The Cheshire County Conservation District has awarded grants to four small habitat-improvement projects in the Monadnock Region.
A total of $5,500 is going to Laura Andrews and Cary Gaunt of Keene; Hillside Village in Keene; Douglas Clayton of Jaffrey; and Anne Fletcher of Alstead.
The awards are the first given out by the organization’s new Conservation Opportunity Fund, a program established with a gift from a private donor. The program is meant to help small landowners create shrublands, pollinator gardens and vegetated buffers along rivers, as well as make other types of habitat improvements.
The two Keene projects and the one in Jaffrey involve creating pollinator habitat — flowering plants meant to attract creatures like bees and butterflies. In Alstead, Fletcher is planning to install pollinator habitat in addition to a vegetated buffer along a waterway, according to a news release from the conservation district.
The Cheshire County Conservation District is a government entity established by state law to promote conservation locally.
Amanda Littleton, the organization’s district manager, said it received nine applications. A review committee looked at factors such as whether a proposal fit the fund’s mission of supporting habitat and biodiversity, was informed by the region’s ecology and considered long-term maintenance, she said.
Another focus is whether the landowners are interested in offering community education, according to Littleton.
On top of the financial help, the conservation district plans to offer technical advice to grant recipients (as well as to projects that didn’t get awarded funding). However, those site visits may be delayed somewhat because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really see that technical assistance and education as just as important as that financial assistance, and we hope to continue to be able to do that once we can do site visits,” Littleton said.
In an email last week, Andrews said the grant awarded to her and Gaunt is part of a larger effort to restore a 14.6-acre farm on Hurricane Road “as a model of sustainability and climate responsibility for the region.” It also involves Daniel and Anne Prial of Keene and Peter Hansel of Filtrine Manufacturing Co., which owns the land.
Andrews said she and Gaunt are working to restore the one-acre area that surrounds the house. (Andrews is director of institutional advancement at Antioch University New England; Gaunt is Keene State College’s campus sustainability director.)
“Prior to our arrival this area was logged, and the soil, after testing, is found to have almost no organic matter,” Andrews wrote. “… We plan to create a pollinator garden in the patch encompassed by the circular driveway as well as immediately in front of the deck of the house and behind the house.” Fruit trees and vegetable gardens will also be planted.
Andrews said the project will improve the soil and bring in native plants “that will be both beautiful and useful for butterflies, bees, birds, and other species.”
She said the project’s participants are interested in community education and hope the farm can serve as a model as Keene pursues its renewable-energy goals.