ALTON — An effort to protect access to Mt. Major, one of New Hampshire's best-loved hiking destinations, got a Thanksgiving boost last week of two donations totaling $50,000 that will help the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests and its partners to buy and protect 950 acres of land.
An anonymous family foundation gave $30,000, and the N.H. Conservation License Plate ("moose plate") Program granted $20,000 to the Everybody Hikes Mt. Major Campaign, a joint effort of the Forest Society and Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT).
The foundation's gift results from strong ties to the area. "This family has been hiking in New Hampshire for generations, and they are very familiar with the Belknap Range and Mt. Major trails. They also understand how much trail maintenance is needed for this popular hiking area, and that it is dependent on our ability to acquire ownership of the properties and trails," said Martha Twombly, development specialist with the Forest Society.
The N.H. Conservation License Plate ("moose plate") program supports the protection of critical resources in New Hampshire, including scenic lands, historic sites and artifacts, and plants and wildlife. Grants are awarded annually.
"When you pass someone with the New Hampshire moose license plate on their car or truck, give them a wave and a 'thank you' for supporting land conservation and cultural heritage around the state," Twombly said.
The Forest Society and LRCT have raised $917,000 of the $1.8 million goal to purchase and protect four properties – three on or near Mt. Major in Alton and one on Piper Mountain in Gilford. Momentum has been strong throughout the campaign and is getting stronger.
"With year-end just over a month away, the momentum seems to really be picking up," said Susanne Kibler-Hacker, vice president of development for the Forest Society. "With more than 1,200 donations so far, there's no question that Mt. Major is a popular destination."
The large number of individual donations is thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers from the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition who have taken turns handing out brochures and talking to hikers at the Mt. Major trailhead for the past several months.
Four large anonymous donations have been given to the LRCT for the campaign recently as well.
"We're getting letters and calls daily," said Don Berry, LRCT president. "We hear from people who have been hiking throughout the Belknaps for decades and would like to make it possible for generations to come to do the same."
Donations may be made online at forestsociety.org or lrct.org.