Conservation News and Events

6/19/17 Legislative Update

Find out what is happening at the State House

NHACC continues to monitor nine bills that may be of concern to conservation commissions in the state. While the 2017 Legislative Session is winding down, there are still a few bills awaiting action that we continue to monitor. 

SB 30 Final Version  Defining woodland buffers and relative to such woodland buffers for the purposes of the shoreland protection act has passed the House and Senate with amendments. This bill changes the way the total tree and sapling score is calculated. 
 
A brief explanation from the House Committee Resources, Recreation and Development report: At the request of the Department of Environmental Services, this bill clarifies parts of the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act concerning the waterfront buffer (first 50 feet from shore) and the woodland buffer (first 150 feet from shore which includes the waterfront buffer). Reducing the point grid size in the waterfront zone from 50 feet wide to 25 feet and reducing the required points encourages more vegetation and less clear cutting, thus enhancing the filtering benefits of varied types of vegetation. In order to be consistent with the definitional changes made by the bill, the amendment changes “natural woodland buffer” to “woodland buffer” in three places in statute that were overlooked in the bill.
 
HB 170 Final Version Relative to posting notice and minutes of public meetings on the public body’s website, has passed House and Senate with amendments in each body.  The House has concurred with changes made by the Senate; it awaits the governor’s signature.  Its effective date will be January 1, 2018.
 
This bill amends the “Right-to-Know” law (RSA 91-A:2, II-a & b) adding a new paragraph to address consistent and reasonably accessible posting of minutes and public notices of those public bodies that maintain internet websites and choose to post minutes and meeting notices on the internet websites.   
 
This bill affects conservation commissions in this way:  If a conservation commission (public body) maintains an internet website or contracts with a third party to maintain an internet website, the conservation commission “...shall either post its approved minutes in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website or post a notice on the website stating where the minutes may be reviewed and copies requested.  If the conservation commission chooses to post meeting notices on its website, these shall also be in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website; if it chooses not to post meeting notices on the website, it shall post a notice on the website stating where meeting notices are actually posted.  

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6/19/17 Regional Events

Regional Events for Conservation Commissions

NHACC is working with local conservation groups to provide more training and networking opportunities to conservation commissions.  Our goal is to facilitate communication and cooperation among commissions, to share ideas and develop best practices.

Regional Training
Stormwater Management in Your Community, 
Newmarket NH
June 28th from 4 to 5 pm.

Learn how to adopt stormwater management regulations in your community and have an opportunity to ask questions from technical experts in the field.  You must register to participate. Email Steve Miller at steve.miller@wildlife.nh.gov to attend.

Coastal Viewer GIS Training Workshop, Sept. 6th in Durham NH.

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5/17/17 DES Drinking Water Conference

Drinking Water Source Protection Conference

Clean drinking water is vital to public health and the potential for future economic development. Even very small quantities of contaminating substances in lakes, rivers, or aquifers can limit their use as sources of clean drinking water.  Each year, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) convenes a conference concerning how to protect local drinking water resources that is designed for local planners, conservation commissioners, water supply managers, and other local leaders. 

Thursday, May 18, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) will hold its 2017 Drinking Water Source Protection Conference at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH. This is the largest drinking water source protection event in New England! This year’s conference will feature presentations on:

  • ·         PFCs and other emerging contaminants
  • ·         Land conservation and its benefits to drinking water source protection
  • ·         Status of the Drought and efforts to manage its impacts
  • ·         Sessions that discuss the challenges of toxic cyanobacteria for drinking water sources

The conference fee is $60 and includes lunch and refreshments. Qualifies for 5.0 Technical Credit Hours NH Water Works Operator Certification Program.

REGISTER at American Ground Water Trust website: https://agwt.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=239

Registration questions? Contact Win Saltmarsh at AGWT: wsaltmarsh@agwt.org or 603-228-5444Other questions? Contact Amy Hudnor at NHDES: amy.hudnor@des.nh.gov or 603-271-2950.

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2/18/17 Legislative Update
NHACC has been watching several proposed bills this legislative season. We continue work in the legislature and on state committees to ensure that the voice of your town conservation commission is represented; providing strength in unity.

This year, NHACC provided testimony for three proposed bills that would most concern conservation commissions. NHACC supports Senate Bill 97 Relative to funding the NH agricultural lands program the sum of $3,000,000 for each of the fiscal year from the general fund.  The Senate Finance Committee Report for SB 97 recommends Inexpedient to Legislate and it was not included in the Senate Budget.
 
NHACC provided testimony at the House Ways and Means Committee to voice concerns regarding House Bill 359-FN, relative to returning a percentage of the LCHIP fee to the municipality where the real estate transfer from which the fee originates is located. The Ways and Means Committee voted HB 359 Inexpedient to Legislate by a vote 21-0. The 
full House accepted the committee report and voted "Inexpedient to Legislate" on 2/9/17.
 
NHACC also provided written testimony regarding House Bill 486, relative to protection of wetlands.  This bill proposes a state-wide wetland buffer of 100 ft.  We voiced the concerns of our members who would like to make sure existing local wetland ordinances will be grandfathered. 
The Resources, Recreation and Development Committee has set up a subcommittee to further discuss this bill.  No committee report has been issued yet.  

For more info go to Bills of Concern spreadsheet to check the status of each bill listed. 
What you can do:

  • Write letters and testify at hearings (dates on the calendar link on the Bills of Concern spreadsheet)
  • Be able to act quickly
  • Meet with your legislators once a year!
  • Letters do not follow the bill through the legislative process.
    You should continue to provide updates and forward them to subsequent committees.

To contact your State Representative, go to the General Court website and search for your legislator.

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2/15/17 Partners Seek to Inventory Town Conservation Lands

NHACC with partners UNH Cooperative Extension and the Northern Forest Center are seeking to inventory all town-owned conservation lands in New Hampshire. This is a substantial project, and you can help. Cooperative Extension’s county foresters are currently reaching out to town officials and volunteers to help answer some key questions about town-owned conservation lands. Through this inventory, we hope to find out what town-owned land contributes to the economy, ecology, and society of New Hampshire and its towns.

Providing information about town-owned conservation lands doesn’t mean that a town intends to do forest management; town forests and other conservation lands are more than timber. Another part of this project is updating GRANIT’s Conservation/Public Lands layer. We expect to add many tracts that were not previously represented in the layer.

In most cases, the county foresters are speaking with town conservation commissions. If you haven’t heard from your county forester yet, you will soon! We are trying to collect as much information as possible by April 30.

For more information about this project, contact your county forester (find their contact info at www.NHWoods.org), Barbara Richter at barbara@nhacc.org, or Alicia Carlson at alicia.carlson@unh.edu.  

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LUCT and it’s benefit to the Merrimack Community

LUCT is a tax paid to the Town when undeveloped land under a lower tax rate (current use) becomes developed.

In Merrimack, NH, the Merrimack Conservation Commission (MCC) has received 50% of LUCT funds over the course of many years. These moneys have gone into a fund that the commission can access for small or large projects and for land acquisitions through purchase or donation.

 This has proved to be an outstanding tool for achieving our goal. By majority vote, the MCC has approved withdrawals from this account to fund such things as trail bridge projects, the expansion of the Horse Hill Nature Preserve parking lot, ecological surveys and the acquisition of many acres of land to add to our conservation areas (such as the recent expansion of Grater Woods).

The benefit of this arrangement with the Town, without a doubt has allowed the MCC to further its mission to the benefit of the citizens of Merrimack.

Of course, as Merrimack becomes increasingly developed over the years, the amount of land available and susceptible to LUCT has become greatly diminished. This means that the money well is drying up and the MCC will have to look for alternative funding for major future purchases and other maintenance projects on our conserved lands.

 I would encourage other conservation commissions to look into a similar arrangement with their towns. This would provide funds to allow for the continued preservation of land in your community, as the LUCT by its nature comes from land that is lost to development.

The sooner the better!

Mike Boisvert, Merrimack Conservation Committee

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