Town Meeting Voters Approve $23 Million for Conservation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2005
Chris Wells or Dijit Taylor, 603-224-9945
26 communities support spending to protect important lands and resources
Responding to increasing development pressures that are changing New Hampshire’s landscape and quality of life, voters in 26 communities approved more than $22.7 million for land conservation during the 2005 town meeting season.
Over the past five years, communities across New Hampshire have now supported more than $125 million to protect the important open spaces that help define their character. Land protection experts credit a good deal of the spike in conservation support to the state’s matching grant program – the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) – which was launched in 2001.
“Local support for conservation really took off after LCHIP was launched,” said Chris Wells, policy director for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “We’re constantly hearing from communities that are inspired in part by the prospect of matching funds to help their local conservation dollars stretch further.”
This year, more than 100 cities and towns requested $39 million from LCHIP, covering 202 projects. Gov. John Lynch’s proposed budget would set aside $10 million for LCHIP over the next two years. Funding for the program was cut 90 percent in the current budget, approved two years ago.
“Towns and cities across the state have seen how recent LCHIP projects have strengthened their local economies and protected a high quality of life,” said Rachel Rouillard, LCHIP’s executive director.
Not surprisingly, some of the state’s fastest-growing communities were among those that raised at least $50,000 for conservation at their town meetings. Amherst led the state, with a $5.5 million bond. But North Country communities also responded to development pressures, including Errol, where voters approved a $2.2 million measure to protect the Thirteen-Mile Woods.
For the past four decades, New Hampshire’s population has grown faster than any other state in the Northeast. And from 1990 to 2004, it grew 17.2 percent – double the average for the rest of New England. Between 2000 and 2025, state planning experts expect the population to grow by 358,000 people, or more than 28 percent.
“People all across the state see the challenges that come with rapid growth, and they’re responding by increasing local efforts to protect their most valuable lands,” said Dijit Taylor, director of the Forest Society’s Center for Land Conservation Assistance. The center helps communities and individuals design and carry out successful local conservation projects.
CLCA worked closely with local activists to build support for conservation during town meeting season. 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 spaces, by conserving important recreation lands, drinking water supplies, working forests, farmlands and wildlife habitat.
Founded in 1901, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is a 10,000-member, nonprofit organization that has helped protect more than one million acres. Visit www.forestsociety.org for more information, or call (603) 224-9945.
|Communities approving at least $50,000 in conservation spending|