Freedom Town Forest, Carroll County, New Hampshire

About Freedom Town Forest

In the early 2000s, this 2,661-acre tract in east-central New Hampshire was slated to become a luxury vacation home development. When the developer ran into financial trouble, the Town of Freedom bought the property using public and private funds. Today the land is protected under an easement that permits forest and wildlife management, and recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and winter sports.

Freedom Town Forest is in the Ossipee Pine Barrens, a rare natural community where pitch pine, scrub oak, and other plants grow in soil that is sandy, gravelly, and frequently acidic. Other tree species include beech, maples, birches, aspen, red oak, white oak, and white pine. The tract supports moose, deer, bear, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, and many other birds, including nighthawks, whippoorwills, Eastern towhees, and other species that favor young forest growing on dry sites. In Freedom Town Forest, woodcock feed in areas of deeper soil, such as mixed hardwood stands near active beaver flowages, and find roosting cover in areas where vegetation is sparse.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Stands of gray birch and other hardwoods provide feeding habitat for woodcock on Freedom Town Forest

Stands of gray birch and other hardwoods provide feeding habitat for woodcock on Freedom Town Forest.

Freedom Town Forest is organized into three forest management compartments; the goal is to keep one of the three compartments in at least 20 to 25 percent young forest in the future.

Recently, WMI biologists worked with B.H. Keith Associates, a forestry and environmental studies consulting firm that manages the property, to designate five existing log landings as woodcock singing grounds. Workers used a tracked vehicle with a brontosaurus cutting head to expand the landings, which were limed, fertilized, seeded, and mulched to transform them into permanent wildlife openings.

Up to five new log landings will be created in the next several years.

B.H. Keith managed a series of commercial clearcuts in aspen areas, yielding pulpwood, sawlogs, and wood chips that were sent to a local biomass electricity-generating plant.

Logging operations created nine patch cuts of 3 to 5 acres apiece. Woodcock use the young forest regrowing on cuts at lower elevations, where the soil is damp enough to provide invertebrate food; grouse, deer, and turkeys use the higher, drier sites.

Woodcock roost in sparse vegetation near an abandoned airstrip on Freedom Town Forest

Woodcock roost in sparse vegetation near an abandoned airstrip on the demonstration area.

Woodcock can roost on a 6,500-foot-long abandoned gravel-and-sand airstrip that the developer cut into the forest. On the airstrip, lowbush blueberry and other shrubs create a mosaic of patchy cover where woodcock can spend the night protected from both aerial and land predators. Future management activities, including brontosaurus work, will help to maintain this important roosting habitat.

Cold Brook adjoins the airstrip area. On both sides of the brook, soils are deeper, moister, and more productive of earthworms, an important food for woodcock. Managers will use logging to create more young forest here to provide nesting and feeding habitat for woodcock. The Cold Brook drainage has many acres of aspen and gray birch that are reaching maturity and can be harvested commercially.

Other Factors

As well as helping woodcock, creating young forest on Freedom Town Forest provides habitat for Eastern towhees, common nighthawks, whippoorwills, mourning and chestnut-sided warblers, and numerous other wild species. In the future, managers may use prescribed burns to regenerate the ecologically important pitch pine and scrub oak stands, which, in the absence of fire, might be succeeded and replaced by hardwoods. Controlled burns can also regenerate young forest that includes other tree species.

Funding and Partners

Town of Freedom, Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Hampshire Fish and Game, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

Freedom Town Forest is west of Freedom, N.H., and east of Ossipee Lake. Visitors can hike, bicycle, snowshoe, or ski on an extensive trail system. Three kiosks and parking areas lie on the southern and eastern sides of the property; visitors can pick up free brochures, including trail maps, at the kiosks. From the westernmost kiosk/parking area, on the north side of Ossipee Lake Road, visitors can easily follow the Old Pequawket Trail to the abandoned airstrip and the Cold Brook drainage.

For more information, or to arrange a tour of the area, contact Barry H. Keith, B.H. Keith Associates, P.O. Box 326, Freedom NH 03836, phone 603-539-8343, email