Conservation group MMRG holds annual meeting, fund-raiser

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Steve Whitman of 'Resilience Planning and Design' talked to the group about sustaining and strengthening eco-systems. (MMRG photo)

Moose Mountains Regional Greenways held its 2017 Annual Meeting on one of the few sunny afternoons in April. With some 80 members in attendance at the Governor's Inn, the occasion was festive with a cocktail/social hour and live music, a silent auction, buffet dinner, award presentations, MMRG conservation news, and a talk by permaculture specialist Steve Whitman.

MMRG Board Chair Jack Savage welcomed the group with a query referencing the fine weather, "How many of you didn't really want to come today?" Hands shot up and the group clapped its agreement but the sentiment was belied by their presence, demonstrating strong member loyalty and dedication to MMRG's conservation mission. Savage went on to recount how the organization is on the ascent and starting to realize its full potential to make use of the deep conservation ethic in our region to protect a multitude of natural resources. He concluded, "We're here inside on a beautiful day like this to make sure we still have an outside to go to."

In the brief business meeting, MMRG members re-elected three Directors to the Board, Nicole Csiszer (Brookfield), Lorraine Drake (New Durham), and Cynthia Wyatt, (Milton) and elected Kam Damtoft (At-Large) for the first time. Eight Directors have continuing terms: Dan Coons (Wolfeboro), Ron Gehl (New Durham), Emily Lord (Middleton), Bruce Rich (Wakefield), Jack Savage (Middleton), Wendy Scribner (At-Large), Art Slocum (Wolfeboro), and Nancy Spencer Smith (Wakefield).

Executive Director Patti Connaughton-Burns reviewed the accomplishments of 2016, a 'banner year' for MMRG. After thanking Norman Vetter Poured Foundations for sponsoring the annual Meeting, she reminded the audience about MMRG's conservation planning process of 2016, 'Our Home, Our Land, Our Tomorrow', the final plan to be unveiled at a celebration this coming summer. 2016 also saw MMRG's first land purchase, the Branch River Conservation Area, which begins a greenways link between Union Meadows Wildlife Management Area and the Moose Mountains Reservation. An ongoing easement donation project to conserve 115 acres in New Durham, called WidowMaker Farm, will protect working forest, well-groomed trails, valuable pond and wetland habitats and numerous historical treasures. Fundraising for project transaction costs got well underway in 2016 with the award of a NH Land and Community Heritage Investment program grant.

Another easement project of 2016 was the Split Rock Conservation Area in Brookfield, just completed in January 2017. The 130-acre easement was donated by the Cann Family to protect the property's excellent habitat for diverse wildlife such as moose and otter. Stefanie Marsh and Jodi Thiel, daughters of Fred Cann, were present with Fred to see him named MMRG's 'Conservationist of the Year' in recognition of the easement donation, his generous spirit and his dedication to conservation through connections to people and wildlife.

Connaughton-Burns also recognized the generosity and dedication of MMRG volunteers, including MMRG's volunteer Board of Directors and many others who assist as land stewards, committee members, and helpers at the annual Woods, Water & Wildlife Festival or other monthly events. She thanked them all, saying, "We are humbled by your support and we know you are our backbone." MMRG founding member Cynthia Wyatt then presented a special award to volunteer Cheryl Giguere, reading a long list of accolades and calling her an 'uber-volunteer' who has stepped up to numerous leadership roles and made herself indispensable.

Featured speaker Steve Whitman of 'Resilience Planning and Design' started by defining permaculture as a sustainable design system that is based on an understanding of ecology and stewardship of earth's resources. Saying it should resonate with the conservation-minded group of attendees, Whitman explained that the heart of permaculture is eco-system services, the ability of the land and its natural resources to provide the necessities of life. Giving examples of how permaculture is used to solve problems, he showed before and after photos of permaculture projects from Australia, India, Haiti, Tanzania, and Belize where people have planted trees and restored wildlife habitat in devastated landscapes and created economic opportunities. Whitman closed with examples of some local NH projects, which focused on reviving city downtowns or creating a new vision for relationships between people and their watershed.

In addition to hearing MMRG news and learning about permaculture, Annual Meeting attendees avidly bid on silent auction items, the proceeds from which would support MMRG's mission. A guided lobstering trip donated by Eastern Boats elicited the most competitive bids, while an Aleut style kayak paddle hand-crafted by Lee Prescott attracted great admiration. Guests also enjoyed the social opportunity. New MMRG staff member Amy Gardner was delighted to put faces to names of several members and donors. She went on, "We had a great time! Still feeling new in town, we enjoyed the conversation and chance to get acquainted with people at our table."

Moose Mountains Regional Greenways works to conserve the land and natural resources of Brookfield, Farmington, Middleton, Milton, New Durham, Wakefield and Wolfeboro. For more information about the conservation projects mentioned above or for options in conserving your land, see or call Patti Connaughton-Burns at 603-473-2020.

Virginia Long is the public relations coordinator for Moose Mountains Regional Greenways
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