By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
PITTSBURG – The new owners of the 146,500-acre Connecticut Headwaters Conservation tract in northern New Hampshire said they plan to continue to manage the forest in accordance with the long-term management plan developed by the state and abide by the conservation easement.
Although the focus of the company is on acquiring former timberlands and selling credits toward decarbonizing, Jamie Houston IV, chief executive officer for Bluesource Sustainable Forest Company, said “sustainable and carefully executed timber harvesting is and always has been, part of BSFC’s plan for the property.”
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH wrote Houston last week asking the company, which is part of www.anewclimate.com/bsfc to “seek and incorporate the feedback of local communities into your management to fulfill the purpose of the Easement,” that she, as governor at the time and then-U.S. Senator Judd Gregg worked on 20 years ago.
It invested more than $45 million into an easement on the land “to ensure the lands remain as a largely undeveloped, productive working forest.”
The town of Pittsburg receives almost 10 percent of its tax revenue from timber sales, said Steve Ellis, a member of the selectboard.
The local mills and loggers rely on contracts to cut wood on the property and it is a big part of the economy. So when local officials learned this summer that the massive tract had been acquired by Bluesource as part of a merger and they heard the company was focused on making its money for investors selling long-term contracts not to cut the trees, in essence making it a carbon credit farm, they sounded the alarm.
Some said the new company had not been telling them of their plans while logging contracts expired.
The tract is just one of many the company now holds totaling more than 1.7 million acres across the country, mostly east of the Mississippi River.
In his Aug. 30 letter to InDepthNH.org and in response to Senator Shaheen’s letter to him, Houston maintained that his is a company focused on “decarbonization, valuing forests for their ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere in tandem with a range of other ecological, economic, and community benefits.”
He called the tract subject to the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Conservation Easement, “a remarkable
natural landscape with positive impacts on communities within and beyond the Granite State. Following
our acquisition of these lands in 2022, BSFC is proud to continue managing the Connecticut Lakes
Headwaters in accordance with a long-term forest management plan developed with and approved by
the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Land.
“We will also continue to manage the lands in accordance with the existing conservation easement.”
Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, said her office has been in communications with Bluesource and said they are due to give the state an updated plan for logging for the coming year, and that there would be discussion about that likely in October.
Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, said he spoke with the company’s local spokesman, Shawn Hagan who told him that they planned to extend some existing logging contracts but that the idea was to reduce logging by about half in the coming year.
The lands, first owned by Lyme Timber and then the Forestland Group, have been managed as a carbon project since 2013, Houston noted.
“…BSFC’s forest management will build on practices in place prior to our acquisition of the property. The forest management plan centers on carbon sequestration while balancing public recreation, wildlife habitat, pristine waters, and high value forest products,” he wrote.
Charles Levesque, president of Innovative Resource Solutions, who worked on the easement 20 years ago, noted there was no carbon credit markets at the time and that in some cases, property owners of large tracts can get more money for carbon credits than stumpage. He noted that the property in Pittsburg, Stewartstown and Clarksville has been used for both in recent years.
Houston wrote that, “Sustainable and carefully executed timber harvesting is, and always has been, part of BSFC’s plan for the property. All logging contracts that were in place during BSFC’s acquisition of The Forestland Group properties in October of last year were honored. Some of those contracts have been extended.
“BSFC’s approach with Connecticut Lakes will further cultivate the vast regeneration and conservation potential of these working forests to maximize carbon capture – a critical tool in the fight against climate change.
“Bluesource Sustainable Forests Company communicates regularly with state and local agencies. We are
also in active contact with Senator Shaheen’s office and other elected officials. We are sensitive to the
concerns of local communities and understand their longstanding connection to these lands.
“We will continue to engage with them as we finalize our management plans for this special area. We are
committed to a continued, productive dialogue and are eager to continue working in partnership with all
stakeholders,” Houston concluded.