By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — The town forest will be protected from future development thanks to a $100,000 state grant.
More than 300 acres will be placed under a conservation easement after the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recently awarded the aquatic resource mitigation grant.
“This is more protective than just being a designated forest,” town Conservation Commission Chairman Jill Senter said. “It is locked in under this easement.”
To remove the property from the easement, which Senter said is unlikely, approval would be needed from the town and the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire. The land can be sold, but not subdivided or developed. The property was not previously protected by law.
The forest is an important asset the town must preserve, Senter said.
“It is the largest natural resource that’s in town and is undisturbed,” she said. “It contains one of the main tributaries to Little River, which is the only water in town.”
The town submitted its grant application in April, and members of the state’s Wetland Council visited the site. The grant was approved earlier this month.
“We looked at the significance of the parcels in terms of wildlife habitat and protecting important water resources,” said Lori Sommer, DES wetland mitigation coordinator.
Sommer said the DES awarded 13 aquatic resource grants around the state.
The grant was also approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The grant will fund all costs required for the easement, including an environmental study, parcel acquisitions and a fee owed to Southeast Land Trust.
The town must pay a matching fee of $27,381. That will come from Plaistow’s conservation fund and have no impact on taxpayers, according to Senter.
DES identified five wetland sites in the forest needing work. Two have failed drainage systems and three have walking trails that need to be moved out of wetlands.
The easement places restrictions on the type of recreation allowed in the forest. Skiing, mountain biking and hiking would be allowed, but dirt bikes and other motorized vehicles would be banned.