How to make an Impact on NH Legislation
The New Hampshire Legislature is one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. As a conservation commission it is important to know who your local legislator is. At NHACC, we work in the legislature and on state committees to ensure conservation commissions are represented. NHACC follows some, but not all, legislation involving environmental issues. You can be sure that when conservation commission law (RSA 36-A) is mentioned in legislation we will be lobbying on your behalf.
There are numerous ways that conservation commissions and individuals can get involved in the process. It is important to stay informed and connected. NHACC sends out legislative updates each month to help our members track current legislation. Elected officials need to hear from constituents to learn more about issues and concerns. Conservation commissions can meet with their local legislators once a year or invite them to a commission meeting to discuss your interests and concerns. As individuals or as a commission, you can write letters to your state legislators. If you are writing or providing testimony as a commission, make sure you have discussed the issue in a commission meeting and voted to respond as a commission. Document in the meeting minutes the approved response and who will be designated to speak, or write on behalf of the commission.
A primer on understanding the NH legislative process can be found by clicking here.
Find your representatives by going to the General Court's Website.
Address Planning and Development with Zoning and local regulations
Many conservation commission members are concerned about how their community is planning for growth. Planning for and regulating land use is principally a municipal responsibility in New Hampshire, and conservation commissions are often involved when the objective is protection of natural resources. Local ordinances may give additional responsibilities to a conservation commission, but these must be consistent with state statute, and they must be advisory roles, not regulatory responsibilities.
Zoning Ordinances are a powerful tool to manage future development, and thereby resource protection, within a community. A planning board is responsible for preparing, and holding hearings on, proposals to adopt or revise the zoning ordinance.
RSA 36-A:2 allows a commission to “recommend to the city council or “selectmen… the protection, development or better utilization of all such areas.” Conservation commissions can draft a proposed ordinance for planning board consideration or they can comment and make recommendations on draft zoning proposals from the planning board.
It's wise to review your municipal ordinances in order to know the process your community uses to review development proposals. In some communities, local ordinances call for the conservation commission's review and comment as a required part of the site review process. Conservation commissions are sometimes asked to comment on development plans when requested by the planning board.