By Mike Beacom
In 2003, Linda Brownson and her husband relocated to New Hampshire from Texas, where for nine years she helped manage forestland and rangeland while her husband grew a family financial consulting business. The couple purchased a two-centuries-old New Hampshire farm that sits 1,500 feet above sea level in the western foothills of the White Mountains. Its 200 forested acres are an even mix of northern hardwoods (sugar and red maple, black cherry, birch, red oak) and conifers (balsam fir, white and red pine, eastern larch). It was a paradise for Brownson, but the property presented a series of management ideas and obstacles. She needed help.
“I wondered, ‘How am I going to find enough resources to manage this beautiful land?’”
Brownson began by signing up for workshops through the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Extension, which introduced her to the Grafton County Conservation District and local NRCS (the three organizations are co-located). Through that connection, she secured cost-share for five contracts that have addressed forest stand improvement, water crossings, culverts, and mast tree release.
Annual tree harvests provide the Brownsons with enough firewood for the winter and lumber to construct outbuildings and furniture. Every day for Linda is an adventure. “I never get tired of being out in the woods,” she says. “I really love it.”
Her primary management objective is wildlife habitat enhancement. Three years ago, Brownson clearcut 16.8 acres to create shrubland for wildlife. The harvest provided habitat benefits for more than 100 species, including moose, white tail deer, black bear, grouse, woodcock, and snowshoe hare. “Plus, I’m a hunter,” she laughs, “so I like to have enough wildlife to keep the freezer full in the winter.”
Brownson credits a three-way partnership with Grafton County Conservation District, NRCS, and UNH Extension for helping her realize her management goals. It also led her to a leadership role in conservation; she is now the president of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts and an NACD board member, and she also represents Grafton County on the Board of New Hampshire Timberland Owners.
Now the Brownsons’ farm is a regular host to conservation district and UNH Extension workshops, demonstration projects, and logging classes. Brownson loves it. “I learn so much,” she says.
Brownson’s newest neighbors relocated to New Hampshire from Finland. In April, she recruited a local forester and spent a day in the woods with the couple, educating them about their management options. “It’s satisfying that I’m in a position now where I can help others,” Brownson says.