Conservation News and Events

10/28/17 Please Join Us for the NHACC Annual Meeting and Conference

Saturday, November 4 from 8 am to 3:30 pm
at Pembroke Academy

RegisterNow2017.pngSylvia Bates, featured speaker, Director of Standards and Educational Services, Land Trust Alliance, will present "The Synergy Behind Land Conservation”

The NHACC Annual Meeting and Conference is the only State-wide conference dedicated to municipal conservation commission members.  We offer workshops on the fundamentals of conservation commissions as well as more advanced sessions. Choose ANY 3 SESSIONS from 24 workshops – such as: Trails and Wildlife; Addressing Easement Violations; Actions to Protect Natural Resources in a Changing Climate & many, many more! Don’t miss this educational networking opportunity to learn from both peers and professionals.  Sign up before October 20th to get the early bird rate of $55 for members and $65 for non-members. Register NOW!  

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8/1/17 Legislative Update

Find out what is happening at the State House

NHACC monitored several bills of interest during the 2017 Legislative Session which could have affected local conservation commissions either directly or indirectly.  We categorized the bills by levels of priority, and also some which were/could be of interest to members.  This is the final resolution of bills of concern list. 

Bills that Passed:

Of the “Priority Bills” we followed, five passed and are now law.  Here is a brief explanation of those bills.

The summary refers to the Bill #’s assigned through the 2017 Legislative Session. A link to the final version of the bills are provided by Chapter number.  Finally, the citation of the RSA (Revised Statutes Annotated) which has been either added or amended is provided to show where the law has been changed.  Where cited, existing language is underlined; new language as a result of these bills is shown in bold italics.

Priority Bills that Passed:

HB 163 Relative to the responsibility of a municipality to enforce its ordinances  Chapter 56, Laws of 2017(pertaining to off highway recreational vehicles) was signed by the governor on 6/2/17 and became effective on 8/1/17.  This bill amends RSA 215-A: Off Highway Recreational Vehicles and Trails by inserting a new paragraph (I-a) after existing RSA 215-A:15 Regulations of Political Subdivisions,

Existing paragraph RSA 215-A, I: With bylaws or ordinances city or town councils and boards of selectmen may regulate the operation of OHRVs within city or town limits, providing they do not conflict with provisions of this chapter

New paragraph added: RSA 215-A, I-a.(a) Any municipality that enacts an ordinance or bylaw under paragraph I relating to this chapter shall be responsible for the enforcement of such ordinance or bylaw.

(b)  Any person who is guilty of a violation of an ordinance or bylaw under subparagraph (a) shall be subject to all other provisions of this chapter. 

HB 170 relative to posting notice and minutes of public meetings on the public body’s website Chapter 234, Laws of 2017 was signed on 7/18/17 and becomes effective on 1/1/18.  Conservation Commissions (“public body”) who post notices and minutes of its meetings on a town website will want to read this bill closely to comply.  It’s our understanding that if you do not post notices or minutes to a website, this new law will not affect you.  This law amends existing RSA 91-A (“The Right to Know Law”) by adding new section RSA 91-A:2, II-b:

II-b.(a) If a public body maintains an Internet website or contracts with a third party to maintain an Internet website on its behalf, it shall either post its approved minutes in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website or post and maintain a notice on the website stating where the minutes may be reviewed and copies requested.

(b)  If a public body chooses to post meeting notices on the body's Internet website, it shall do so in a consistent and reasonably accessible location on the website.  If it does not post notices on the website, it shall post and maintain a notice on the website stating where meeting notices are posted. 

HB 246 Relative to timber trespass Chapter 164, Laws of 2017 was signed on 6/28/17 and becomes effective on 1/1/18.  This law adds a new paragraph to RSA 227-G Forestry Policy, Definitions and Administration.  New paragraph 227-G, XII-a:

"Market value" means stumpage value as determined in the same manner as other property values for the purposes of taxation at the time the timber is cut.

It also amends RSA 227-J Timber Harvesting, paragraph RSA 227-J:8-a, II to read as follows:

II.  A person who violates the provisions of paragraph I shall be guilty of a class B felony if the loss, as determined by market value, is greater than $1,000, or a misdemeanor for any other loss.

SB 30 defining woodland buffers relative to such woodland buffers for the purposes of the shoreland protection act Chapter 225, Laws of 2017  became law without the governor’s signature on 7/11/17 with an effective date of 9/9/17.  The law amends paragraphs 4, 5-b, and 9 of RSA 483-B Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act

 The House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee report to the full House provides a brief explanation: “This bill changes the way the total tree and sapling score is calculated. 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.”

SB 116 requiring notice to affected municipalities of energy facility siting  Chapter 115, Laws of 2017 was signed on 6/15/17 and becomes effective on 8/14/17.  This law amends paragraphs 2, 7 and 10 of RSA 162-H: Energy Facility Evaluation, Siting, Construction and Operation. This law ensures that affected municipalities and unincorporated places will receive notice of energy facility siting applications and will have an opportunity to provide comments to the site evaluation committee by their governing body and residents.

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6/17/17 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

Coastal Viewer GIS Training Workshop

Sept. 6th, at 6 pm at Pettee Hall UNH Durham NH

Find out how Coastal Viewer can help your commission with Conservation Planning.

Site Plan Review Workshop

Sept. 17 at 1 pm at Kingston Public Library

Learn more about the tips and tricks to site plan review.

Cheshire County Potluck

Sept 21 at 5:30 pm at Stonewall Farm

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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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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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