As a land trust for southwestern New Hampshire, our mission is to work with communities and landowners to conserve the natural resources, wild and working lands, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Monadnock region. We care for our conservation lands, and we engage people in ways that strengthen their communities and their connections to the land.
In 1989, a group of friends sitting around a kitchen table had an idea. What if there was a local organization to help neighbors and communities protect forever the land they love? From that conversation, the Monadnock Conservancy was born.
Initially based in Dublin, N.H., the group operated as a 501(c)(3) environmental organization, conserving 25 properties in 10 towns during its first decade. The Conservancy shifted from an all-volunteer nonprofit to a professional organization in 1998, hiring Ben Mahnke as the first executive director and expanding its service area west to the Connecticut River. Executive Director Richard Ober (2001 to 2007) oversaw a period of dramatic growth, leading the Conservancy through the acquisition of its 100th conservation easement and the first parcels of land we own outright.
Under Ryan Owens’ leadership, the Conservancy has gained recognition as a leader in the national conservation scene, becoming the first land trust in New Hampshire to be accredited (2008) and putting more emphasis on how the land is used and the interplay between ecological, economic, and social values.
Now the Conservancy is governed by a 15-member Board of Trustees and managed by a 10-person professional staff working from our office in Keene. Volunteer land stewards help us care for our conservation lands. As a member-based nonprofit, we work on behalf of the interests and passions of the community, continuing the legacy of the first 30 years and looking forward to the next 30 and the next 30 and the next….
What will the Monadnock region look like in the years to come? The Conservancy is committed to playing a role in ultimately achieving a future as described in the two following paragraphs. This vision statement is a key part of our current strategic plan (PDF) and guides the board and staff in its decisions:
Rolling hills and mountain ridges, broad expanses of woods, and open meadows surround a village, a meetinghouse, a stone wall, a narrow dirt road. This beautiful landscape — anchored by Mount Monadnock, bounded by the eastern hills and the Connecticut River — has working farms and forests as well as wild lands. Moose browse on spring buds and black bears forage for blueberries; the deeper lakes are home to nesting loons and native brook trout thrive in coldwater streams. There are places to hike, to hunt, to paddle, and to simply enjoy the quiet outdoors. The water is clean, the air clear, and the night skies dark.
The New England that has disappeared in so many other places is alive and well in the Monadnock region. The people who live, work, and play here value and care for the land, embracing the connections between the landscape and the economic and social vitality of the region. There is a strong sense of community, and people work together to ensure that the region’s unique rural character will remain through the changes of today and tomorrow.