New Conservation Land buys in Shelburne NH

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
Probably of more interest to paddlers but this also impacts the local Shelburne trails. Sally Manikian a Conservation Fund regional director lives in Shelburne, this is the latest of several land conservation projects in the area she has been involved in.

I think Bayroot (owned by Yale University endowment fund) is the the seller and got a lot of potential conservation lands along with the timberlands when they bought out the former Mead lands supporting the Rumford Maine Mills. The NH lands were formerly Brown Company lands that came along with the deal when James River sold their Maine timberlands to the Rumford mill. Bayroot has traditionally had far more interested buyers than sellers for these lands and reportedly use the sales to subsidize the return on the lands by selling parcels when the returns on timberlands are low. Mahoosuc Land trust seems to have revived of late after going a bit dark after their initial flurry of land deals. They had the standard problem of being land rich but income poor for several years but must have new leadership and a donor base to go along with it. The Bethel Maine area is a popular higher end retirement destination and expect these deals are probably supported by the new residents. Bayroot has recently bought a couple of parcel in Success that were heavily harvested (given a "crewcut") on the north side of the Mahoosucs in Success which appears to be less of focus area for the Mahoosuc land trust.

Managing these lands especially the island lands for timber just doesn't have much return and various conservation rules limit cutting near water ways so these lots are worth far more for conservation than timber. Its outside the declaration boundary of the WMNF so having a local Conservation Fund representative is helpful.

For those unfamiliar with this section of river, it is quite wild from the base of the run of the river dam in Shelburne all the way to Bethel. Its managed by the state of NH as Trophy Fishing. There is a lot of natural trout spawning areas with lightly or undeveloped watersheds feeding the river. I think its catch and release but have not checked the current regulations. Its a nice reliable flat and on occasion fast water paddle with plenty of islands and braided channel to paddle in with good public boat landings on each end. Definitely far less use than the Pemi or the Saco. Its routine to see eagles, herons and an occasional moose along the way. I have even encountered a few bears along the shores over the years while paddling. The river is managed for flow via the upstream hydro lakes so its a more reliable flow later in the season than the Pemi or Saco. At least two campgrounds rent kayaks but unsure about shuttles under Covid. The water is darker and there are fewer sandbars than the Pemi or Saco but especially later in the summer there are gravel bars. The one caveat is the islands do on occasion have patches of poison ivy so be careful when exploring. As usual its an extra hours drive from the south so far fewer folks realize its there.
Thank you for posting this. Sally lived just up the road from me when she was growing up, and I am glad to see her success. I ran into her in Gorham a few years ago and knew she and her sister were both working for non-profits. Her mom would be proud.
She has been featured in multiple news articles of late. She also has spot in the Errol area (possibly Upton) for her dog teams.
Mahoosuc Land Trust is also part of a group working to buy and conserve what was formerly a part of Chadbourne Tree Farms. This is a 15,000 acre project that includes Tumbledown Dick Mountain, parcels of land along Rt 2 as it enters ME from NH and many small parcels of land that have traditionally been used for recreation in southern Oxford county. MLT seems to be very strong in the land conservation business these days. I guess they figured out how to leverage partnerships and conservation easements.
I got a PM from a member of Sally's fan club that I should have gone off on a tangent and extolled the virtues of Sally's other passion which is a national class dog sledder. Having rarely been accused of not going out on tangent, I will correct this and suggest that those who are not aware of her other passions have the option of entering her name in any search engine and getting far more in depth coverage. As I mentioned previously she has been featured in multiple extended news articles of late, some are focused on her dog sledding activities, some on her local development/redevelopment efforts and some on her land conservation efforts. She is well educated, articulate, apparently a great interview subject, photogenic and her stories fit into various narratives of the north country well, therefore she rightfully deserves the attention the media gives her.