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March 7, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Jim Graham, Chris Wells or Dijit Taylor, 224-9945

TOWN MEETING VOTERS TO CONSIDER $26.6 MILLION FOR CONSERVATION
Land protection measures are on warrants in 56 communities

Concerned about rapid growth that’s changing the state’s landscape and challenging its quality of life, voters in 56 New Hampshire communities will consider proposals totaling $26.6 million for land protection during the 2005 town meeting season.

In the last four years, communities across New Hampshire have approved more than $100 million for conservation – encouraged by the prospect of matching grants from the state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). Although LCHIP support was cut nearly 90 percent in the current state budget, conservation leaders are hopeful that the Legislature will restore funding in the budget it passes this session.

“Local spending for conservation really took off with the introduction of LCHIP in 2000,” said Chris Wells, policy director for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “Restoring LCHIP funding this year is critical if communities are to continue protecting their most critical conservation lands.”

This year’s town meeting conservation efforts range from a $5.5 million bond in Amherst to changes in town bylaws that would direct all “land use change taxes” toward local conservation. In all, there are 18 bonds for $24.7 million; 19 general fund appropriations for $1.8 million and 14 land use change tax allocation increases for conservation.

“Communities across New Hampshire are stepping forward because of the growth pressures in their regions and, to some extent, because other towns around them are also increasing efforts to conserve land,” said Dijit Taylor, director of the Forest Society’s Center for Land Conservation Assistance (CLCA). “There’s a certain amount of momentum to them all.”

Most communities voting on conservation this year are located in the fast-growing southern half of New Hampshire. The state’s population grew 17.2 percent from 1990 to 2004 – twice as fast as the rest of New England. From 2000 to 2025, the state’s population is expected to grow by 358,000 new residents; and about 85 percent of them will likely live in Rockingham, Hillsboro, Strafford and Merrimack counties.

CLCA has been instrumental in helping communities draft and carry out their local conservation measures. The effort is part of the Forest Society’s New Hampshire Everlasting campaign, launched to celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary in 2001.  One of the campaign’s goals is to encourage every community to protect at least 25 percent of its open space, by conserving important forests, farmlands, water supplies, recreation lands and wildlife habitat.

Call 603-224-9945 for a complete list of town meeting conservation initiatives.

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