NH Conservation Community Hails LCHIP Budget Agreement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Jack Savage, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, (603) 224-9945 x330
Jennifer Goodman, NH Preservation Alliance, (603) 224-2281
Eric Aldrich, The Nature Conservancy, (603) 224-5853 x26
Rick Minard, NH Audubon, 603-224-9909, x314
Kim Gilman, Trust for Public Land, 617-367-6200 x526

NH Conservation Community Hails LCHIP Budget Agreement

Concord, NH, June 21, 2007—The state’s land conservation and historic preservation community praised legislative leaders today for their hard work, dedication and judicious compromise in creating a dedicated funding source for the popular Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to fund LCHIP at $12 million dollars as part of their final agreement on the state’s biennial budget. Restoring LCHIP funding to $12 million--a level not seen since 2001--and establishing a predictable long-term funding source for the program were top goals for the state’s conservation community this legislative session.

“This is critically important step forward for New Hampshire,” said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “Our economy and quality of life depend on our natural resources, and LCHIP is one of the important tools we use to protect those resources. We congratulate the legislature not only for their personal support and efforts on behalf of LCHIP, but also for responding to citizens across the state who have made it clear that they strongly favor the conservation and preservation goals of this program.”

Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, said, “The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is extremely pleased with this commitment by legislative leaders. LCHIP offers hope to communities to save irreplaceable landmarks and brings new uses to vacant or under-utilized building. This important investment will not only protect or revitalize individual properties, but also contribute substantially to the character of our communities and economic vitality of our state.”

"With so much conservation needed in New Hampshire, it's heartening to see LCHIP finally getting a meaningful level of funding that many communities and organizations can use to help safeguard our state's irreplaceable natural capital," said Daryl Burtnett, state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. "We are gratified that the House and Senate put a lot of energy and thought into finding a fair and long-term funding source for LCHIP. They know that it's time for the state to do its share for conservation, augmenting the hard work and dollars raised by citizens, communities and federal agencies."

Rick Minard, president of New Hampshire Audubon, said, "The effort to fund LCHIP succeeded because protecting the environment and the historic character of our communities is a deeply held, widely shared value in New Hampshire. NH Audubon is grateful to the legislators who worked so hard to find the money for LCHIP. This is an investment in our future.”

Whitney Hatch, regional director of The Trust for Public Land, said, “We thank the legislature for this historic action to sustain conservation across the state. Without LCHIP, it is all too likely that cherished landscapes would be lost to development pressures. By insuring the state’s investment in LCHIP through a dedicated funding source, the legislature has said they’re committed to preserving New Hampshire’s most special places for future generations.”

“We extend special thanks to Senate President Sylvia Larsen and House Speaker Terie Norelli, who shared a common goal of finding a long-term solution to funding LCHIP,” said Will Abbott, vice president for policy and land management at the Forest Society. “Both worked tirelessly to bridge the differences between the Senate and House positions. Tremendous credit also goes to the budget committee of conference chairs Representative Marjorie Smith and Senator Lou D’Allesandro, and all the committee of conference members. We also want to recognize the original sponsors of this year’s LCHIP funding legislation, Senators Harold Janeway and Martha Fuller Clark, and Representatives Judith Spang, Steve Shurtleff, Liz Hager, Randy Foose, and Neal Kurk. It took the work of these and many other committed people to reach this goal,” Abbott said.

Under the House-Senate agreement, LCHIP will receive $6 million from the state’s general fund in the first year of the biennium, which begins July 1. In the second year of the budget, the program is funded through a dedicated $25 fee on documents recorded at the ten county deed registries. The county registers will begin collecting the fee on July 1, 2008. The recording fee will expire after 10 years, unless the legislature extends it. A legislative study committee will meet this summer (comprised of three senators and three house members) to determine whether another alternative dedicated funding source exists to the fee before collection begins in 2008.

Since its creation in 2000, LCHIP has depended on appropriations from the state’s general fund. In its first full budget cycle beginning in 2001, LCHIP received $6 million per year. Over the past two biennial budgets, however, the program received just $750,000 a year. The bipartisan commission that recommended the creation of LCHIP in 1999 proposed funding the program at $12 million per year from a dedicated funding source.