Why Have a Conservation Commission?

New Hampshire is known for its beautiful landscape; mountains, meadows, lakes, rivers and streams. This diverse landscape, with abundant natural resources, supports working farms and forests, outdoor recreation, and the local economy. Working to protect our state’s natural resources benefits all and requires advocates on the local level to be successful.

A municipal conservation commission may be established by a New Hampshire municipality "for the proper utilization and protection of the natural resources and for the protection of watershed resources of said city or town." (New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter RSA 36-A). A commission is the only local board specifically charged to protect the natural resources of the municipality. 

The commission may advise the planning board and other local bodies on conservation matters. It may act more directly to protect natural resources by acquiring, with the approval of the selectmen or city council, conservation land or conservation easements or water resources.

The commission may manage these conservation areas. If authorized by the municipal legislative body, it may manage duly designated town forests (RSA 31:110, RSA 31:111, RSA 31:112, RSA 31:113).  Towns must manage land for multiple uses including recreation, timber, drinking water source protection, and wildlife habitat. Increased recreational use can often be in conflict with other resources like water quality and wildlife habitat. Commissions must carefully balance multiples uses to ensure these resources will be accessible in the future.

Conservation commissions face increasing pressure and more complex challenges. Emerging contaminants threaten our drinking water and lakes and streams. Climate change is impacting our native species and threatens our biodiversity. The NH Wildlife Action Plan has identified 169 native Species of Greatest Conservation Need that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered. Development impacts are putting pressure on wildlife habitats and other natural resources. Conservation commissions can help restore habitat and protect critical habitats in their community.


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