The Cooley-Jericho Community Forest was 13 years in the making from the first conversations with the landowners about potential conservation of the property. After proposals for 50-acre kingdom lots and a wind farm were resisted by the town of Easton, ACT and the landowners settled on a $600,000 purchase price in early 2011.
The purpose of the Community Forest is to ensure that by passing from private to community ownership, the land will forever be available to all members of the surrounding communities and remain as a working forest.
This property had been high on the conservation radar. It is central in our local communities recreationally, culturally, and ecologically. In addition to partially abutting the White Mountain National Forest, it is adjacent to or near other conservation lands including many with working forest conservation easements (please see Context Map). The land is seen from other conserved lands, from dozens of hiking trails in the WMNF, from summits, and from other higher elevation viewpoints, as well as from all four towns. It was recognized as having superb recreational potential as well as important wildlife habitat.
ACT led the planning process and fund raising to acquire the land. Early on the working name was the Easton – Sugar Hill Community Forest. It became the CJCF when Landaff and Franconia residents took leadership roles in the project. The Cooley family had deep ties to Sugar Hill and Easton, and Jericho is a well known and historic place name in Landaff.
Permanent ownership and governance of the Forest was determined through a public planning process. The Planning Committee of local residents and ACT led this process. Along the way the team created a Community Forest Plan to overview forest management, public recreation, protection of natural communities and wildlife habitat, and ownership, governance, and management structures. Representatives of Easton, Sugar Hill, Landaff, ACT, and many other citizens now meet as the Stewardship Team and are continuing the planning and management process.