Beyond the Boundaries

Connecticut River

Help Us Protect the Connecticut River Watershed

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge exemplifies the 21st Century refuge — established at the watershed scale, designed to protect migratory fish and wildlife species through their life cycles, extending from flood plains to resilient high elevation forest, and envisioned to rely on collaboration, education, and community partnerships to accomplish its conservation goals.

The Conte Refuge spans four states in the 7.2 million-acre Connecticut River Watershed, from its headwaters in the Northern Forest to its mouth at Long Island Sound. The watershed not only provides important habitat to a range of resident and migratory wildlife species, but also provides ecosystem services such as clean drinking water to more than 2.3 million people in urban areas, and provides recreation, livelihoods and solace for many millions more.

With FY15 LWCF funding, the Conte Refuge and its partners have identified 12 of the highest priority parcels for acquisition, located in seven refuge divisions and with distribution among all four watershed states. These include northern hardwood forest and forested wetlands in the Mohawk River, Pondicherry and Mascoma divisions (NH), spruce-fir forest and bogs in the Nulhegan division (VT), grasslands and riparian habitat in the Fort River division (MA), and brook and stream habitat for coldwater fisheries in the Whalebone Cove and Salmon River divisions (CT).

The Mascoma Clark Pond | Daryl Burtnett, former state director of the New Hampshire Branch of The Nature Conservancy
The Mascoma Clark Pond | Daryl Burtnett, former state director of the New Hampshire Branch of The Nature Conservancy

Recently, the Mascoma River division was added to the refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with help from the National Wildlife Refuge Association, recently established the Mascoma River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Canaan, New Hampshire. The 762-acre conservation easement was acquired through a combination of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a donation from the landowner, Bear Hill Conservancy Trust.

The Service purchased a conservation easement on 692 acres of the property with $1,059,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and a donation of land from the Bear Hill Conservancy Trust. The Bear Hill Conservancy Trust was established to conserve the highest priority habitats identified in the State of New Hampshire’s wildlife action plan.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge protects nearly 37,000 acres of land within the Connecticut River watershed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The forests within the new Mascoma River Division provide breeding areas for songbirds and habitat for wide-ranging mammals such as bobcat and black bear. The Mascoma River, a tributary of the Connecticut River, flows through the easterly portion of the property and supports brook trout. Clark Pond, at the south end of the property, is home to common loons and is a popular fishing destination.

The project is considered a priority by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and is supported by the local community. The area is home to a healthy population of black bears, and world-renowned bear expert Ben Killiam has been studying black bears at Bear Hill for 30 years.

This project is a wonderful example of collaboration. The Bear Hill Conservancy Trust team had the vision, and have displayed great generosity to conserve this extremely important New Hampshire woodland. Andrew French, Refuge Manager at Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked very hard to make sure this project was a success.

Significance and Threats

As the longest river in New England, the Connecticut is one of the region’s central ecological, economic and cultural features. The watershed’s forests are nesting grounds for migratory birds such as thrushes, bobolinks and warblers, as well as the home of large mammals such as the American black bear. The river and its tributaries shelter fish such as eastern brook trout, shad, salmon and herring. At the Connecticut’s mouth, marshes provide shelter and nutrients for a wide variety of marine wildlife.

The watershed also provides hydroelectric power, water, farmland and recreational opportunities vital to millions of people. As a result, development, pollution and other human activities pose challenges to wildlife and habitats here, as does the looming peril of climate change.

What The Refuge Association is Doing

The Refuge Association is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to safeguard the Connecticut River watershed in a variety of ways, including:

  • Identifying high-priority habitat and developing methods to safeguard it;
  • Seeking funding for habitat protection and restoration from a variety of sources;
  • Establishing education and conservation partnerships with other government agencies and local groups;
  • Promoting Conte refuge as a model for landscape conservation within the Refuge System;
  • Building connections between Conte refuge and international bird habitat conservation programs.

Find out more information in our fact sheet.

What can you do to help?

By making a contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association you’ll help our team to continue its work to protect and enhance the Connecticut River and other landscapes and wildlife across the country. Please consider making a donation today.

Through the Action Network you can learn about measures pending in Congress and send messages about them directly to your congressperson. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!



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