Questions for the Candidates
Have you heard any of the candidates for elected office this year discussing the importance of land conservation? I haven’t either. So far, the campaign debates have centered on issues like the opioid crisis, whether or not to extend commuter rail into New Hampshire and the State’s expanded Medicaid program. Obviously, these are all priority concerns. However, the lack of discussion about a subject that hits at the core reason why our state is so special has been disappointing.
To be fair, it also may reflect a lack of understanding among the general population about why conservation matters. Those of us who care strongly about conservation should not assume that others, especially policy makers, recognize what we see every day. With that in mind, and given the media attention that follows the candidates, now is the time to press them to make natural resource protection a priority. So let’s resolve between now and Election Day to ask the candidates looking for our vote where they stand on important issues.
Questions for candidates for Governor, State Senate and State Representative:
- Will you support increasing funds to protect our drinking water? Water is the most important natural resource in New Hampshire. After all, every form of life needs it to survive. As pointed out in the 2012 report from the New Hampshire Water Sustainability Commission, clean water is a limited resource. New Hampshire does have several existing water protection grant programs on the books. For example, the N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services has a Water Supply Land Protection Grant Program (WSLPGP), which gives municipalities and non- profit water suppliers the opportunity to obtain grants for the purchase of land or conservation easements within a source water protection area or wellhead protection area. However, this program has not received any state appropriation since 2008. The limited funding current available is part of the mitigation efforts for the I-93 expansion and is only available to those areas affected by the I-93 widening project or areas in the Lake Massabesic watershed. Investing public funds in this program is protecting future drinking water supply and quality.
- Will you support full funding of dedicated fund for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program? And, will you oppose any effort to raid this dedicated fund for purposes other than provided for in the law that established it (NH RSA 227-M)?
- Will you support funding the Agricultural Land Protection Program created in 1990 to enable the State to buy the development rights on farmland in order to preserve the land for agricultural uses? Unfortunately, it has not received a state appropriation since 1990.
Questions for candidates for President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives:
- Will you vote to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at the authorized level of $900 million a year?
- Will you vote to permanently authorize the LWCF so that we will not see a repeat of what happened in 2015 when authorization for it temporarily lapsed?
- Will you vote in support of efforts to substantially increase funding for the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP)? FLP supports state efforts to protect privately owned working forest lands by awarding grants on a competitive basis to purchase conservation easements from willing sellers. This is important since 57 percent of all forested land in the United States is privately owned. FLP support has helped protect almost 250,000 acres in our state over the last 25 years. However, it has been chronically underfunded, which means many highly rated Forest Legacy projects do not get funded each year. By fully funding the LWCF (which is the source of funds for the FLP program), it would be possible to significantly step up investments in FLP beyond the current $60 million per year.
We also encourage you to ask candidates where they stand on Northern Pass.
Here is the key point we need to remind our elected officials: We cannot separate ourselves from the air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground on which we walk. The surrounding environment affects both the health of residents and the health of the overall quality of life here. So, when a candidate asks for your vote, ask him or her to support federal and state efforts to permanently protect land that helps sustain and protect New Hampshire’s quality of life.