Last weekend I revisited an former conservation photo project location in New Hampshire. I didn’t have a goal other than getting out in a place I could take my dog for a long walk. If I found a picture or two, that would be great, but I was just happy to be out on a sunny day in some fresh snow.
I was rewarded right when I pulled into the parking lot of what is now called the Stonehouse Forest. What used to be a mud patch next to a gated dirt road off of the side of US 202, is now a well-maintained, small gravel parking lot with an informational kiosk at the entrance to an amazing trail system owned and maintained by the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire aka SELT.
SELT asked me to photograph the 1500 acres that make up Stonehouse Forest back in 2015 and 2016 when it was a still land protection project in process. When I first set foot in the forest here, I knew it was special. It is adjacent to Stonehouse Pond, a popular destination for fishing and rock climbing that I shot almost a decade earlier when SELT and the Trust for Public Land were protecting the 250 acres around the pond. But the Stonehouse Forest was so cool because of its size. 1500 contiguous acres of privately owned, undeveloped forest in southeastern New Hampshire just doesn’t exist anymore. Yet here it was, complete with bobcat, bear, fisher, and bald eagles.
I realize how blessed I am to get to photograph these places before they are open to the public – it’s one of the best parts of my job. Revisiting a place like Stonehouse Forest years later makes me grateful for the people at land trusts like SELT who have the vision, and are smart enough and persistent enough to put together the multi-million dollar deals that make these preserves possible. While I can make these places look pretty in pictures, I have no idea how to do what the land trusts do to protect them for future generations. Thanks folks!
When I’m shooting a project like Stonehouse Forest, I’m usually wrapped up in getting my job done that day. I’ll appreciate where I’m at, but mostly I’m thinking about getting the shot, not what this place will look like in 5, 15, or 50 years.
Stonehouse Forest was SELT’s largest preserve until they closed a deal on a 2000+ acre property in New Durham, NH that sits above Merrymeeting Lake which was some of the cleanest water of any lake in the state. As you can see from the above photo, the property was logged quite a bit before SELT’s conservation acquisition. By taking the long view, the folks at the land trust saw the potential for this forest over time. It will look much different in 20, 30, 50 years, and continue to sequester carbon and help keep the lake clean in the meantime. And there are some beautiful spots worth visiting today as well.
Have you been out on the trails at a SELT preserve? Let me know your favorite places in the comments below.