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February 2, 2010
Conservation Plan for
The Nature Conservancy, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Rockingham Planning Commission, and the Strafford Planning Commission, have completed work on the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds. The project, undertaken in a partnership among the four agencies, was funded through the New Hampshire Coastal Program, the New Hampshire Estuaries Project, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The plan will be released in September.
The plan identifies 75 Conservation Focus Areas within the coastal watersheds as the most important lands to retain for conserving living resources and water quality. The plan also sets out regional strategies including voluntary measures and regulatory tools to protect these areas in order to maintain diverse wildlife habitat, abundant wetlands, clean water, productive and contiguous forest blocks, and outstanding recreational opportunities. The analysis involved geospatial data and complex GIS modeling of the coastal watersheds to identify a network of important areas for conservation.
The highest priority areas for conservation are based on consideration of the following resources: 1) large, unfragmented forest blocks; 2) intact floodplains and riparian zones; 3) high quality stream networks and small watersheds; 4) irreplaceable coastal and estuarine features; 5) significant fish and wildlife habitats; 6) critical habitat supporting rare species and exemplary natural communities; and 7) important connectivity zones. In the course of developing the plan, the partners sought input from a variety of stakeholders, including citizens, natural resource experts, planners, developers, and land trusts. Six outreach meetings were conducted to solicit public input.
The Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds is unique in that it offers a systematic, science-based approach to identify critical conservation areas and strategies essential to maintain the ecological function and ecological services provided by our natural resources at the very large scale of New Hampshire’s entire collection of coastal watersheds. By offering a coastal watershed-scale plan, communities, land trusts, and agencies will be better able to understand how local and regional conservation activities can add up to a functional network of conservation land and waters. The plan is intended to augment and complement existing local and regional plans, and contains an appendix listing all known conservation plans that exist in the coastal watershed region. The plan includes a full report, maps of Focus Areas and natural resources, and a strategies section featuring a model Conservation Overlay District Ordinance based on the findings of the plan. Another round of outreach meetings to present the final plan will be scheduled for the fall. In addition, the two planning commissions will seek 2-3 communities each to work with this year in implementing conservation overlay districts or other implementation strategies.
For more information contact jlabranche or csinnott.
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