What’s happening in land conservation in Bedford?
Friday, November 1, 2013
The preservation of notable tracts of land by private owners is a rare occurrence in Bedford.
But, it does happen.
Since its establishment 23 years ago, the Bedford Land Trust has been the recipient of three conservation easements on private land – the Pointer Brook easement (for wildlife habitat), the Nault property bordering Route 101 at Meetinghouse Road and the 14-acre Fortin property on Old Mill Road.
A fourth conservation easement on the beautiful woodland known as the Van Loan Preserve (some 68 acres) was donated by a private owner, the Van Loan family, to the BLT in December 2000.
The family retained ownership until July 2011 when it donated the land to the town of Bedford. In addition, the BLT was the recipient of the fee-simple ownership of two properties: the old Town Pound, donated by Ann and Jack Middleton in 2003, and an access parcel to the Van Loan Preserve, donated by Alison and Wally MacDermott in 2002. Most conservation easements are donated by those who have owned the land for many years and wish to conserve the land in its natural state.
During this same time period, land conservation in Bedford has taken the form of partnerships with public entities.
The BLT holds conservation easements on seven town-owned properties, including the Joppa Hill Conservation Land, Benedictine Park, Linda Hockman Conservation Land, Sebbins Pond Drive Conservation Land, Pulpit Rock Conservation Land, Van Loan Preserve and the Bedford Village Common. It holds conservation easements on two school district properties at the Bedford High School and McKelvie School/SAU properties. (A conservation easement is a contract between the property owner and designated land conservation organization that controls uses and future development.)
The Bedford Land Trust saw an increase in the number of compensatory mitigation conservation easements being offered to it during the past decade. When development involves major wetland impacts, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services requires protection of undeveloped land to compensate for lost or disturbed wetlands. Compensatory mitigation may take the form of a conservation easement being placed on uplands or upland buffers around wetlands.
As a public service, the Bedford Land Trust accepted mitigation conservation easements covering town and school district land to offset the impact to wetlands for municipal development projects. The Bedford Village Common, Sebbins Pond Drive Conservation Land and the two school district properties fall into this category.
Currently the BLT holds conservation easements on 12 properties covering some 706 acres of land owned either by the town, the school district or private owners.
Its fee-simple properties comprise of approximately three acres. Almost all of this land is open to the public for passive recreation.
For more information on conservation properties, please visit www.bedfordlandtrust.org.
Jeanene Procopis is a Bedford Land Trust trustee.