The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Edward MacDowell Lake in Peterborough, New Hampshire has been working with state and local partners since September 2013 on a turtle nesting habitat project that will greatly benefit turtles and upland species. With the help and expertise of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Wildlife Division and a collaboration of biologists, foresters and soil scientists, a Wildlife Habitat Prescription Plan was developed for this project. Local partners such as the Monadnock Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club, Cub Scout Pack 8, Boy Scout Troop 308 and Venture Crew 308 will all be helping to execute the final stages of the project which involves preparing the site for plantings and securing the nesting area.
The project involves reclaiming an existing 3.5 acres of gravel pit in order to enhance critical turtle nesting habitat. The primary goal of the project is to provide a suitable nesting area at the gravel pit, thereby increasing turtle nesting rates and decreasing turtle mortality. The habitat prescription plan, developed by the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, targets a variety of turtle species, including three species of turtles that are currently listed as Species of Concern in the state of New Hampshire.
Edward MacDowell Lake currently supports nesting turtles at the gravel pit, located adjacent to the lake and a wetland area, and is the primary area for nest sites at the park, as identified by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory in 2000. Over time, natural succession of trees and shrubs and their associated cover has reduced the overall size of suitable nesting habitat. The project would open the canopy to help the sun heat the area for turtle egg incubation. All New Hampshire freshwater turtle species require an open canopy with well-drained soils and sparse vegetation consisting of native sedges, grasses and less than 2-5 percent low growing shrub cover for nesting.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Wildlife Division’s habitat prescription plan will also benefit upland wildlife species such as smooth green snakes, grouse, turkey and a number of songbirds.
This project will be the first for turtle nesting habitat under the Handshake Partnership Program since the program’s inception in 2004. The application for this Handshake Partnership Project went before a national committee and was awarded on Nov. 19, 2014.
By Aug. 3, 2015, the Challenge Partnership Agreement for Edward MacDowell Lake’s Turtle Habitat Restoration Project was officially signed by New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s Executive Director, Glenn Normandeau, Monadnock Trail Breaker’s President, Chris Raymond, Cub Scouts of America, Pack 8 Cubmaster, Jeffrey King, Boy Scouts of America Troop 308 Scoutmaster Michael Miller, and Venture Crew Adviser, Arianne Miller. Through a memorandum of delegation from Col. Christopher Barron, New England District Commander, Operations Chief, Frank Fedele provided the final signature.
The projected increase in turtle populations as a result of this project will provide the general public with more opportunities for wildlife observation and photography at Edward MacDowell Lake and naturalist led interpretive programs to demonstrate habitat enhancements.
Much thanks for their support and involvement to our local partners; Jeff King and Cub Scouts Pack 8, the Miller family, Boy Scouts and Venture Crew from Troop 308 and the members of Monadnock Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club, the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s Wildlife Division (Jim Oehler, Denyce Gagne, Mike Marchand, Brian Lemire, and Wendy Ward from NRCS), USACE Operations Division; Kimberly Russell, Natalie McCormack, Rob Shanks, Jen Rockett, Marty Curran, Joshua Levesque and Matt Cummings.