The Nature Conservancy has finally purchased a large piece of land it plans to conserve on the eastern side of Surry Mountain, after more than a year of fundraising.
The sale closed Friday, according to Mark Zankel, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.
“This land has so many great community values ranging from water resource protection for the city of Keene to outdoor recreation to wildlife habitat,” he said.
The 1,368 acres — which are mostly in Gilsum, but extend into Surry — will be converted into a nature preserve, where activities like fishing, hiking and hunting will be allowed.
The Casagrande Family Trust has owned the property for decades, but in 2018, beneficiaries of the trust told the conservancy they were interested in selling.
In February 2019, the two parties reached an agreement that gave the conservancy until the end of December to secure the required funding. But when that deadline came, the conservancy still had a bit more to money to raise, so the deadline was extended to give it extra time.
The fundraising goal was finally reached in late winter, Zankel said. The closing was further extended in order to complete some survey work and other final due diligence needed for a project of this scale, he added.
Zankel has said that the $3.6 million needed for the project was raised through a combination of public grants and private contributions.
The vast majority of that covers the actual purchase of the land, Zankel said previously, with the remaining portion going toward additional costs, such as having the land surveyed and appraised.
The property has long been of interest to the state’s conservation community, mostly due to its location amid other conserved and public lands, according to Zankel.
It will link together 50,000 acres of conservation land across southwestern New Hampshire, extending from northeast Keene over to Stoddard and south into Harrisville and Hancock, he said.
The parcel is also home to a number of animal species, from bears and bobcats to migratory birds. In an area where much of the forest has been used to harvest timber, Zankel said, the number of mature trees on this piece of property is a rarity.
Also, several hundred acres of the land are in a “water supply protection area” for Keene — an area that has been identified by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services as vital for the recharge and supply of clean water.
Keeping the land undeveloped and sustainably managed will ensure the water supply is kept filtered, clean and available for the city going forward, according to Zankel.
“It’s a great example of how conserving nature provides for people,” he said.