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In N.H., Town Forests Offer Multiple Uses—And Benefits

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Jerry and Marcy Monkman / Trust For Public Lands
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Researchers want to draw attention to what they say is a surprising number of town-owned forests in New Hampshire. 

They've completed a first-ever inventory of those spaces, and found towns own nearly 4 percent of all the state's forests. 
 
UNH Extension Forester Karen Bennett says it might not seem like much - especially since about three-quarters of forest in the state is privately owned. 

But she says those local, public lands - totaling 180,000 acres - have an important role to play. 
 
"Town forests are set apart because they're owned and managed hopefully for the benefit of the town, whereas private land is owned and managed for the benefit of individuals," Bennett says.

She says they found town forests also generate $146 million dollars in economic value a year. And many towns owned much more land than they realized. 

"And that's part of what we hoped to do with this project, is to bring these resources, these properties, to the forefront so people know they're there, appreciate them, use them, want more of them," Bennett says. 

The study found that a majority of town forests are permanently protected and professionally managed. 

Most of the parcels have multiple uses - such as education, recreation, logging and wildlife preservation. 

Some of the greatest acreage and number of separate parcels were in the state's mostly densely populated counties. Bennett thinks that's partly because those areas have been settled for centuries.

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