Looking Beyond His Stonewalls

Frank Mitchell, UNH Cooperative Extension

Carl Wallman is a NH Coverts Project volunteer, a former breeder of prize-winning cattle and the Chair of the Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative (NALMC) Steering Committee.

In recent years, Carl has turned his land management skills gained through years of farming to managing for wildlife habitat on his 200 acre Harmony Hill Farm in Northwood, NH.

As he got more involved in wildlife and their habitats, Carl realized that “If you’re interested in managing for wildlife habitat, you need to look beyond your stone walls.” This idea and his interest in land stewardship led him to join with nearby private landowners and the NH Division of Parks (DRED), NH Fish and Game Department, the Town of Northwood and UNH to found the Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative (NALMC). This effort has brought public and private landowners of 3,300 acres together and opened up new communication about the land, it’s wildlife and its people. NALMC, Carl says, “is just people, without the ideology, talking about managing their lands. It’s fun doing all these things.”

Taking Action for Wildlife

Carl’s work in support of habitat at Harmony Hill Farm is intended to maintain early successional habitats (grassland and shrubland) where they currently exist.

In 1998, Carl reclaimed 30 acres of land formerly cleared for pasture that had been growing in with small trees Some of the cost of this work was offset by the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

  • Delayed mowing to protect nesting grassland birds, with incentive payments from NH Fish & Game Dept
  • Annual controlled burning to keep some field land open and inhibit invasive species such as Autumn olive.
  • Involving students and their teacher at Northwood Coe-Brown Academy in helping to keep the invasive species at bay while learning about the farm’s ecosystems.
  • Donating conservation easements on most of the Harmony Hill Farm land to the Society for the Protection of NH Forests In 2001, 2004, and 2011.

A lot of it’s personal

Regarding his reasons for shifting his attention as a landowner toward wildlife and habitats, Carl says, “A lot of it’s personal. After selling the cattle (the former use of the farm), I had to do something with the farm but I was done farming. I cleared these fields, so I didn’t want to let it grow back to forest. In 1995 or 1996 I met Ellen Snyder (then UNHCE Wildlife Specialist), who came out and discussed how the land would support wildlife. Ellen suggested a professional habitat assessment study to identify what wildlife and habitats are here and what might be done to maintain and enhance wildlife diversity. The outcome of the assessment was very educational – it was fascinating. Ellen and the habitat assessment consultant both advised keeping the fields open for habitat diversity.” Carl pointed to Harmony Hill Farm on an aerial photo map of the area around Harmony Hill Farm. He noted that these are among the few large areas of grassland or other early successional habitats in the region. These critical habitats support species of concern such as Black racer and Smooth green snake, American woodcock, Eastern towhee, Northern leopard frog and Eastern meadowlark as well as other more common species such as bobolinks, swallows and various mammals. Carl adds, “At first, it was more theoretical and I was skeptical of the predictability of the results.” Now, stepping out of his office at Harmony Hill Farm on an early summer day, Carl hears an indigo bunting nearby as a pair of bobolinks fly up from the field behind the house, species that favor the habitats he’s maintaining here.

In addition to providing critical wildlife habitat, Harmony Hill Farm is central to the NALMC five-mile hiking trail through public and private lands and the farm hosts a community garden. A value of opening land to the public this way, Carl says, is that, “if people understand values of land other than building, they’ll understand the importance of conservation better.”

Connection through the land

Reflecting on rewards of all the work he’s done to manage Harmony Hill Farm and with the NALMC, Carl appreciates “learning so much about the dynamic of this community here” and “connection to neighbors through land – we’re recreating the kind of connection that once existed. Once you meet neighbors and show interest in their land, they respond. Their land is part of them. Everyone’s learning. It’s basic and it’s exhilarating.”

No “right” answers

From his experience, Carl Wallman has some brief advice to other landowners interested in supporting wildlife habitats on their land or in promoting it with others. "I learned there are no “right” answers”, he reflects. “You can’t tell anyone else what to do with their land. But you can bring people together, connect on their terms, let them discover things and make their own decisions.” Recognizing that wild animals don’t know or care about property boundaries, he adds, “You can’t manage for wildlife just on your own land. You need to look at the bigger landscape.”