Conservation News and Events

2/12/20 Legislative Update January 2020

Bills to Watch

At NHACC, we work in the legislature and on state committees to ensure conservation commissions are represented. We are keeping an eye on proposed legislation and tracking proposed bills that would affect conservation commissions or natural resources in NH. Please review the links to the general court website and let me know if you have any concerns or comments on these proposed bills.

Bills that NHACC Supports in 2020

SB 491 – Shoreland water quality NHACC supports this bill and provided testimony at committee hearing at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This bill will increase the natural woodland buffer standard from 25% to 50% on lots larger than one-half acre. This increase will safeguard our public waters and ensure they are sufficiently protected against polluted runoff, while still allowing property owners to easily enjoy shorefront homes, views, and investments, and clean and healthy lakes. This bill was recently amended with language that makes the buffer area hard to calculate.  We will continue to watch this bill and support all efforts to ensure NH rivers and lakes are clean.

HB 1124 – This bill seeks to expand what wetlands would qualify for consideration as a “prime wetland,” to include narrow portions with 4 or more primary wetland functions. A prime wetland is designated and voted on at the municipal level and designated by NH Dept. of Environmental Services. This bill is now in the House Resources, Recreation & Development Committee. NHACC supported this bill last year but it was vetoed by the Governor.  We provided written testimony in support of the expanded definition again this year.
 
HB1571 Relative to the qualifications for the members of the fish and game commission.  Currently, New Hampshire statutes (RSA 206:2) only allows “sporting clubs” to nominate NH Fish and Game Commissioners and requires each nominee to be “an active outdoorsman holding a resident fishing, hunting, or trapping license in at least 5 of the 10 years preceding the appointment”. HB 1571 removes these requirements and will allow other relevant NH organizations to nominate commissioners. Expanding representation will ensure that Fish and Game’s governing body, the Commission, has broader expertise to address the critical issues that face our state regarding wildlife protection, land conservation, and resource management.  NHACC signed on in support of this bill.

Bills to Watch

HB 1562 Relative to soil health and soil conservation. This bill is in the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. The purpose of this bill is to preserve and improve soil fertility and soil health through soil conservation plans. It proposes amendments to RSA 432:3 to include the language “and soil health; to promote mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.” The bill also redefines soil health practices for Conservation Districts. This bill was referred to the Environment and Agriculture Committee. The next public hearing is Feb. 18th in the Legislative Office Building.

HB 1664-FN Establishing a climate Action Plan and an office of the environmental advocate and an oversight commission on environmental services. The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted Ought to Pass with amendment.

LCHIP--Two LCHIP bills have been proposed this session.

SB617 An additional charge of $25, or at the discretion of the party liable for payment of the additional charge, $35, to study the economic impact of land conservation on housing prices, whose purpose shall be to develop a strategy balancing the need for responsible housing with the need for responsible land conservation and to review the land and community heritage investment program (LCHIP) surcharge. This bill was voted inexpedient to legislate.

SB493 increases fee from $25 to $35 with study committee whose purpose shall be to develop a strategy for balancing the need for responsible housing with the need for responsible land conservation.  It is in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18th at 9 am in the State House room 102.

OHRV

HB1316 proposes to open up additional trails to OHRVs in the Nash Stream State Forest as well in Coleman State Park.  Legislation known as "Ride the Wilds" in committee.  This bill was recently amended to allow ATVS on Hoit Rd Marsh in Concord NH.

Land Use

HB 1692, which would establish a certification process for mushroom foragers seeking to sell foraged mushrooms commercially and includes landowner notification. This bill is supported by SPNHF and TOA and Farm Bureau. The House Environment and Agriculture Committee has amended HB1692 establishing a license for mushroom harvesters.

SB478 repealing the housing appeals board and establishing a commission to advance affordable housing in New Hampshire.  NHACC is listed as a member of the study committee so we are watching this closely. This is in the Senate Committee Election Law and Municipal Affairs. 

Another bill to repeal the housing board is SB 735 . This bill repeals the housing appeals board. Several towns in the Seacoast area support this bill.

What you can do:

  • Stay informed, NHACC will continue to send out updates.
  • Write letters to House Committees or testify at hearings.
  • Be able to act quickly, call your legislators with concerns.
  • Meet with your legislators once a year or better yet, invite them to a conservation commission meeting.
  • Letters do not follow the legislative process so you will need to continue to provide your comments and concerns to both House and Senate and subsequent committees.

For more information on State Legislation, go to the General Court website and search for proposed bills.

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2/13/20 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

Join NH Fish & Game for Trails for People & Wildlife 

  • March 4, Lancaster
  • March 19, Center Harbor
  • March 24, Greenland
  • March 25, New London
  • April 7, Milford

Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and horseback riding are just some of the ways we get outside to enjoy nature and relax. However, even these seemingly low-key activities can have a negative impact on wildlife. A new mapping tool and guide called Trails for People and Wildlife aims to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature while allowing wildlife to thrive. It was funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and produced by the NH Fish and Game Department and Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Dates and location can be found here.

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2/13/20 NHACC Annual Meeting and Conference

Please Join Us for the NHACC

Annual Meeting and Conference

Saturday, November 7, 2020

from 8 am to 3:30 pm 

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: DES Wetlands Rules and CC's Role in Permit Process; Using GIS to Create Maps, Nature Economy:  Recognizing the Value of Natural Assets  & many, many more! Don’t miss this educational networking opportunity to learn from both peers and professionals. 

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NHACC Welcomes New Executive Director

The NHACC Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of Barbara Richter as its new Executive Director.  Barbara will lead the organization, and provide assistance and direct support to NHACC members. Prior to NHACC, Barbara worked at W.S. Badger Company where she was responsible for regulatory compliance.

"The support NHACC provides to NH conservation commissions is critical to successful natural resource protection in the state. The strength of the conservation movement in NH comes from the unity of its many amazing citizen groups, government agencies and non-profit organizations," said Barbara. "I look forward to providing valuable technical support to NH cities and towns and advising their conservation commissions."

Barbara's background uniquely qualifies her to assume the role as the NHACC Executive Director. Her extensive experience in land conservation includes working at the Forest Society’s Center for Land Conservation Assistance where she supported local and regional land trusts with their land protection initiatives. Barbara also worked at the Monadnock Conservancy in the role of both Stewardship Coordinator and Membership Coordinator. She has first-hand experience with conservation commissions as a previous chair of the Surry Conservation Commission and a member of the City of Keene Conservation Commission. She understands the required duties of conservation commissions and is familiar with the challenges faced by both small towns and cities.

Barbara received her master’s degree in environmental studies from Antioch New England University and her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Syracuse University. She lives in Keene with her husband and two children.

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Governor Hassan Vetoed SB 324!

We've just received word from Governor Hassan's office. She's vetoed SB 324, and we couldn't be happier!

062116 SB 324 Veto Message.doc

 

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New Hampshire's 217th Conservation Commission

Monadnock from Roxbury. Photo by Amy BodwellAt the March 1965 Town Meetings, 18 towns established conservation commissions, including Bedford, Center Harbor, Durham, Epsom, Exeter, Francestown, Gilford, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hollis, Hooksett, Littleton, Meredith, New London, Rindge, Rye, Salem and Sunapee. 50 years later we are still adding towns to the statewide list! Say hello to Roxbury, our state's newest conservation commission! With a population just a little over 200 residents, Roxbury is one of NH's smallest communities, but is certainly not without a passion for conservation! I asked Amy Bodwell, one of the organizing members, a few questions about how they got started:

How did the idea to form a conservation commission come about?
I served on a Conservation Commission in Brookfield, IL for 10 years and loved it. I was disappointed Roxbury did not have one after moving here. But I ended up as head of the Planning Board and didn’t think about it again until Tom Duston [NHACC Board Member & Chesterfield Conservation Commission] approached me to see if we were interested. We are starting to collect wildlife information as Roxbury is under reported at the state level so we were already engaged in that activity.

Dam and old mill site. Photo by Amy BodwellWhat do you think you might do first?
We have not met officially but the group of us talked about building a working relationship with the Keene Conservation Commission. Keene owns about 2700 acres of land in the middle of Roxbury for their watershed. We also talked about marking the town boundaries. We would like to do a natural resource inventory and that also means a good relationship with Keene. We hope to get better acquainted with easements as all the land in Roxbury is privately held other than the Keene land and we want to encourage people to consider those or be available if someone needs information. The town does not own any land except around town hall.

Why is conservation important for Roxbury?
The town is tiny and everyone wants to keep the rural characteristic here. Many of the folks I know here are into conservation. Whether a conservation commission is critical like it is in many towns, I’m not sure, but it feels good to be starting one. 

Photo credit: Amy Bodwell

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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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