Conservation News and Events

3/28/22 Make Every Day an Earth Day

Make Every Day an Earth Day

Michael  Cohen is a former member of the Amherst NH Conservation Commission.  The views in this 3-part article are his own and do not represent the views of the Amherst Conservation Commission.

In celebration of the 52nd year of Earth Day, the beginning of the “environmental movement” in the US, this three-part article is to help NH citizens better understand the importance of biodiversity, protecting our state’s biodiversity through individual, organizational and/or local and state government actions to protect the biodiversity of our critical habitats which are being impacted by the effects of a rapidly changing climate.  It’s about taking steps this Earth Day and making a difference Every Day for the benefit of our environment.  

Part Three: Individual and Collective Actions to Preserve Biodiversity and Address Climate Change

In this 3rd part of a three-part article, I will try to identify actions that you may take individually or collectively not only on April 22, 2022 but for every day thereafter, to support Earth Day goals to preserve our special places and their biodiversity by also addressing the issues before us by a rapidly changing climate.

 Just to recap. All the diverse habitats that we have protected are critical to assuring biodiversity. Biodiversity, is defined as…. the rich variety of living things that, woven together, support and sustain life on Earth. This “fabric of life” encompasses humans and animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms; the variations in individual traits within each species; and the diverse ecosystems they create.” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), 2022. Biodiversity at Risk: Today’s Choices Matter. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.  

According to the NASEM report cited above “…wild creatures, plants, and ecosystems are integral to [our] well-being, health, nutrition and way of life….we cannot separate ourselves from the ecosystems which we have evolved.” The benefits of biodiversity are many: Biodiversity enriches our lives and makes us feel good and appreciate the beauty around us and the town/state we live in; biodiversity makes the world around us livable and it supports life-sustaining processes for clean air, water, and land; biodiversity is tied to our economic health providing food, forest products and livelihoods and; biodiversity protects our physical and mental health.

We know that biodiversity is at risk as noted in part two of this article.  Overuse of natural resources, rapid development, and a warming planet is negatively impacting our natural world and its biodiversity. However, we have opportunities to make a difference, this Earth Day and Every Day.

Here are a few things you, personally, can invest in:

  • Consider protecting any natural water source or wetland on your property. Your water source serves as a habitat for all kinds of wildlife, insects and pollinators. Vernal pools are important to protect, especially for amphibians; the soil around the water source filters contaminants from stormwater runoff;
  • Try to avoid single-use plastics or use a recyclable alternative; avoid plastic straws, plastic bags, takeout utensils, takeout containers;
  • Practice Carry-in-Carry out; a clean-up program for our woods and forests; remove trash from littering our woods, trail head parking lots and waterways;
  • Install a programmable thermostat in your house to regulate your heating and cooling when you are not home;
  • Test windows and doors for drafts to see if they need new weather-stripping;
  • Improve your car’s fuel efficiency by going the speed limit. For example, your efficiency improves about 15% by driving at 55 miles per hour rather than 65 miles per hour;
  • Remember the 5 Rs-for bettering our environment.  According to the 5 R's principle, four actions should be taken, if possible, prior to 'recycling': refuse (if possible, to buy non-recyclable products), reduce (use the minimal number of products), reuse (choose products that can be used more than once), repurpose (be creative, can a product be used for something else), and then recycle (bring the product to the dump). 
  • Build a Pollinator Garden: From bees to bats and butterflies to beetles, pollinators play a pivotal role in our ecosystem. Bees are among our most important pollinators, with bee populations providing nearly one-third of our food supply and allowing wild plants to produce the foods that form the base of the natural food web.
  • Be aware of indirect sources of pollution which threaten our water supply and try to find alternatives; for example, construction site erosion, faulty septic systems, leaking automotive fluids, and residential fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Try Backyard Composting; Food waste is one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change.  Hundreds of millions of tons of food are thrown away each year. Composting can be one solution to the growing problem of food waste. Composting is easy to do, it helps reduce your food waste, has less impact on our transfer station (dump), it does NOT smell and it is inexpensive to set up.   The results of composting are also good for your flower and vegetable gardens.
  • Create a bird friendly yard by planting native bushes, trees and shrubs that can serve as a source of food, protection and nesting places. You also might put up a birdfeeder, however, you will have to be careful to take it in during bear season.

Your individual work to conserve biodiversity is a great starting place.  And, by joining with others, your voice can be amplified and perhaps make a greater difference. For example:

  • Join with others to promote climate and environmental literacy and facilitate community conversations around vulnerabilities due to climate change;
  • If additional bond proposals are put forward, work to support their passage;
  • Participate in any Town Planning processes (eg. Master Plan) open to the public, especially those opportunities that provide opportunity for you to support biodiversity and fight climate change;
  • Help identify common-sense action steps to address vulnerabilities and build resilience to climate change in our town;
  • Collaborate and coordinate programs with other town entities and organizations, (i.e. Earth Day events; recycling and reducing waste [including food waste], especially use of non-recyclable plastic; energy alternatives, including solar panels; clean-up programs, school environmental education programs, recreation and pedestrian walkway programs;
  • Engage with others in volunteer activities (trail monitoring and trail and nature stewards, open space and farmland protection, forest management) to collect data, and address changes due to climate and to promote pedestrian recreation activities, both in and across open space and the built environments. 
  • Advocate and collaborate with others interested community members to have town leaders consider policy change and new ordinances for addressing both current and future changes in climate conditions. Recommendations might include:
    • sources of renewable energy and/or other low-emitting resources, including buildings, (i.e. solar, street and structural lighting),
    • managing waste to reduce greenhouse gasses, (i.e. reduce and reuse materials);     
    • shifting to utilization of low-emission vehicles to help stabilize and reduce the impact of greenhouse gasses and offer electric vehicle charging stations in town,     
    • join low emissions energy programs,
    • investigate and consider waste management alternatives
    • promote energy and lighting alternatives,
    • build bike paths and improved walkability within our town.

 Taking personal and collaborative action to protect and preserve biodiversity is beneficial to the future of our town, our state and our country, as well as our world.  Remember in one way or another we are all part of the world’s biodiversity and therefore all connected. On this Earth Day, your journey to “invest in our planet” can begin, or, for some, it can continue. In the words of a Chinese Proverb, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.  You can take your first important step toward protecting biodiversity through actions aimed at avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Other sources that can help you learn about biodiversity, natural habitats, climate change and take action and advocate include:

“We are located on N’dakinna, which is the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook, and Wabanaki Peoples, past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land and waterways and the alnobak (people) who have stewarded N’dakinna throughout the generations.” 

  • The above land recognition statement is created by the Indigenous NH Collaborative Collective in consultation with local Tribal leaders and Indigenous peoples elsewhere. This statement is dynamic and may change depending on the changing goals of the Collective. At this time, we fight the invisibility of Indigenous peoples in the state of NH and call on you to join us in adopting this statement or creating your own that reflects local Indigenous peoples’, past and present, lasting connection to and stewardship of the land and waterways in what we now refer to as the state of New Hampshire. Further, since we aim to participate in lifting up local Indigenous cultural heritage, we adopt some Abenaki (a dialect of the Algonquian language family) terms in the statement.

Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective ----

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2/18/22 Legislative Update

Legislative Update February 2022

At NHACC, we work to make sure your voice is heard in Concord. We have a board legislative committee to review bills and make recommendations on upcoming legislation. We coordinate with partners working on similar issues. We testify in the legislature to ensure conservation commissions are represented. We are tracking several proposed bills that would affect natural resources in NH. Please review the links to the bill listed below and let me know if you have any questions or comments on these proposed bills. 

Right-to-Know Laws

Several bills have been proposed that would allow meeting to be held virtually and not require an in-person quorum. All four of the bills listed below have been sent to the Judiciary Committee. Several of these bills have similar language so it is likely that these bills may be combined into one proposal. NHACC supports the option to hold meeting virtually and will continue to watch the process of these proposals. NHACC has sent letters in support of all of the bills listed below and attended the SB public hearings virtually. The Senate bills all had broad public support with people speaking in favor of the bills at the public hearing.

SB322 relative to remote meetings under the right-to-know law. This bill was referred to interim study. It has a chance of being combined with SB344.

SB344 relative to the quorum requirements under the right to know law for public meetings. This bill has also been referred to interim study.

HB1014 Allowing public meetings to be conducted virtually. This bill addresses what many advocacy organizations have been asking for since the 2020 emergency orders expired.   HB 1014 would allow both interactive online participation by the public, it would also allow legislators to be able to participate and vote remotely.   NHACC supports this bill because it allows greater participation by the public. HB1014 was voted Inexpedient to Legislate 11-10 in the House Judiciary Committee.

Restrictions on lobbying

HB1033 This bill prohibits the recipient of a grant or appropriation of county, municipal, school district, or village district funds from using such funds to engage in lobbying activities. NHACC is opposed to this bill and sent a letter to the House Legislative Administration Committee. It is not in the best interest of NH to tell organizations like the NHACC that they cannot advocate for or against proposed legislation that impacts their member organizations. NHACC can help legislators make more informed decisions. Often, we are asked to provide information regarding conservation commission procedures or activities that enhance the understanding of the committee so that they can make a more informed decision. 

Cyanobacteria Study Committee

HB1066 This bill establishes a commission to investigate and analyze the environmental and human and animal health impacts relating to cyanobacteria blooms in New Hampshire water bodies. NHACC supports this bill and signed on to a joint letter of support written by NH Lakes. This bill has broad support and we hope it will pass the house. It is currently still in executive session. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters of support to their legislators to help us back this bill.

Shoreland Permits

HB1418 This bill requires the department of environmental services to adopt rules relative to Internet access to permits. This bill was voted inexpedient to legislate by the Resources, Recreation and Development Committee.

Definition of Prime Wetlands

HB1227 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.  Existing state highway rights-of-way will be excluded. A prime wetland is designated and voted on at the municipal level and designated by NH Dept. of Environmental Services.  NHACC supported this bill (HB158) last year but it was vetoed by the Governor. We support this bill and sent a letter of support to the RR&D committee to encourage them to vote ‘ought to pass’.

Upland Invasive Species Program

SB267-FN-A establishing the upland invasive species program, program fund, and program coordinator in the department of agriculture, markets, and food.

NHACC provided testimony in support of this bill at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It establishes a program that would track the spread of invasive species and notify towns of infestations. Early detection is one of the best ways to control invasive species and having the state track species is a critical role for this new program. This bill was voted Ought to Pass with Amendment # 2022-0082 by the house. The amendment includes: d) Maintain an active integrated vegetation management program that includes a combination of mechanical, cultural, biological, and chemical controls for the purpose of preventing and inhibiting the spread of invasive species

Waste disposal and Recycling

NHACC is following several bills that focus on reducing waste and increasing recycling. NHACC supports local municipalities' rights to manage and reduce waste. NHACC signed in support of the bills listed below.

HB1119 This bill allows towns to regulate the use of paper and plastic bags.

HB1122 This bill authorizes municipalities to collect and resell construction and demolition debris.

HB1461-FN This bill establishes penalties for littering on any right-of-way. The Transportation Committee voted Ought to Pass with Amendment on this bill.

HB1406 This bill allows municipalities to collect compost at transfer stations or have a contract with a solid waste disposal facility to collect compostable materials.


HB1308 This bill prohibits the taking, keeping, or propagation in captivity of snowshoe hares or wild rabbits for the purpose of dog training. The Fish and Game and Marine Resources voted Inexpedient to Legislate on this bill.

Legislation from the last session

HB307 relative to the state preemption of the regulation of firearms and ammunition is a big concern for NHACC. HB 307 would not allow a municipality to prohibit shooting on town properties. This bill has already been passed by both the house and senate with amendments. NHACC has written a letter to the Governor’s office and the Speaker of the House, Representative Packard and Senate President, Senator Morse asking them to oppose this bill.  

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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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Every dollar invested in conservation yields $11 of economic benefit in NH

The Trust for Public Land released their much-anticipated report on NH's Return on Investment in Land Conservation. This study provides a fantastic resource for conservation commissions looking to promote and support land conservation efforts in their towns.

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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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