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Harris Center announces new award, land acquisitions

  • Harris Center annual meeting<br/><br/>(Staff Photo by Dave Anderson)

    Harris Center annual meeting

    (Staff Photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Gail Woolridge, a third-grade teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Keene, speaks at the Harris Center for Conservation Education's annual meeting on Sunday, as fellow teacher Andrea Dube, center, and Harris Center Teacher/Naturalist Polly Pattison look on. Woolridge and Dube were honored by the center as Educators of the Year.

    Gail Woolridge, a third-grade teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Keene, speaks at the Harris Center for Conservation Education's annual meeting on Sunday, as fellow teacher Andrea Dube, center, and Harris Center Teacher/Naturalist Polly Pattison look on. Woolridge and Dube were honored by the center as Educators of the Year. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Harris Center annual meeting<br/><br/>(Staff Photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Gail Woolridge, a third-grade teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Keene, speaks at the Harris Center for Conservation Education's annual meeting on Sunday, as fellow teacher Andrea Dube, center, and Harris Center Teacher/Naturalist Polly Pattison look on. Woolridge and Dube were honored by the center as Educators of the Year.

HANCOCK ­— Although he’s only in his third month as executive director of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, Jeremy Wilson has a vision for the future — one he shared with Harris Center members at the organization’s annual meeting on Sunday.

Wilson has a background in forestry, having served as a professor at the University of Maine in Orono for 11 years, where he specialized in forest ecology. As he noted on Sunday, the landscape of the Monadnock region has changed drastically during the last century, with former open farm fields now filled with mature forest. But those forests could be susceptible to fire, infestation or other issues that could change the landscape far more permanently than anything humans can do.

“We’ve gone from 80 percent agricultural land to 80 percent forest,” Wilson said, as he offered his perspective on how the Harris Center should be focusing for the future. “This is a big forest landscape that we need to be evaluating and monitoring much more closely.”

Another project that’s vitally important, he said, is to return to providing more environmental programs for students at the high school level. The Harris Center naturalist-in-residence program now works with 28 schools throughout the region, reaching more than 2,000 students annually, but most of those students are in the elementary or middle schools. Wilson said he’d like to focus on re-establishing links with high schools, describing such programs as “our insurance policy, our link to the future.”

During the meeting, Harris Center Board Chair Ted Leach announced the creation of the Laurie Bryan Partnership Award in recognition of the efforts of Bryan, the Harris Center’s former executive director who stepped down this year, to form partnerships with organizations, groups and individuals to further the Harris Center mission. The first partnership award went to Eastern Mountain Sports, which Leach recognized as “a company that truly understands the synergy of our missions.”

Meade Cadot, the center’s land program director, announced that four parcels along Bailey Brook and its tributaries in Nelson were added this year to the supersanctuary of protected land in the Monadnock region. More than 500 acres on either side of a mile of Old Stoddard Road in Nelson are now protected, resulting in a north-south corridor for bears and other wildlife running from the road over Osgood Mountain and down to Spoonwood Pond.

Cadot also announced that the land on Scott-Mitchell Road near the Peterborough Recycling Center, where the Peterborough Community Garden is located, has been protected through a conservation easement given by landowners Carl and Francie Von Mertens.

The Harris Center also recognized Andrea Dube and Gail Woolridge, third-grade teachers at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Keene, as winners of the center’s Educator of the Year award.

“If I were a third-grader, I’d choose either one as my teacher, and they’d be the one I’d always remember,” Harris Center Teacher/Naturalist Polly Pattison said about Dube and Woolridge.

In a review of the Harris Center’s budget numbers, Treasurer Paul Faber noted that income from contributions during the last fiscal year was up 9 percent and grant funding up 11 percent from the previous year. Faber said the grant funding hike was especially gratifying; in 2009 the Harris Center got $11,000 in grants but in 2011 the amount was $108,955.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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