Landscapes 08

John Wellington Barto, Sr.

March 1, 1930 ~ February 2, 2020 (age 89)


PITTSFIELD- John Wellington Barto, Sr., of South Pittsfield, New Hampshire, died on Sunday, February 2, 2020 of complications from heart failure. He was 89 years old. His wife, two daughters, and son were all at his bedside at the Concord Hospice House.

John Barto practiced law in Concord for 60 years, retiring at age 85. Born in Washington, DC, on March 1, 1930, John graduated from St. Albans School in 1948. He went on to Dartmouth College, where he was a recipient of the Rufus Choate Scholar award and achieved Phi Beta Kappa his junior year. He graduated magna cum laude in 1952. He then attended Yale Law School, was a member of the prestigious Yale Law Review, and completed his LLB degree in 1955. Later that same year, he began practicing law at Orr & Reno in Concord, New Hampshire.

In 1978, John opened his own law firm. His work involved trials in both the State and Federal District Courts, as well as appeals before the State Supreme Court and U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. Eventually, he spent the majority of his time in land and resource conservation transactions and other real estate-related issues, as well as estate planning, probate practice, and some municipal issues.

During his career, John was involved with a great variety of local organizations, including Concord Hospital, on whose board he sat for approximately 35 years, and on which he held various roles, including Vice Chair. Additionally, he served as President and Campaign Co-Chair for the Concord United Fund, was President of the Concord Ski Club, as well as serving as patrol and instructor, was a member of Concord’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, and was President of Concord Regional Development Corp. for several years.

In Pittsfield, where he settled in 1960, John’s service included a myriad of committees and boards: seven years on the School Board, nearly 20 on the Planning Board (many of those as Chair), the Conservation Commission, the Housing Standards Agency, the Natural Resources Committee, the Pittsfield Firehouse Building Committee, and the Town Budget Committee. In recognition of John’s extensive service to the community, in 2009, the Rotary Club of Pittsfield presented him with the Paul Harris Fellow Award.

One of John’s greatest passions was land and wildlife conservation. For fifty years, he was a member, Trustee, Legal Counsel, and eventually, Chair of the Board of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the State’s oldest, largest, and most influential conservation organization. He was also a longstanding member of the Society’s Land Protection Committee, designing creative solutions to many of the organization’s more complex protection efforts. He and a few other early conservationists drafted and refined the conservation easements which form the basis of those the Forest Society and other groups utilize to this day.

John also created the first written guide to land conservation options for New Hampshire landowners. This appears in the written proceedings of a statewide conference sponsored by the Forest Society in 1974, when he delivered a paper entitled “Land Protection Devices.” In conjunction with this, the previous year, John became a founding member of the board of directors of the Statewide Program of Action to Conserve our Environment (SPACE). This nonprofit coalition of landowners and conservation groups has successfully defended the Current Use Assessment Program over the ensuing 47 years, enabling landowners to retain their undeveloped land with reduced property taxation.

In 1986, he was an incorporator and a Trustee of the Trust for New Hampshire Lands, a nonprofit organization created by the Forest Society to complete land conservation projects funded by the State. The group helped to acquire or protect through conservation over 100,000 acres during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The following year, he joined the Board of the Trust’s State partner, the Land Conservation Investment Program (LCIP), where he crafted template conservation easement language and helped establish procedures for operating the program.

John’s conservation efforts extended beyond New Hampshire. In 1983, the Forest Society was asked how it might help protect approximately 23,000 acres of working forest land and unspoiled ponds, rivers, and bogs in Attean, Maine, an area not yet served by a land trust.  Under John’s guidance, the “Forest Society of Maine” came into being as a subsidiary corporation of New Hampshire’s parent group. It proceeded to acquire what was then the largest conservation easement created in either state. A decade later, that Forest Society became its own independent organization and has gone on to protect hundreds of thousands of acres across Maine.

John was an avid fly-fisherman, and spent many hours of enjoyment on rivers in the Northeast as well as in other parts of the world. In 1970, he became a member of the Miramichi Anglers Association of New Brunswick, Canada, and subsequently became the organization’s longtime President. He was also active in the Dartmouth College and Yale Law School alumni associations.

John Barto leaves his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Nancy McInnis, their three children, Susan Emery of Larchmont, NY, Sarah Vespermann of Concord, NH, and John, Jr. of Cheshire, CT, and eight grandchildren: Katherine and Gibson Emery, Ian and Leslie Vespermann, and Mary, Ellen, Julia, and Caroline Barto.

A reception to honor John’s life will be held at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests on June 6, 2020. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Attn: Susanne Kibler-Hacker, 54 Portsmouth Street, Concord, NH 03301 or the Concord Hospital Trust, 250 Pleasant St. Concord, NH 03301.  Assisting the family with arrangements is the Still Oaks Funeral & Memorial Home in Epsom.  To share a memory or offer a condolence, please visit

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