Requested by Gal Potashnick, Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust Outreach & Member Services Director
January 20, 2021
Contact: (603) 823-7777
Family Farm and Important Bird Habitat Protected in Whitefield
WHITEFIELD – On a bright morning in late December, Butch and Marion Rexford fulfilled a long-time dream to protect their family farm and surrounding woods from development by donating an easement to the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT). An easement donation means that though the family continues to hold ownership of the property, the land is forever protected from development by ACT. So, no matter who owns it in the future, the Rexford Conservation Area, will stay farmland with beautiful forests surrounding it for the people and wildlife that call it home.
The newly named Rexford Conservation Area preserves the farm fields and adjoining woods enjoyed for nearly a century by the Rexfords, as well as the wildlife that calls it home. It has rolling hayfields and mature forests and beautifully represents New England’s heritage land uses, like agriculture and forestry. The conservation of the property protects these uses as well as vital bird habitat and the drinking water supply in Whitefield.
The Rexford family farm was bought by Butch’s grandfather Carl, in the early 1900s. Butch and his brother grew up farming the land—raising cattle and hay, mostly—with their dad and extended family, before eventually farming the land themselves. While the farm and herd are now much smaller, Butch, Marion, and much of the extended family still live there.
“This land is where my grandfather made a living…he loved it, and I love it. We have to preserve property so that others can enjoy its beauty,” Butch said as he looked over a hayfield his grandfather once farmed for corn. “We have to ask ourselves, what is it that we like about this place? We like the openness, we like the woods…and if we develop every piece of property, we’re going to lose that.”
The fields and surrounding forests have supported more than just people – generations of declining and priority bird species have depended on this land too. The Rexford Conservation Area sits just outside of the Pondicherry Basin, a globally recognized lowland area for birds and overall prime bird habitat. Its open fields are home to ground-nesting grassland birds like bobolink and savannah sparrow. In the spring and summer, the forested area hosts tremendous breeding bird diversity. The Basin is on the southern edge of many more northerly species. Species more typical of the boreal forest, like the black-backed woodpecker, are rare in New Hampshire but frequent and breed in the Pondicherry Basin.
The Rexford Conservation Area’s forests include a mix of northern hardwood forest, white pine forest, and more northerly spruce-fir forest important for both birds and timber. The Rexfords have been active stewards of the forest for as long as they’ve worked the land. The forests they maintain have some of the most productive forestry soils in the state. This conservation project ensures these soils and forests remain available for wildlife and forestry for generations to come.
“In addition to the conservation of land, our work is about people, relationships and the deep connections we have to the land and each other” said Rosalind Page, ACT’s Interim Executive Director. “The Rexford’s ties to the land through a long family history, and a deep love and respect for all it gives, made this project special. We are honored that Butch & Marion chose to work with ACT to preserve their family farm and forests.”
The project could not have been completed without the patience and perseverance of the Rexfords and their family, ACT’s members and supporters, and our funders. This project was supported by NH State Conservation Committee Conservation Grant Program, with funds made possible by the sale of NH Conservation and Heritage License “Moose” Plates. The project was also supported by the Randolph Area Conservation Opportunity Fund.
Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust works with individuals and communities to conserve land for the future well-being and vitality of the North Country. You can find more information at act-nh.org or call ACT’s office in Franconia at (603) 823-7777.