Conservation News and Events

6/6/22 Legislative Update

Legislative Update June 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. 

Several of the bills we have been following did not move forward because they were referred for further study, or killed. The list below features bills that have made it through both House and Senate.

Right-to-Know Laws

Both the Senate and House bills that proposed changes to the right-to-know laws to allow for remote meetings, and/or would have changed the requirement for a quorum, to be in person at a physical location were either killed or they were laid on the table. Conservation commissions must continue to meet in person at a physical location. Meetings may continue to be available to the public with remote access and members may attend remotely as long a quorum will be in person. NHACC supported all of the right-to-know bills that would have made it possible to hold remote meetings.

Guns on Town Land

The good news is that HB307 did not pass through a Committee of Conference, effectively killing the bill. NHACC strongly opposed this bill and sent letters to the Governor, and the House and Senate leaders. This bill would have prevent municipalities from managing their own property in a way that is appropriate for multiple interests of its citizens.  This would have impacted a municipality’s ability to regulate guns in any way, even when public safety is in question. A last minute amendment to the bill removed the word ‘use’ from the bill which would have then allowed municipalities to adopt local ordinances regulating guns use on town lands. This bill, or one like it may be proposed next year so we will be watching to keep our members informed.

Cyanobacteria Study Committee

HB1066 went through several amendments and was retitled; requiring the commissioner of the department of environmental services to prepare a plan relative to cyanobacterial blooms in New Hampshire. This bill requires the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services to prepare a plan relative to cyanobacterial blooms in New Hampshire. This bill passed through Committee of Conference with an amendment to create a Cyanobacteria Plan Advisory Committee. The version of the bill adopted by both houses can be found here.

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 went through several amendments was sent to a Committee of Conference to establish the final adopted version (now 1066) of the bill.

Off-highway recreational vehicles (OHRV)

HB 1109  allows municipalities to limit the use or operation of off-highway recreational vehicles (OHRV) on certain byways. This bill went through a committee of conference to establish a final version of the bill. The law now requires a public hearing and abutter notification and a vote of the legislative body before a municipality can authorize the use of Class IV, Class V and Class VI roads for trails. This bill allows the select board to regulate or close OHRV trails when they cause damage to abutting property or limits access to a road.

HB 1188 establishes a commission to study OHRV use in the state and clarifies certain towing statutes and was amended several time but was finally adopted by both House and Senate in this final version. This bill establishes a commission to study OHRV use in the state and requires the commission to submit annual reports and proposed legislation.  This bill also makes changes to certain statutes related to the removal of abandoned vehicles by the state police.

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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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