Head: Turtles stop Milford excavation work

MILFORD – Concerns about nesting turtles halted work at a town excavation site last week.

Suzanne Fournier, of the Brox Environmental Citizens, alerted officials to the presence of Blandings turtles, a “state endangered” species in New Hampshire, at the town-owned Brox property.

Town Administrator Mark Bender said Fournier reported the sightings of the nesting turtles, so the Department of Public Works stopped the loam screening work it was doing at the site.

“I don’t consider it a big deal,” Bender said in an email. “We were almost finished and it was the right thing to do.”

The town takes loam and sand from the property for use in cemeteries and parks and for winter road maintenance.

Conservation Commission Chairwoman Audrey Fraizer said she is happy with the town’s actions, which were taken after Fournier led officials through a walk on the property.

The Blanding’s turtle is considered endangered here, the NH Fish and Game Department’s website says, and restricted to the southeastern part of the state. It has a yellow chin and is typically 7-9 inches long, often with yellow flecks on its shell. It nests in sandy soils that are exposed to sunlight and hibernates in wetlands.

“A key conservation strategy for the long-term survival of Blanding’s turtles is the conservation of large undeveloped areas in southern New Hampshire,” according to Fish and Game.

A report for the University of New Hampshire Extension Service says the turtles’ habitat in New Hampshire “overlaps with the highest human population densities” so they are “extremely vulnerable to rapid development.”

“State-endangered” means there are concerns about the animal’s survival in New Hampshire, but the turtle is not endangered throughout the country.

Fournier and her group have been pushing for more preservation of the 270-acre town-owned property, saying its combination of wetland, vernal pools and forested areas make it an ideal candidate for conservation.

Excavation of earth materials at Brox has been part of an ongoing controversy about Brox. Selectmen have tried for two years in a row to get voters’ authority to extract and sell materials from the site of a former Brox Industries’ gravel pit.

A natural resources inventory commissioned this year by the town Conservation Commission recommends no development in the northern half and limited development of the southern “community lands” where the town has plans for sports fields and other town facilities.

In an email this week, Fournier said that people have photographed 17 Blanding’s turtles at Brox, “five of them were most recently walking around the gravel pit in order to nest and lay eggs.

“We’ve also documented three state-
threatened spotted turtles at Brox, two recently nesting.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@
cabinet.com.