33 Towns to Consider Nearly $8 Million for Land Conservation in 2007
Jack Savage, VP for Communications & Outreach
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
(603) 224-9945, ext. 330;
CONCORD, N.H.—According to a survey conducted by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, voters in 33 communities across the state will be considering funding measures totaling $7.9 million for land protection during the 2007 Town Meeting season.
“The number of towns addressing growth issues by appropriating funds for land protection has been remarkably consistent over the last five years,” observed Chris Wells, director of policy for the Forest Society. “Typically, those articles stand a very good chance of passing—on average, voters approved the measures over 80 percent of the time.”
In 2006, there were also 33 towns with conservation appropriation articles on their warrants—30 of those passed. In 2005, 29 of 35 towns approved conservation appropriations. In 2004, 23 of 32 towns approved, and in 2003, 28 of 34 towns approved conservation appropriations.
This year’s town meeting conservation efforts include bonds for specific land protection projects in towns such as Gilford ($990,000 to purchase an easement on the Bean property), Boscawen ($750,000 to help purchase the Grace Creasar Estate), Kensington ($1.163 million to acquire an easement on the Kimball farm) and Grantham ($451,000 to purchase parkland on Howe Hill Rd.)
Other towns are raising money to go to their conservation funds for potential projects. In addition to the 33 towns considering bonds or appropriations for land conservation, 14 towns will vote on increasing the amount of Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) that will be used for conservation purposes. Seven towns are considering proposals to decrease or cap the amount of LUCT funds going to their conservation funds.
“Towns in the southern tier of the state continue to be the most active in land conservation,” said Jack Savage, vice president of communications for the Forest Society. “Almost half of the towns with land conservation articles are in two counties—Rockingham and Hillsborough—and those articles represent half the money, or $4.14 million.
“A town like Sugar Hill in Grafton County, where voters are considering a $1 million bond for three specific land conservation projects, is doing well to think ahead,” said Savage. “Too often towns respond late to growth, putting the character of the community at risk. The longer a town waits, the more expensive land protection becomes—assuming that the favored conservation lands are even still available.”
Some southern tier towns are still in the process of protecting land using funds appropriated previously. In Brentwood, voters are being asked to re-appropriate the remaining portion of a $2 million bond that was approved several years ago—$740,000 has been put to use to date. In Lee, a town that has used land conservation as a tool to protect its agricultural character and history, the warrant includes four separate land conservation articles authorizing the expenditure of $332,000 from existing funds for specific projects totaling $2.8 million.
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 $129.3 million for land conservation.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests 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.