The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program was enacted by the state legislature with broad bi-partisan support in 2000 for the purpose of providing competitive grants for land conservation and historic preservation projects that permanently protect iconic landscapes and historic structures in the Granite State. The purpose of making these investments is to strengthen the social and natural resource fabric of local communities and to enhance the local and regional economies in the State that depend on tourism.
The original goal was to provide $12 million a year in state funds through LCHIP to leverage at least as much in non-state funds to make these conservation projects possible. Since 2000 LCHIP has made 240 grants to projects in 141 New Hampshire communities totaling $27 million. These grants have protected over 260,000 acres of land and conserved 142 historic structures. The LCHIP grants have leveraged nearly $8 of non-state funding for every dollar awarded. The largest LCHIP grant helped to permanently conserve one private ownership of 146,100 acres of working forest land in the towns of Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown, at the State’s northern tip.
Between 2000 and 2008 general funding for LCHIP was very erratic, and far below the initial goal of $12 million a year. As a consequence, the legislature established a dedicated fund for LCHIP in 2008, creating a $25 recording fee on deeds, mortgages and plans at the State’s 10 county registries of deeds. The fee was projected to raise about $6 million a year and was specifically dedicated to the LCHIP fund. Once again, state budget pressures led to legislative diversions of this dedicated fund (from 2009 to 2012) to non-LCHIP purposes. In June 2013 the Governor and Legislature adopted a comprehensive state budget that left the LCHIP dedicated fund in place, without any raid or diversion. The fund raised $4.1 million for the year ending June 2014, and is projected to raise $4.3 million in the year ending June 2015.
The Forest Society strongly supports LCHIP, its program goals and its dedicated fund. To conserve the most attractive and vulnerable landscapes and structures, LCHIP funding needs to be consistent and predictable. Landowners and building owners make long term decisions to conserve their assets; projects take months and--in some cases--years to develop. Erratic funding from the State sends exactly the wrong message to the community of land and building owners LCHIP is designed to engage and to the variety of partners involved in developing individual projects. For these reasons, SPNHF continues to strongly advocate for consistency and predictability in the State’s contribution to land and historic structure conservation. We strongly oppose any new raids on the dedicated LCHIP fund.
On September 26, 2019, Governor Sununu signed into law House Bill 3, the operating budget for the State of New Hampshire for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. HB 3 provides $3.5 million in both years for the program. This strong backing by the Legislature the Governor is the result of the advocacy from the broad network of LCHIP supporters across New Hampshire. Thank you all.
Looking ahead, we will have to continue to be prepared to address any challenges LCHIP may face. For the Forest Society, ensuring the program has the financial resources it needs to fulfill its mission will be a top priority. While the veto of Senate Bill 74 during the 2019 Legislative session was very disappointing, since it would have provided an additional $1.5 million a year for the program, the funding levels for 2020 and 2021 will keep LCHIP stable.
LCHIP Enabling Legislation: RSA 227-M