The New Hampshire Legislature recently wrapped up its busy 2023 session. Here is a recap of the priority issues and bills this session for the Forest Society.
- The State budget and the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP): LCHIP is the key state grant program to assist with the protection and conservation of our state’s most important natural, cultural and historic resources. Even though its grant funds come from a $25 surcharge at each county Registry of Deeds, and therefore it receives no funds from the New Hampshire General Budget Fund, LCHIP is included in the state budget as a separate line item. For the budget years of 2024 and 2025, LCHIP is authorized to expend up to $5m in funds generated from the surcharge.
- Solid waste landfill siting: The Forest Society supported House Bill 56, which proposed would establish a formula for determining the distance for which a new landfill shall be located from a perennial river, lake, or coastal water. Although the House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 224-155, the New Hampshire Senate voted it Inexpedient to Legislate. However, the Legislature did pass Senate Bill 61, which also addresses state policy governing setbacks of newly sited landfills from surface water bodies. The main difference between the bills is that SB 61 would direct the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) to develop new rules regarding setback standards. The bill gives DES 24 months to develop these new rules. In contrast, HB 56 would have set in statute the new setback standard.
- New Hampshire Agricultural Land Preservation Program (ALP): The NH ALP was established in the early 1980s to give the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (DAMF) the ability to conserve important farmland throughout the state. That goal remains important; the American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat 2020 report noted that between 2001 and 2016 nearly 12,000 of agricultural land was converted into another use. To address this problem, the Legislature approved House Bill 221. The bill updates the program so that it will be compatible with other funding sources, such as the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. For the land trust community, it means they will be able to hold easements on projects that have used the NH ALP. The Forest Society supported HB 221.
- Tree stands and game cameras: The Legislature considered two bills that dealt with the use of game cameras and tree stands on private property. Senate Bill 14 would require a person to get landowner permission before placing a game camera on another’s property and would require the owner of the camera to label the camera with their name and contact information. The Legislature later amended HB 221- the Agricultural Land Preservation Program bill- to include the language from SB 14. Senate Bill 15 amends current state law to clarify that a person shall get permission from a property owner before constructing a permanent tree stand or observation blind. The bill also requires that all tree stands or observation blinds shall be labeled with the name and contact information of the owner of the tree stand or observation blind. The Forest Society supported both bills and submitted written testimony on SB 15.
HB 221, HB 61 and SB 15 will receive a final vote during the Legislature’s session on June 28.
- NH Site Evaluation Committee (SEC): The Legislature considered House Bill 609 that proposed to make major changes to the SEC. The Forest Society opposed this bill. After hearing hours of testimony against the bill, the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee decided to retain HB 609. It will likely resume its discussions on the bill later this year. We will continue to engage on the bill at that time and will update readers on its status.