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John Nelson: (603) 868-1095
Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
November 21, 2003


Work Underway on Osprey-viewing Site in Stratham

CONCORD, N.H. -- Work is underway on a project that will establish a "Watchable Wildlife" site for viewing an osprey-nesting platform in Stratham and an interpretive trail educating the public on the work of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is managed by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

"This property presents a unique educational opportunity for an osprey-viewing platform," said Dr. Judith Silverberg, Watchable Wildlife Coordinator for Fish and Game. "Educational displays will tell the story of the osprey's return to the area and show the success of Fish and Game's efforts to protect wildlife in the seacoast region."

The site, located on heavily traveled Route 108, offers a direct view of an existing osprey-nesting platform on other Fish and Game land. A stretch of saltmarsh between the viewing and nesting sites gives the nesting birds protection from the viewing public.

The viewing platform and educational materials will be funded through a public-private partnership called Project Osprey, a collaboration of Fish and Game, the Public Service Company of New Hampshire and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. In addition to the viewing platform, plans for the site include installation of an informational kiosk about the Reserve and protected lands in the Seacoast area.

To make this project possible, the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve acquired a 1.8-acre property at 80 College Road in Stratham, known as the Wiggin property, using funds from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for protection of lands within the reserve boundary. Fish and Game operates the Reserve, the mission of which includes research, education and stewardship.

As part of the project, a small, unoccupied house and garage on the property will be torn down. The house has no historic value, according to the State's Division of Historic Resources. Various options besides demolition of the building have been explored. The house could not be rented without improvements, and rental could compromise federal funding from NOAA and violate conservation restrictions in the deed for the property. Various efforts have been made to identify a party to remove the building and use it for housing at another location, including offering the structure to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The original owner of the house, Rose Ann LeBranche, now a Florida resident, has expressed her support for the Department's plans to transform her former homestead into an attractive natural area including an osprey-viewing platform and an educational kiosk to raise public awareness about the importance of conserving and protecting fragile seacoast lands.

Preliminary work on the project will begin this fall, including initiating a hazardous materials inspection and taking care of any cleanup work necessary (such as asbestos removal), prior to demolition of the house by the spring of 2004. The osprey-viewing platform and educational panels are expected to be in place by late summer of 2004.

Protected lands in the Reserve are purchased through the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership, which is made up of nine organizations working together to obtain federal funding for the purpose of protecting wetland and wildlife resource in the Great Bay watershed. Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy are the primary partners, along with the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited and others.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources. It works in partnership with the public to conserve, manage and protect these resources and their habitats; inform and educate the public about these resources; and provide the public with opportunities to use and appreciate them.

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