Since the following 2006 Conservation Management plan was written, The Sustainability Project’s Emerson Brook Forest Center has been relocated to an adjacent 33 acre parcel. While some of the details have changed, the essence of our intention remain the same.


The TSP Board of Directors would like to thank the following people who assisted in the production of this document:

Melissa Harty, Gilsum Conservation Commission,
Goeff Jones, The Society for the Protection of NH Forests,
Wendy Ward, Soil Conservation Technician USDA Natural Resources Cons. Service,
Bob Bernstein, Land for Good Inc.,
Debby Hinman, Monadnock Conservancy,
TSP Advisory Board Members: Joan Roelofs, Jeanne Sable, Diane Stolar

January 18, 2006

The Sustainability Project Inc.
Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center
Conservation Management Plan

Name of Preserve: The Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center

  • A. Location and Directions
  • B. Conservation/Ecological Importance
  • C. General Description
  • D. Historical
  • E. Uses:  Outdoor Education Center
  • F. Parking Plan for the Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center
  • G. The “Footprint”- Trails and Structures–existing and proposed
  • H. Site Steward
  • I. Natural Resource Inventory
  • J. The Sustainability Project Long Term Forest Management Plan/Vision
  • Sources for Section D
  • Board of Directors
  • Advisory Board
  • Collaborating Organizations

A. Location and Directions

The 28.8 acre parcel owned by The Sustainability Project, Inc.(TSP) is located within a 640-acre tract of Emerson Brook Forest on Nash Corner Road in the northeast corner of Gilsum, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. The site is accessed via Emerson Brook Drive, approximately nine-tenths of a mile from Route 10.

B. Conservation/Ecological Importance

The TSP land encompasses the top of Eaton Hill, altitude of 1520 feet, where the area is relatively flat or gently sloping, affording a full scenic vista. Wrapping around the North side of Eaton Hill the land becomes fairly steep and possesses a beautiful stand of mature mixed-hardwoods. Heading easterly, the land again steepens and reflects the more recent logging impacts with a mix of hard and soft successional species. TSP land abuts the sub-watersheds that feed Trout Brook and Emerson Brook, both important wildlife and riverine tributaries to the Ashuelot River.

The Nature Conservancy, in the publication, A Land Conservation Plan For the Ashuelot River Watershed, recognizes the Andorra Forest and Grassy Brook areas as exceptional and important areas that merit continued conservation efforts.

            Noted for its “vast, unbroken expanse of forestland,” the “Andorra Highlands” area is located just south and east of TSP land.  Also rated high for valuable and significant wildlife habitat, the Andorra Forest is an “important hub, with meaningful opportunities for landscape connectivity and wildlife corridors in all directions.”  It is noted that “to the west, across Rte 10, lie the intact forests and wetlands of Grassy Brook.”  TSP land along with the larger tract of Emerson Brook Forest connects these two important unfragmented wildlife areas.

            The larger 640-acre tract of Emerson Brook Forest surrounding TSP land is owned by Annie Faulkner and Bob King and will be placed under a conservation easement held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

C. General Description

            TSP land consists of a 28.8-acre lot bordered on the south by a Class V section of Nash Corner Road.  A small eastern boundary abuts private lands, while the remaining boundaries are within the 640-acre Faulkner/King tract.  The bulk of that tract was heavily logged in the years 1998-1999.  Although a 10-acre portion of TSP land was impacted by that logging, much of the remaining acreage, including the northwestern slope surrounding the apex of Eaton  Hill, contains a stand of more mature mixed-hardwoods.

D. Historical

Natural/Human History

            The very complex succession of geologic events that brought New Hampshire to its present state deserves more than can be cited in this conservation plan.

            What we learned in researching the natural history of our land in the Emerson Brook Forest is that it, like the rest of New England, was covered by ice until sometime between 10,000 to 14,000 years ago.  As the climate warmed and the ice receded from our lands, forests comprised of spruce and fir took hold and great mammals such as wooly mammoths and mastodons appeared along with humans.  The pre-European inhabitants of our area were the Abenaki people who utilized the region’s abundant wildlife.

Writer Eric Poor, after attending a day-long conference on Abenaki Indian history at Franklin Pierce College wrote, “The native people who left the remnants of their spear points at a campsite on the Ashuelot River at the end of last ice age, the people who came to the fishing grounds nearby and smoked their fish on a hearth 3,400 years ago, the people who left shards of pottery 1,700 years ago, and those who left fragments of deer and turtle bones 500 years ago– they are the history of the landscape that still bears names like Ashuelot.”

            The presence of Native Americans in Gilsum is also referenced in the following passage taken from the Cheshire County, New Hampshire internet site:  “Gilsum lies in the northern-central part of the county, in lat. 43°1′ and long. 4° 50′. In outline it is similar to that of a carpenter’s square, bounded north  by Alstead and Marlow, east by Stoddard and Sullivan, south by Sullivan and Keene, and west by Surry. It was originally granted, under the name of Boyle, to Joseph Osgood and his associates, December 30, 1752. No settlements were made  under this grant, through fear of the Indians, until so late a date that the charter was forfeited.”

            According to “The History of Gilsum”, published in 1879 by Silvanus Hayward, the earliest recorded settlement on land in the vicinity of the current TSP land (located on Nash Corner Road) was John Nash who built his home in 1796.  In 1870, Ephriam A. Howard built his home in this same area.

            By the 1800’s agriculture was well established in NH.  During this time, fifty-five percent (55%) of the landscape was cleared.  TSP land is bound on three facets by the stone walls that were once built to contain the sheep, cows and crops and to level out roads for the early travelers.  Eighty years later, farming moved west and large scale lumbering moved into the state.  Whole mountains were cleared to make paper and to satisfy the voracious appetite for fuel generated by the Industrial Revolution.  It was during this unconstrained logging period that encouraged the earliest environmentalists into action.  The White Mountain National Forest was established in 1911 to better manage timber related resources and the science of forestry gained momentum.

            It was on October 31, 1925, that Ephriam would become first to convey the deed to the land, which would eventually become known as The Emerson Brook Forest. 

History: Recent Human Interaction with the Emerson Brook Forest 

            The first recorded large-scale logging of the tract known as Emerson Brook Forest was in the late 1960’s and early 70’s.  At that time, Tree Growers Inc. of Wayland, Mass. used a selective cutting method with the intent of ensuring a sustained harvest.  A second logging occurred in 1984 by Vincent Benya, of Boca Raton, Fla. and the third in 1998 by H.C. Haynes Inc. of Winn, Maine. Shortly before the Haynes logging began, a community-supported fundraising campaign was initiated to purchase and preserve as much of the Emerson Brook Forest as possible. The vision behind the campaign was to preserve this beautiful place in nature and make a portion of it accessible to those with mobility challenges, such  as the elderly and wheelchair users.  On November 4th, 1998 the 28.8-acre parcel was purchased with publicly raised funds, under the umbrella of the Gilsum Conservation Commission, for the purposes of conservation.  In May 2000, Annie Faulkner and Bob King purchased the larger 640-acre tract of Emerson Brook Forest. 

History: The Sustainability Project’s Stewardship in Emerson Brook Forest  

            Valerie Piedmont, founder and director of the Sustainability Project, purchased Lot #10 of the “Subdivision Plan III, Emerson Brook Forest in Gilsum, NH” from Tree Growers Inc. on November 4, 1977.  The lot was one of twelve parcels portioned out from the larger tract of Emerson Brook Forest to help fund the Tree Grower Inc. forest management plan.

             The larger tract of Emerson Brook Forest was sold to Vincent Benya sometime in the 1980’s and then resold to H.C. Haynes in 1998.  Shortly after the  Haynes purchase, Ms. Piedmont raised the funds necessary to purchase 28.8  acres of the forest for conservation.  Due to zoning restrictions existing at the  time, the only way the land could be deeded separately for purchase was with a  “lot line adjustment” to Ms. Piedmont’s Lot #10.  The original plan was for the Gilsum Conservation Commission to hold a conservation easement on the land.  The Monadnock Conservancy supported this arrangement and helped draft the easement.  In surprising turn of events, members of the Gilsum Conservation Commission voted not to accept the easement as written due to several members objections to easement stipulations that prohibited hunting, logging and ATV/snowmobile use. The failure of this initial effort to conserve Emerson Brook Forest land ultimately resulted in the formation of The Sustainability Project, Inc. (The Sustainability Project was formerly known as The Emerson Brook Forest Sustainability Project, Inc. or EBFSP.  The name was officially changed on August 18, 2004).

            Incorporated on March 21, 2000, the new non-profit organization took title to the 28.8 acre parcel in May of that year, thus satisfying the legal considerations and assuring that the land would be restricted for conservation purposes and as a resource for the general public.  In late May, 2000, volunteer efforts began to create the wheelchair accessible, Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center, which officially opened to the public in October, 2002. 

E. Uses:  Outdoor Education Center

            Of the 28.8 acres, the 10± acres most disturbed by the 1998 logging operation have been adapted for fully accessible activities. The remaining acreage will be left as is.

            The Center is open to the public during daylight hours from May through November.  TSP expects a maximum of 30 visitors per week during peak times of the season.  The Center will also serve as an environmental learning lab for Monadnock Environmental Studies Academy (MESA)students.  Other onsite programs TSP plans to offer include a “Stewards of the Earth” weekend and mini workshops pertaining to sustainable living.  All programs will be designed for groups of 12-18 people.  Exceptions to this would be rare, such as programs involving Gilsum Elementary School students, volunteer workdays and “open house” gatherings.  During these 8-10 events per year, we anticipate up to 40 people, generally for several hours at a time.  As the primary mission of TSP is to protect the integrity of the Emerson Brook Forest, programming is geared toward minimizing impact on the forest and roads.

F. Parking Plan for the Emerson Brook Forest Outdoor Education Center

Parking accommodations for two wheelchair accessible parking spaces and three other spaces are located at the Center’s trailhead off Nash Corner Road.  Those visitors who are able to access the Center without vehicular assistance are encouraged, by signage, to park and walk to the Center either via Emerson Brook  Drive to the Nash Corner Road or via a woodland trail that crosses the Piedmont property.

            Neighbor and supporter Gordon Goodell has granted verbal permission for TSP to create and maintain five parking spaces on a portion of his land adjacent to Emerson Brook Drive and directly across from the Piedmont driveway. Currently there are two spaces on the Goodell property.  An additional three spaces will be added in 2006.

G. The “Footprint”- Trails and Structures–existing and proposed

            Currently, nearly 2000 feet of accessible trails exist.  In the future an additional trail may be constructed on a skidder track located on the center’s eastern boundary.  As with our existing trail, only “Surpac” and other clean material will be used in the trail-making process.  Any machinery that may be used in the construction of trails will be cleaned to prevent seeds or fragments of invasive species from contaminating the area.  If possible, we will use bio-diesel fueled machinery as well.

            To serve visitors to the forest, TSP’s facility plan calls for eight “light footprint” structures designed to assist with conservation education and nature studies.  A 16-foot diameter “yurt,” a latrine, a tent platform and a shed were built on the property during the years 2001-3.  A three-season visitor center (320sq.ft.), another latrine and 2 lean-tos will complete the center’s physical plan.(See  attached map.)

No permanent structures will ever exist on this 28.8 parcel of land. All structures will be maintained by TSP or its successor organizations. In the event that maintained trails and outbuildings no longer provide a service, they will be disassembled and removed, allowing the area of Emerson Brook Forest that is now serving as the Outdoor Education Center to return to its natural state.

In an effort to minimize human impact on TSP land, the use of<

recreational vehicles such as ATV’s and snowmobiles will be prohibited.  While the collecting of firewood from dead or fallen, non-snag trees for use at the center will be permitted, commercial logging will be  prohibited.  For safety reasons, hunting will be prohibited as well.

For the past ten years, a small herd of donkeys belonging to Ms. Piedmont have spent a portion of their fair weather days in the Emerson Brook Forest.  After being guided from the Piedmont residence up Emerson Brook Drive to an area near the Center’s trailhead, the donkeys gradually return home eating the plants along the edge of the road.  These non-predatory animals have reportedly been seen by hunters, grazing with the deer and on one occasion were present with Ms. Piedmont when they happened upon a family of moose.  At the time, all parties seemed to display interest without threat.

H. Site Steward

During the past 25 years, Ms Piedmont has acted as guardian of the Emerson Brook Forest.  She discouraged dumping and cleaned up trash being brought into the forest, observed logging operations and reported occasional violations.  Ms. Piedmont and other members of the Sustainability Project Board of Directors and Advisory Board frequently connect with state and local conservation efforts to broaden their understanding and application of ecological principles, forest management and stewardship.  The Sustainability Project has  offered a means to showcase conservation efforts as well as workshops designed to promote sustainable living.  In May 2005, nine individuals conducted a bioinventory of the Emerson Brook Forest.  More than 100 plant species were identified.  This “Bio Blitz” will become a semi-annual event for the purpose of monitoring the biodiversity of the Emerson Brook Forest, gaining further information about the existing ecological interconnections and keeping the  forest free of invasive species.  Patches of Japanese knotweed, for example, were  located and removed from the shoulder of Emerson Brook Drive in 2004.

I. Natural Resource Inventory

In 2002, Antioch New England students Brigitte O’Donoghue and Amy Sauer with help initially from Ms. Piedmont, conducted a Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) of the vegetation, wildlife and soils of the Emerson Brook Forest.  The purpose of the study was to provide an assessment of forest health in the wake of timber harvesting disturbance and to evaluate the forest’s capacity for wildlife habitat.

The following section was taken verbatim from the Discussion/Conclusion section of the NRI document, “A Natural Resource Inventory: Vegetation and Soils The Emerson Brook Property, Gilsum NH Fall 2002”: 

The logging that occurred on the Emerson Brook property greatly affected the forest’s structure.  Few large trees remain on the land, and areas that were  clear-cut are still fairly barren of vegetation other than Rubus species.  The logging roads that run through the majority of the property have severely compacted the soil, potentially inhibiting tree growth.  Although the land is  regenerating, it will take years before the forest returns to its natural state.

The diameter distributions of trees in the different communities suggest that the land is slowly regenerating.  The disturbed areas are representative of a young, establishing forest with a small number of interspersed, mature individuals. The softwood stands are uneven aged, with a high number of young individuals as  well as mature individuals.  Lastly, the hardwood areas contain an abundance of young, establishing individuals in addition to a relatively small number of mature individuals.  As the forest continues to regenerate, it will increase in structural health and diversity, which will be reflected by, an increasing number of mature individuals.  Due to a history of intensive harvesting events, the forest may be fairly even aged with the exception of the softwood areas which currently contain a fair amount of older, more mature trees.<

Based on the data collected (Graphs 1-12), as forest succession continues, striped maple will predominate as the understory species, while red maple will likely dominate the canopy in the hardwood areas.  Hemlock will become the dominant softwood species, and quaking aspen will dominate as an early successional species in the disturbed areas.  As the disturbed area matures, yellow birch, beech, and red maple will probably out-compete the quaking aspen.  Eventually the hemlock, a shade tolerant species, may slowly out-compete the hardwood species.

Vegetative composition and success is partially determined by the soils.  At this site, the soils indicated by the Cheshire County Soil Survey support vegetation that will create fairly good wildlife habitat (Table 1).  The site indices, which indicate how tall the dominant and codominant trees will be in fifty years, may be used to aid in planning selective logging in the future.  This information should be used in conjunction with field data, although few white pines were seen on the land during the inventory, and no white spruce was found.  Additionally, if logging is going to occur, it would be critical to groundtruth additional soils to minimize damage since the soil pit that was dug on the land in November did not  coincide with the Cheshire County Soil Survey’s map.  With this additional  knowledge, future property decisions may be made more wisely.

The matrix of disturbed, hardwoods, and the older, more mature softwood stands support wildlife such as bear, deer, moose, snowshoe hare, coyote, porcupines,  and songbirds.  Because the majority of the land is highly disturbed, selective logging at this time is unadvisable.  In twenty years, however, cyclical logging may benefit wildlife species by maintaining their habitat and food sources.  In order to promote biodiversity, land management would prove beneficial as the forest regenerates.  Currently, it will be best to passively manage the land so that it is allowed to return to health.  In twenty years, when the forest is more mature, another inventory should be conducted in order to make appropriate decisions for  the onset of actively managing the land.  With appropriate management techniques, the Emerson Brook property will successfully function as a wildlife corridor between the surrounding conservation lands by adding diversity in  vegetative structure to the overall landscape. (O’Donoghue & Sauer, 2002)

J. The Sustainability Project Long Term Forest Management Plan/Vision

Although the 2002 NRI was conducted on the larger portion of Emerson Brook Forest, the resulting information applies to the 28.8 acres under TSP stewardship as well.  While the study indicates the possibility for management practices that involve logging on the 640-acre portion of Emerson Brook Forest, only the collecting of firewood from dead or fallen, non-snag trees for use at the center will be permitted with the exception of culling trees that may present safety concerns near trails.  TSP seeks to provide a living example of the perpetual natural cycle of a temperate forest.

A demonstration garden, funded in part by a grant from the UNH Master Gardener Association is located along the south-easterly border adjacent to Nash Corner Road.  This approximately 400-sq. ft. area was severely disturbed by the 1998 logging operation.  Our long term goal is to regenerate soil health, encourage plant diversity, and use horticultural practices that model a healthy forest ecosystem.  Permaculture expert and author of the recently published “Edible Forest Gardens” Dave Jacke will be guiding this endeavor.      

Sources for Section D:

Caduto, Michael, “A Time Before New Hampshire” published by the University of NH Press in 2003

“Discover the Forests of New Hampshire” North Country and Southern NH

Resource Conservation and Development Councils 2000 publication

“The Voices of Native Peoples” by Eric Poor in the February 13, 2003 edition of Monadnock Ledger.

The Cheshire County, New Hampshire internet site

“The History of Gilsum” by Silvanus Hayward published in 1879

Lois Hastings member of the Gilsum Historical Society

The Abstract of Title of the Tree Growers, Inc land in Gilsum N.H., 

The Sustainability Project Inc. Board of Directors 2005-6

  Dianne Arsenault, Treasurer
  Diane Damato, Public Relations
  Pablo Fleischmann, Chairman
  Amy Hyatt, Program Development
  Shirlee Ingalls, Accessibility Coordinator and KSC Liaison
  Betsy Jane, Program Development
  Skot Jervis, Communications/Website
  Angy Lombara, Secretary
  Valerie Piedmont, Executive Director
  Iris Piedmont-Fleischmann

The Sustainability Project Inc. Advisory Board 2005-6

  Brian Bishoff, Environmental and Disability Activist
  Lauren Bressett, Youth Education, UNH Cooperative Extension Service
  Randall Carmel, Mediator, Legal Advisor
  Berny Cooper, Inventor and Energy Conservation Specialist
  Pat Eggelston, Ecology Professor KSC, ARLAC
  Erik Gillard, Artist, Sustainable Community Activist
  David Moon, Director, Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory
  Joan Roelofs, Sustainable Development
  Jeanne Sable, Author, Musician, Conservation Commissioner
  Tom Sintros, Educator, Director of MESA
  Diane Stolar, Writer, Editor, Community Activist

Collaborating Organizations

  The UNH Cooperative Extension, Coverts Project
  The UNH Cooperative Extension, Master Gardener Program
  The Gilsum Conservation Commission
  The Ashuelot Grange
  The Gilsum Recreation Commission
  The Gilsum Elementary School
  TNT School, Keene, NH
  Keene High School
  MESA (Monadnock Environmental Studies Academy)
  Granite State Independent Living
  The Monadnock Conservancy
  The Society for the Protection of NH Forests
  The Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory (AVEO)
  Ashuelot River Local Advisory Committee (ARLAC)
  The Community Improvement Associate’s Academy
  Land For Good, Inc.
  Cold Pond Community Land Trust
  Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center
  The Monadnock Conservancy