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Moose Mountain Property Conserved

Hanover — A 92-acre parcel on the western slope of Moose Mountain that can be seen from Vermont and by drivers on Interstate 91 has been donated to the Hanover Conservancy for full protection.

The gift is the largest land acquisition for the conservancy since 2008, when it acquired 113 acres of the Greensboro Ridge Natural Area.

The Mayor-Niles Forest is named after donors Michael and Elizabeth Mayor and John Niles, who have owned the land since 1978.

The property was originally about 175 acres, said Niles, but much of the land was divided into six 13-acre parcels and sold, or in some cases, the Mayor and Niles families built homes for themselves.

But the property, which is assessed at $3,100, is zoned for forest and recreation, Michael Mayor said. Mayor and Niles logged the land about 20 years ago, but it has since regenerated.

“We had a chance to get to know the area and have very close and personal interactions with moose and bear and turkey and fox and deer,” Michael Mayor said. “We have a very warm sense of the extraordinary habitat on the western side of Moose Mountain.”

Niles used to live on a parcel of land that abuts the donated property, and Mayor still lives close by. Mayor, who is on Hanover’s Planning Board and is a liaison to the town’s Conservation Commission, said he wanted to be a “steward” of the land.

There are trails that run through the parcel, some of which are old logging roads, and Niles said the public uses it for hiking and cross country skiing.

The entire parcel is forested, and it is sprinkled with limestone ledges that produce calcium-rich soil and provide unusual growing conditions for plants, said Adair Mulligan, executive director of the conservancy.

There is a Class VI Road that runs through the property, as well as stone walls, indicating there were once sheep pastures there.

Moose Mountain is a treasured place in Hanover, and there are protected corridors across the ridge, including a section of the Appalachian Trail, observers noted.

“Even though there are historic farmsteads tucked here and there, it is a place that is somewhat remote and very special,” Mulligan said about the Moose Mountain ridge. “We can have our beautiful downtown spaces with commercial buildings and then we can also have high quality bobcat and moose and bear habitat all in the same town.”

Mulligan said the public can access it off Iby Road. Because the property abuts the Appalachian Trail corridor, hikers could easily find themselves crossing from the Mayor-Niles property onto federally owned public lands.

Before the conservancy starts marking new trails, it will first have a natural biologist record inventory on the land and determine what plants, birds and wildlife are currently on the property.

The conservancy will mark trails where there will be the least impact on the environment.

The land also has three streams that flow into Hewes Brook, and by maintaining them and keeping them covered by forest, the conservancy can provide a small level of flood prevention for downstream neighbors in the case of heavy rains.

The conservancy is small, and Mulligan is the only full-time staff member. The rest of the work is done by a volunteer board of 13 people and more than 100 volunteers. The organization received a nearly $5,000 grant from the Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership to help pay for the upkeep of the property, which will include hiring a biologist for the natural resources inventory, insurance and consulting a map maker.

The Hanover Conservancy is planning a public celebration of the property at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Hanover Center green on Etna Road.

“I’m hoping this might result in a growing momentum to others who own land like that to consider a similar donation or at least the establishment of a conservation easement to contribute to the wildlife,” Mayor said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.