FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jack Savage, VP for Communications & Outreach
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
(603) 224-9945, ext. 330;
TOWN MEETING VOTERS TO CONSIDER $12.8 MILLION FOR LAND CONSERVATION IN 2006
Land protection measures are on warrants in 32 communities
CONCORD, N.H., March 8, 2006–Concerned about rapid growth that's changing the landscape of their communities, voters in 32 New Hampshire communities will consider funding measures totaling $12.8 million for land protection during the 2006 town meeting season.
This year's town meeting conservation efforts range from bonds for specific land protection projects in towns such as Weare ($700,000 to help conserve 600 acres) and Nottingham ($850,000 toward an easement on the 2,036-acre Mulligan Forest) to general open space bonds in southern tier towns such as Hollis ($3 million), Londonderry ($1 million) and Fremont ($1 million). In addition to the 32 towns considering bonds or appropriations for land conservation, 14 towns will vote on setting aside Land Use Change Taxes for conservation purposes.
In Hebron voters will be asked to approve a $1.5 million bond to acquire 450 acres-including a mile of frontage on the Cockermouth River and access to Spectacle Pond—to be set aside as a Town Forest. The Forest Society is soliciting pledges from private donors to purchase a conservation easement to permanently protect the Town Forest should the measure pass.
In Nottingham, voters will be asked to approve an $850,000 bond to help fund the purchase of a conservation easement on 2,036 acres known as Mulligan Forest. Owned by siblings Jim and Rick Fernald and Deb Fernald Stevens, the property includes well-managed working forest, six miles of frontage along the Bean and North Rivers, rich wildlife habitat and five miles of woods roads and trails. The conservation easement would permanently protect the land from development, preserve its water resources, and guarantee public pedestrian access. The land would continue to be privately-owned and managed, and pay property and timber taxes. The Forest Society would hold and monitor the easement, ensuring the land's permanent protection.
In Lee, a town that has used land conservation as a tool to protect its agricultural character and history, the warrant includes seven separate land conservation articles totaling appropriations of $867,000-primarily from existing funds.
Each year the Forest Society, the state's largest land conservation organization, surveys all 234 New Hampshire towns to collect land conservation appropriation data. Since 2001, New Hampshire communities have approved more than $121.3 million for land conservation. Municipal conservation appropriations seemed to peak in 2003, corresponding with funding levels for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), a state program whose funding has been severely limited more recently.
"It's interesting to note that the pattern of total municipal appropriations for land conservation follows closely the pattern of LCHIP funding," observed Chris Wells, Director of Policy for the Forest Society. "It seems to support the original idea behind LCHIP—that a modest state commitment to conservation leverages far greater public and private investment in the protection of working forests, critical watersheds, and important wildlife habitat."
Click here for a complete list of town meeting conservation initiatives.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (www.forestsociety.org) is the state's oldest and largest non-profit land conservation organization. In order to preserve the quality of life New Hampshire residents know today, the goal of the Forest Society, in partnership with other conservation organizations, private landowners, and government, is to conserve an additional one million acres of the state's most significant natural lands for trails, parks, farms and forests by 2026.