This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of SELT Views, the newsletter of SELT. The Teneriffe Mountain Forest was officially conserved in March 2023. All photos are by Jerry Monkman, EcoPhotography. 

Conservation is never a one-person operation. Protecting a special place always demands a total team effort, be it staffers, funders, private donors, and, of course, landowners. And sometimes, when a place is just that special, it takes a few more hands to pull off a conservation heavy lift. The Teneriffe Mountain Forest is a prime example. SELT is teaming up with Moose Mountains Regional Greenways (MMRG), a land trust that serves ten communities in New Hampshire, including Milton, home to Teneriffe Mountain. The mountain anchors the proposed Teneriffe Mountain Forest project, a 240+ acre property that boasts a wealth of natural resources, provides contiguous open space adjacent to surrounding conserved areas, and features many outdoor recreational opportunities, including a route to an overlook on Mt. Teneriffe with an eyeful of views. Upon completion of the project – targeted for 2023 – MMRG will own the land and SELT will hold the conservation easement.

A small woodland stream in Milton, New Hampshire.

“This is a really special project,” says Jill Eldredge, Executive Director of MMRG. “Within the region, Teneriffe Mountain is the highest point in Milton and is really part of the local culture.”

The Teneriffe Mountain Forest was owned by a local development company that at one time had planned a 78-lot residential development with an interior road system. This scope and scale of development on a property with such rich resource values would have severely degraded the sensitive habitats and scenic views. With a rising real estate and housing market, the landowner offered SELT a final opportunity to purchase the property, or development would be pursued again.

In discussing a shared goal of seeing this land conserved, MMRG and SELT agreed to partner on its protection and executed a sales agreement with the developer, with a July 2022 closing date. As the contract’s closing date approached, it became evident that the final approvals from funding partners would not be ready, requiring creative thinking and a third-party partner to step in and purchase the land. Fortunately, the Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust, a long-time conservation leader in northern Strafford County, was such a partner.

Thus the interim acquisition gave SELT and MMRG additional time to raise the funds to permanently conserve the land. In addition to private contributions from generous community members, public funding partners include the Milton Conservation Commission, the NH Aquatic Resource Mitigation Program, the Moose Plate program, and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

RCPP funds were allocated to the Teneriffe Mountain Forest project from another partnership effort, the New Hampshire Source Water Protection Partnership, who received a $6.8 million award to execute multi-faceted projects ranging from land conservation to habitat restoration in at least 25 targeted watersheds. The Merrimack River Watershed Council serves as the lead organization of the NH Partnership, joined by SELT, the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Trout Unlimited, Connecticut River Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire.

In fact, the Teneriffe Mountain Forest may be the first conservation project completed in the United States under this newly implemented program. “It has some neat and diverse natural resource features,” Jill says. “You can find plenty of valuable habitat, which is the focus of a restoration project for wild brook trout.”

Fall in the forest on Mount Teneriffe in Milton, New Hampshire. Paper birch.

This opportunity attracted an additional partner, Trout Unlimited, who already had an active project to replace a culvert in Lyman Brook as it passes under Sam Plummer Road. The protection of the Teneriffe Mountain Tract allows Trout Unlimited to extend the impact of its work by removing additional obstacles to fish passage – all to improve this treasured angling species’ habitat in Lyman Brook.

What makes this property even more interesting are the rare plant communities that can be found as you explore the forest. The property hosts what may be the most northerly known chestnut oak forest community, which is ranked critically imperiled in New Hampshire with most occurrences found in far southern New Hampshire. With many seedlings amongst the mature forest canopy this system appears to be healthy and in great condition. At the top of a ridge on Mt. Teneriffe is another critically imperiled forest system, a pitch pine rocky ridge that occurs in the dry tough environs of exposed bedrock ledge whipped by winter winds and the hot sun of the summer. Amongst the pitch pines are low bush blueberry, bearberry, and lichens.

In reflecting on the four partnerships enabling the conservation of Teneriffe Mountain, Jill notes that “Collaboration within the regional conservation field is absolutely essential. We are lucky to have a regional ‘landscape’ where camaraderie and collaboration are prized. We learn from each other, work together, and share projects for the best possible conservation outcomes. Only the result matters: that valuable resources and special places are protected forever.”

And when the sky is clear and the sun is shining, there are few local places as peaceful and restorative as the natural clearings near the peak of the mountain. As for the future of Teneriffe Mountain? Jill pauses, and notes: “I always feel happy imagining future visitors to the property, picnicking with friends and family and enjoying the scenery.”

Click here to learn more about Teneriffe Mountain Forest.