continued to partner with the Forest Society, to help bring long-term vision to their planning. “When we can sit down with others who have that ability to think and see long term and contemplate where we might want to be in 50 years, 100 years, 200 years—that’s really valuable,” Jack says.