Some of the Beebe River watershed is being conserved. Here’s why that matters for climate mitigation.
More than 6,300 acres of land in the Beebe River watershed in northern New Hampshire will be limited to further development, The Conservation Fund announced this week. The land sits between Squam Lake and the White Mountain National Forest, and the effort is a partnership between the fund and the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands.
“It’s a huge win for New Hampshire,” said Squam Lakes Conservation Society executive director Roger Larochelle.
In addition to protecting habitats for wildlife and space for recreation, conserving natural ecosystems like the forest on the Beebe River watershed land is also an important part of mitigating climate change, Larochelle said.
“It's as simple as locking up the carbon in the forest rather than having a developed area,” he said. “Part of this property that has gone into conservation was once considered for a potential recreational ski area or some other high impact use that would have removed all of the forests and all of the carbon locked up in the forest.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says protection, improved management and restoration of forests, along with other natural ecosystems, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.
The panel says mitigation measures in natural ecosystems like forests have the highest potential to help combat climate change between 2020 and 2050 among measures in the agriculture, forestry and land use sectors.
The Squam Lakes Conservation Society coordinated a fundraiser to raise money to match a federal grant used to conserve the land. The broader project is part of the Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund, which says their forests across the country have stored more than 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
A working forest
As a working forest, the Beebe River watershed land can also be used for timber harvesting.
Sally Manikian, The Conservation Fund’s New Hampshire and Vermont representative, says the idea of a working forest is tied to a larger history of Northeast land conservation, starting with the 1980s sale of million acres of land by a timber company. The land was split into parcels, some of which were developed.
That sale led to a gathering of stakeholders, then considered nontraditional – local communities, conservation groups, and the forestry industry.
“It led to a different approach…a shared approach to how we conserve land,” Manikian said. “If we’re doing good land conservation, it supports multiple forms of outcomes. There’s a working forest that provides jobs, there’s also public access that supports tourism and also traditional uses like hunting, and there’s wildlife and watershed protection.”
There will be additional measures taken on the Beebe to protect habitat for wild brook trout, a species designated as a conservation priority by New Hampshire Fish and Game. The fish are sensitive to disturbances in their habitat, and state officials say habitat fragmentation can impede brook trout from accessing the cold streams they need in the summer.
And Manikian says the land has played an important role for multiple groups of people – from scientists, to historians, to recreators.
“Beebe really is a place of dreams and history,” she said. “And a lot of that can be held and protected now.”