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Ruger Sells Land For Conservation



Valley News Correspondent
Friday, July 13, 2018

Croydon — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission has voted unanimously to appropriate $500,000 from its wildlife habitat account toward the purchase of two parcels comprising roughly 3,200 acres in Newport, Croydon and Grantham from William Ruger Jr.

One parcel, the 1,253-acre Loverin Tract, straddles the Croydon/Grantham town line, and the Brighton tract of 1,967 acres sits on the Croydon/Newport town line. Both parcels abut Corbin Park, the private, fenced game preserve that encompasses more than 20,000 acres in five Sullivan County towns.

Fish and Game Wildlife biologist Jim Oehler told the commission at its meeting last month that the purchase, when combined with other open land nearby, would create nearly 50,000 acres of an “unfragmented block” of wildlife habitat, the largest tract south of the White Mountains.

Additional funding for the $3.25 million purchase price will include $2.43 million, or 75 percent, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Restoration account and another $312,500 in grants from the state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP. Fish and Game’s cost is equal to the required 25 percent match of federal money.

Oehler said the next round of LCHIP grant applications are due in November with a decision expected in early 2019.

The properties are under a purchase and sales agreement in which The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit based in Virginia, would buy the land from Ruger, who retired as chairman and CEO of gun-maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. in 2006 after 42 years at the company co-founded by his father. The nonprofit then would sell it to Fish and Game once full funding is obtained.

Oehler told the commission in a slide presentation that the parcels have “excellent access” with class 5 and 6 roads, most of which are passable spring, summer and fall and are used for snowmobiling in winter.

“There are a lot of log landings along the class 6 roads for parking,” Oehler said.

The terrain includes swamps, beaver ponds, streams, fields and forest, all of which provide excellent habitat for large animals such as moose, deer and bear as well as waterfowl, beaver, mink, otter and snowshoe hare. On the Loverin tract, there is a 50-acre ash swamp and another 83 acres of marsh and shrub swamp, Oehler said.

The most prevalent wood species include white pine, hemlock, spruce, fir and red maple, with areas of ash, aspen and oak.

“There is a lot of operable woodland for timber management,” Oehler said.

Some sections have been harvested and are regenerating while other parts are more mature.

“There is still a lot of opportunity to do additional harvesting,” Oehler said about the Loverin tract. “Based on our calculations, it could sustain about 60 acres of young forest habitat every 10 years.”

The Brighton tract has a 7.5-mile stream, a heron rookery, 113 acres of wetlands and an 8-acre field with apple trees on its edge. The 5.5-mile road system includes class 5 and 6 roads. The tract also presents opportunities for periodic timber harvests and could sustain 100 acres of young forest habitat every 10 years, Oehler said.

Commission Chairman Robert Phillipson, of Keene, N.H., said the land currently is open for hunting, fishing and trapping as well as hiking and snowmobiling and would remain so under Fish and Game ownership.

“This would ensure it stays open and is not bought by someone who would ‘post it,’ (close it to public access) or develop it,” Phillipson said. “It is not every day we get the chance to protect 3,000 acres. This is a good opportunity for Fish and Game.”

Oehler said Fish and Game would continue its mission of wildlife and habitat conservation and management on the land and not build recreational trails for hiking or bicycling.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.