Town Meeting Voters Pass $8.4 Million for Land Conservation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jack Savage, VP for Communications & Outreach
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
(603) 224-9945, ext. 330;
TOWN MEETING VOTERS PASS $8.4 MILLION FOR LAND CONSERVATION IN 2006
87 percent of Conservation Spending Measures Pass in New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H., March 20, 2006–Voters in 20 New Hampshire towns voted to spend a collective $8.4 million on land conservation at last week's Town Meetings, according to statistics compiled by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the state's oldest and largest land conservation organization. Of the towns voting on appropriations of $50,000 or more, 87 percent passed the measures.
In some towns, support for the land conservation measures was nearly unanimous. In Nottingham, a proposed $850,000 bond for the purchase of a conservation easement on the 2,036-acre Mulligan Forest passed by an overwhelming margin, 277-12.
"That's 96 percent in favor," said Chris Wells, Director of Policy for the Forest Society. "As far as we know, that's a new record for a Land Conservation bond of that size."
Mulligan Forest is the largest unprotected contiguous forest in southeast New Hampshire, and the conservation easement will permanently protect it from future development and guarantee public access for passive recreation.
In Hebron, 92 percent of the voters were in favor of a $1.5 million bond to acquire 450 acres as a Town Forest.
Other towns passing land conservation appropriations included $1 million in both Fremont and Londonderry for general open space bonds, a total of $867,000 in Lee to conserve various properties, $700,000 in Weare for a 600-acre parcel, and $500,000 in Wakefield for open space.
"Citizens are clearly interested in keeping their communities' rural character and small-town feel," said Wells. "Land conservation is one way to achieve that goal."
Measures in the southern tier towns of Hollis ($3 million) and Brookline ($500,000) gained a majority of the vote, but failed to reach the required threshold to pass a bond. A measure in Mont Vernon was defeated as well.
"With so little available in potential matching funds from the state's LCHIP program, overall land conservation spending is down from last year," said Wells. In 2005, towns appropriated $24.1 million for land conservation. The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, which provides seed money for conservation and historical preservation projects, was cut to $750,000 (down from $6 million) annually in the current biennial state budget.
House Bill 1167, a bill to restore $5 million to LCHIP from the state budget surplus, will face a vote in the House on Wednesday, March 22.
"Perhaps the state legislature will recognize how much a modest investment from the state can leverage local spending, including private donations," Wells said. LCHIP received 288 initial requests totaling $59 million earlier this year.
Click here for a list of successful town meeting conservation initiatives.
Click here for a list of proposed conservation initiatives.
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.