Executive Summary


The Town of Hanover has an opportunity to maintain a healthy and diverse natural environment within the town boundaries, into the indefinite future. This opportunity is unusual, even in New England, where the rate of loss and deterioration of biological diversity is slower than in many other regions of the nation and the world. The unusual potential in Hanover is due to a fortunate combination of:

  • the Town's rich natural endowment
  • the current, generally healthy status of its natural resources and biodiversity and
  • the commitment of the citizens of the Town to sustaining the high quality of its natural environment

Project Goals

The goal of this project was to provide a preliminary report on the status of the rare plant populations and natural communities of the town of Hanover. The purpose of the report is fourfold:

  • to serve as a starting point for the accumulation of a more detailed inventory of habitats and biodiversity
  • to collect information on species and communities
  • to provide information useful for conservation planning and
  • to enhance knowledge and appreciation of Hanover's rich natural endowment

Scope & Methods

This report documents field and existing map information for not only the Town of Hanover, but also for neighboring towns in order to place Hanover in context within the immediate region.

We integrated data from existing maps (paper and digital) and published land-use and demographic data to generate descriptions of broad (landscape-scale) features for the 15 largest identifiable "blocks" in the town, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis. Local expertise, map analysis, and aerial photos helped us to identify examples of sites with potential for high conservation value. We visited these 18 sites in the summer of 1999, and conducted fieldwork at a total of 63 observation points within them; at those points, we documented natural community types and occurrences of rare plants. We used standard, up-to-date methods and classifications that allow direct comparison with statewide surveys of natural communities and biodiversity. We hope that our report will provide an organizing framework and a starting point for the development of more complete documentation. Detailed information on rare species and exemplary natural communities is already available for some locations, and future surveys will yield more.


Most local variation in species composition and habitat cannot be documented in the landscape-scale mapping. More detailed information was obtained at the local observation points (OPs). However, it is important to emphasize that while the observation points identified in this report may be well-chosen examples of rich or unusual sites, they are far from an exhaustive list, which could be obtained only by a comprehensive ground survey of town lands. Rare plant species that flower at times other than our survey dates (e.g. in spring) were likely missed in our survey. In fact, there has not been a comprehensive search of the state for rare species or natural communities. The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory (NHNHI), the state agency responsible for tracking such information, is frequently finding or learning about previously unknown populations (NHNHI 1999).

We restricted our surveys at each observation point to a broad description of natural community types (generally based on dominant forest species) and observations of rare plant species that could be identified at the time we visited each site. We do not include information on vertebrates (mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles), insects, mollusks or other invertebrate animals, nor on mushrooms or other fungi. Finally, we did not sample any aquatic habitats (rivers, streams and lakes), or the diverse habitats near the Connecticut River.


Field Visits

During the 1999 field season, we conducted fieldwork at 18 distinct sites and collected ecological information, using New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory (NHNHI) methodology, at 63 sampling sites ("observation points" or OPs). Our goal was to sample conservation lands (lands under some form of protection), as well as "unprotected" private lands; we sampled 29 observation points on conservation land and 44 OPs outside conservation lands.

Rare Plants & Natural Communities

The NHNHI database currently has eight entries for rare plant species or exemplary natural communities recorded in Hanover since 1979. Natural communities are defined by three attributes:

  • definite plant species composition
  • a consistent physical structure (grassland, forest, shrubland, etc.)
  • a specific set of physical conditions (nutrients, water regime, climate, etc.)

An "exemplary" natural community is one deemed to be of significantly high quality and particularly representative of its type (NHNHI 1997).

Forty-four additional records are currently considered "state historical," meaning their presence has not been noted in Hanover in the last 20 years; these records date from between 1876 and 1965. We confirmed the presence of four rare plant populations, and three exemplary natural communities. We did not find any previously unrecorded rare plants or exemplary natural communities during our 1999 field work.

Hanover Overview

There is already an abundance of statistical information about Hanover's natural features. The following information was collected from the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory, New Hampshire's Office of State Planning, U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, and various GIS data layer maps from University of New Hampshire's Complex Systems Research Center.

Hanover has:

  • Rare plants and exemplary natural communities
    • 8 Rarities recorded since 1979; a total of 52 records since 1876
  • High-elevation mountain tops and ridgelines and river valleys
    • Moose Mountain rises to above 2,300 feet (700 meters)
    • The Connecticut River flows approximately 390 feet (120 meters) above sea level
  • Clean rivers, streams, lakes, bogs, swamps, and other wetlands
    • Mink, Coleman, Camp, Slade, and Pete's Brooks flow into the Connecticut River
    • Scales, Lovejoy, Pressey, Straw and Marshall Brooks flow south and east into Canaan
    • Countless streamside floodplains, marshes, shrub swamps accompany these brooks
    • The forested peatland at "Bottomless Pit" is famous statewide as a study area for wetland ecologists
  • Large tracts of unbroken "matrix" forest
    • Moose Mountain and lands east of Three Mile Road have been identified as part of a Nature Conservancy high-priority forest block for the Lower New England Ecoregion
    • Lands surrounding Hanover Waterworks, Lord's Hill, Velvet Rocks, and Scales Brook lie within forest blocks between 1,000 and 2,500 acres in size
  • High-quality wetlands and wildlife habitat
    • Mink, Pressey, Scales, and Lovejoy Brooks all have significant, high quality wetlands that provide habitat for waterfowl, moose, bear, mink, otter, and other important wildlife
    • Agricultural and timber resources
    • Lands east of Moose Mountain, Huntington Hill, and other large forested areas provide opportunities for long-term, sustainable forestry
    • High-quality agricultural land occurs along the Connecticut River
    • Central Hanover is dotted with farm-fields, pastures, and wood-lots
  • Abundant recreational opportunities in natural settings
    • The Appalachian Trail bisects the town on its way to the White Mountain National Forest
    • Abundant wildlife provides ample hunting opportunities
    • Other town and informal trail networks are plentiful throughout the entire town
  • Sweeping natural and pastoral views
    • Ridgelines and roadsides overlook all compass points; to the Green Mountains in Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire
    • The Connecticut River Valley provides some of the most beautiful pastoral views in New England during all seasons
  • A relatively high percentage of protected land within a 14-town region
    • Nearly 20 percent of Hanover's lands are under some form of conservation protection or current use status, primarily through town and privately protected lands
  • Opportunities to expand protection of natural features
    • Strategies to connect and expand current conservation lands, and to protect new areas that have important natural features, are both feasible in Hanover