Second College Grant, Dartmouth College, Coos County, New Hampshire

About the Second College Grant

In 1807 the state of New Hampshire deeded 27,000 acres (about 46 square miles) of wilderness woodland to Dartmouth College. The Second College Grant is in Coos County in northern New Hampshire about 100 miles north of the Dartmouth campus.

Northern hardwood forest covers most of the tract, which includes sloping terrain, mountains, and two river drainages, the Swift Diamond and the Dead Diamond. Along both waterways lie flat areas grown up with stands of alder, an important tree and shrub type for woodcock. Today, Dartmouth College manages the Second Grant for recreation, commercial logging, and research and education, and to improve and diversify wildlife habitats. The area supports deer, moose, black bear, otters, fishers, martens, and a variety of birds, including songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, ospreys, ruffed grouse, and woodcock. The tract has an extensive road system, gated to keep out unauthorized vehicles.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Today, much of the Second Grant is covered with mature second- and third-growth forest. Every three to four years, workers mow a total of 78 acres of road margins, old log landings, and old fields to keep them from reverting to woods; male woodcock use these areas when singing and displaying to females during the spring breeding season.


After it is cut back, overmature alder (as pictured here) will grow back more densely, offering better habitat for woodcock and a range of other birds and mammals.

In the 1990s Dartmouth foresters began a specific effort to create more young forest. To benefit woodcock, they cut more than 12 acres of alder along streams and rivers, yielding a dense regrowth that has developed into feeding and brood-rearing habitat. More cutting is planned for the future.

Through commercial logging and the use of brontosaurus equipment, foresters have increased the number of acres of woodcock roosting habitat to 44. Here, blueberry and meadowsweet are mowed regularly, and when possible, small patches of bare earth are exposed to provide the roosting conditions that woodcock like.

Aspen is a rare tree species on the Second Grant, amounting to only 1 to 2 percent of the forest. To expand existing aspen stands, foresters make patch cuts in areas with at least some aspen, a technique that spurs the underground root systems of the trees to send up copious sprouts, creating the dense young woodland needed by woodcock, grouse, and other wildlife species. So far, about 8 acres have been cut.

About half of the habitat improvement work has taken place in the Swift Diamond watershed and about half in the Dead Diamond watershed.


In 1998 Dartmouth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and WMI personnel began capturing woodcock, fitting them with transmitters, and following them through the use of radiotellemetry. This initial work sought to identify the kinds of habitat woodcock were using on the Second College Grant. It turned out that the birds relied heavily on alder areas along streams and rivers, and individual birds would fly as far as 4 miles to spend the night in prime roosting cover.

In the mid-1990s, springtime singing-ground surveys found fewer than 25 male woodcock on the entire Second Grant. Following the first phase of work to expand singing grounds and create additional woodcock habitat, observers located more than 50 singing males in 2008.

Dartmouth and WMI personnel will continue to use radiotellemetry to learn how woodcock use the different sites and habitat types as logged-over alder and aspen areas grow back and as more young forest is created.

Funding and Partners

Dartmouth College (including the Second College Grant Wildlife Habitat Fund), Natural Resources Conservation Service, 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

The Second Grant lies north of New Hampshire Route 16 in northern New Hampshire, just west of the border with Maine. Dartmouth alumni and employees can obtain keys to the locked gates and drive on the Second Grant’s road system. Those lacking a Dartmouth connection are welcome to walk, snowshoe, ski, or bicycle on roads in the Second Grant. However, much of the woodcock habitat improvement work lies several miles or farther beyond the gated entry points. To set up a tour of habitat improvement sites, contact the Dartmouth College Woodland Office, P.O. Box 213, Milan, NH 03588, phone 603-449-2049.