John L. Jr. & Jean P. Wedick Nature Reserve

Ammonoosuc River  (Jerry Monkman photo) 

Ammonoosuc River  (Jerry Monkman photo) 

John and the late Jean Wedick made a tremendous donation to the community of Bethlehem and the entire region when they permanently protected their land in late 2009. Their 120 acres on Wing Road in Bethlehem includes a mile along the Ammonoosuc River, which their conservation easement ensures will be open for public access – forever. This stretch of Wing Road along the Ammonoosuc is one of the most beautiful and easy to get to places along the whole river.

The Wedick land is unusually diverse. Most prominently, it lies at the bottom of an ancient glacial lake. A former gravel pit offers unmistakable evidence of our region’s geological past, with layers of sand and gravel (varves) very apparent. The preponderance of gravel offers habitat for unusual plants and birds, and the turtles love it – the Wedick pond has a very robust population.   

Unlike the riverfront, the main part of the Wedick property is not ordinarily open for public access. But John welcomes schools and other organizations to use the land for field trips, and many White Mountains geology courses have had students there (contact him directly).

Want to learn more about the geologic history of our region? Take a look below and click the links for more info!

"The Geology of New Hampshire's White Mountains"

North American Glacial Varve Project:

Trip report that covered hike area and surrounding area from 2002.

Brebner Farm & Forest

The property includes nearly 3/4 mile along the Ammonoosuc River.

The property includes nearly 3/4 mile along the Ammonoosuc River.

ACT was very proud to work with Asa Brebner to conserve over 200 acres and nearly 3/4 mile of Ammonoosuc River shoreland at the end of Blaney Road. Asa's parents acquired the land in the 1960s. Brebner and his family, including two young sons, live full time in Cambridge, Mass. and visit the old farm as much as they can.

“I want my two boys to experience the same joy I had as a kid exploring that land,” Asa said.

The property had been a dairy farm, and its enormous barn still stands. While cows no longer roam the land, its woods, streams, wetlands, and old pasture hosts a rich range of plants and wildlife.

“It’s increasingly rare to find so much land in one ownership along the Ammonoosuc River, so we were really intrigued when Asa Brebner called us about the possibility of conserving it,” said ACT Executive Director Rebecca Brown. “Conserving land around our rivers and streams to protect clean water and wildlife habitat is one of ACT’s highest priorities.”

I want my two boys to experience the same joy I had as a kid exploring that land.
— Asa Brebner

ACT is the North Country’s lands conservancy. Its Clean Water/Healthy Trout initiative aims to protect streams for people and wildlife. So far, ACT has protected the origins – or headwaters – of Salmon Hole Brook, a tributary of the Ammonoosuc River in Sugar Hill, and nearly two miles of shoreline on the Ammonoosuc River in Bethlehem, with its other conservation land bordering the river on Wing Road. This year ACT has also protected, in partnership with the Franconia Conservation Commission, over a mile of streams that flow into the Gale River.

“Brook trout live and breed on many – but not all – streams in the Ammonoosuc watershed,” Brown said “It’s good news when trout are present because they demand cold, clean water – they won’t live anywhere else. If streams are supporting native trout, that’s a sign of good water quality for people and wildlife. It’s our opportunity and challenge to keep streams healthy.”

As part of the conservation project, ACT partnered with N.H. Fish & Game, with assistance from ACT volunteers and the PAWS (Panther Adventure Wilderness Society) of Lisbon Regional School to assess the streams on the Brebner property.  Fish & Game biologists and the students found baby brook trout, showing that the water quality was excellent. According to NH Fish & Game, baby trout use tributaries of larger rivers for cover from predators, and for thermal refuge – cold water – when the summer heats up.

“A whole host of wildlife from warblers to black bears use forested stream corridors,” Brown said. “They need streams with lots of trees and vegetation along their banks for foraging, cover, traveling, nesting, and refuge from heat.”

On the Brebner property, there is now a 200-foot wide buffer along the Ammonoosuc where trees will not be cut during future timber harvests.  Similarly, protective forest buffers will be maintained along the small streams that feed into the Ammonoosuc.

“On properties owned by private landowners and conserved with ACT, we encourage strong stream protection,” said Brown. “We do the same on the land we own and manage. It’s the best practice for clean water and wildlife.”

Funding for the Brebner project came from the state’s Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund, administered by the Dept. of Environmental Services, and from the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, administered by the NH Charitable Foundation. Both funding sources focus on conserving and restoring wetlands and waterways.

Bethlehem Wetlands

ACT agreed to hold a conservation easement on 40 acres along Route 116, next to a site that had been planned as a new transfer station for Bethlehem. The town itself violated state wetlands rules at one of its properties, and regulators required the town to protect wetlands and associate uplands elsewhere. As with the Lowe’s project, ACT is agreeable to working with towns where conservation is required to advance a goal of the community.