Mixed Results for Land Conservation at Town Meeting

March 17, 2010

Mixed Results for Land Conservation at Town Meeting

This year 15 communities throughout New Hampshire voted at the 2010 Town Meetings to appropriate a total of $420,907 in new funding to conserve land in their towns, according to a survey conducted by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. This is an increase over the $268,000 in new funding approved locally in 2009. 

On the other hand, nine articles for conservation funding were rejected by voters this year, so the overall success rate for conservation funding articles dropped to 63% versus 82% in 2009. 

“The mixed results in 2010 aren’t surprising, given the amount of funding approved in past years, and the ongoing financial challenges facing towns and taxpayers,” said Forest Society Policy Director Chris Wells. “Generally, large dollar requests fared poorly this year, while more modest contributions to conservation reserve funds continued to be supported by voters.” 

The two largest articles this year, a $2.5 million bond in Amherst and a $2 million bond in Greenland, both were soundly defeated.  Other significant funding requests in Amherst, Goffstown, Lyman, and Plaistow also failed, although two were only by small margins. One bright spot was the Town of Acworth, where voters approved $113,000 in new funds to acquire land abutting the town forest.

Another good news story this year was the continued public support for using the Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) for conservation. The tax is assessed when land is taken out of current use status to be developed. Municipalities may elect to have some or all of that one-time LUCT tax put into the town’s conservation fund. Ten towns entertained proposals this year to reduce land use change tax revenue going to land conservation. Voters in eight of these communities voted the proposals down, opting to retain conservation funding at current levels. There were also no articles this year seeking to eliminate the use of LUCT for conservation, versus six last year.

Click here to see a chart featuring the highlights.