Gumpas Pond Conservation Area, Hillsborough County
Says Pelham Conservation Commission member Chris McCarron, "We have lots of forest and field areas in southern New Hampshire, but the 'in-between' early successional habitat has dwindled – and along with it, the wildlife that need that kind of habitat. Through the logging that's taken place at Gumpas Pond Conservation Area, we hope to help New England cottontails as well as many birds that also need young, regrowing forest habitat."
Birders who hike on logging roads in this popular 155-acre conservation area soon will be training their binoculars on a whole new suite of birdlife, including brown thrashers, eastern towhees, and indigo buntings – species largely absent from the older woodland so prominent in the increasingly forested landscape of southern New England. Likely they'll hear ruffed grouse drumming, woodcock singing, and whip-poor-wills calling: those birds also need young forest. New England cottontails may also come to thrive here.
Gumpas Pond Conservation Area is managed under the New Hampshire Tree Farm System. In winter 2012, loggers cut the timber on two tracts, one 17 acres and the other 5 acres, for a total harvest of 22 acres. The trees were mainly low-quality white pines (attacked in the past by white-pine weevils, which caused their crowns to bush out and made them unfit for saw timber) and middle-aged hardwoods, including oaks, maples, and birches of a size and density that provided few benefits for either young-forest or older-forest animals. It was a good decision to cut them.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ted Kendziora helped draw up plans for logging and other habitat-restoration activities, including grading and planting a 1-acre field next to the smaller of the two logged areas. The field will become a magnet for wild turkey and ruffed grouse hens, who will lead their growing chicks into the grassy area to feed on insects. During spring, male woodcock will display for females in the opening. And if New England cottontails are present, or if they migrate into Gumpas Pond Conservation Area from nearby habitats, they'll appreciate having the new greenery to dine on.
Work Returns a Profit
The logging returned a tidy profit of around $6000 to the Town. The work created densely regrowing young forest, with the stumps and root systems of the logged-off hardwoods sending up thousands of shoots. Shrubs already on the site, including blueberry and blackberry, will prosper, now that the shading canopies of the older trees have been removed.
"In the past, this land was cleared for agriculture – probably livestock were pastured on these rolling hills," notes Kendziora, who works in the Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. "The area has a lot of diversity: rock outcroppings, small wetlands, and plenty of remaining older forest providing homes for wildlife that need those habitats.
"We don't know if New England cottontails are present at Gumpas Pond. But, frankly, this is not single-species management. The folks on the Pelham conservation and forestry committees, as well as the town's selectmen, really get it: They understand that making young forest helps a huge range of wildlife from salamanders to warblers to bobcats."
Noting that New England cottontails live on lands not far from the site, Kendziora speculates that the parcel may become a habitat corridor linking other properties in the region, considered a highly ranked focus area for New England cottontail restoration.
Pelham selectman Harold Lynde points out that one of the missions of the Town's Forestry Committee is to create wildlife habitat on town-owned lands. Bob Lamoureux, a Forestry Committee volunteer, notes that "It's our job to protect all wildlife."
Those wild creatures – and human wildlife-watchers as well – can thank the Town of Pelham and its citizens for their informed understanding of wildlife's needs, and their willingness to meet those needs.
How to Visit
Gumpas Pond Conservation Area is at 200 Gowing Road, Hudson, NH. The area is southeast of Nashua, about 3 miles north of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, and less than 1 mile west of Gumpas Pond. The best way to reach it is to drive east from New Hampshire Route 3A on Sanders Road and then Gowing Road until you reach a sign for the Conservation Area.
For more information or to arrange a visit, contact Ted Kendziora, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, 603-223-2541 x 13, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding and Partners
Town of Pelham, Pelham Forestry Committee, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program), University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute