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LCHIP Celebrates Sweet 16

LCHIP Celebrates Sweet 16

As LCHIP celebrates its 16th birthday this June, I’d like to share my reflections on its impact, having served SELT since 2002, just two years after LCHIP was born.

For several years prior to joining SELT as its first executive director (then known as the Rockingham Land Trust), I had worked as Coordinator of the Citizens for Land and Community Heritage, a grassroots organization of local, statewide, and national organizations advocating for the creation of a state-funding program for land conservation and historic preservation. After countless presentations, public hearings, and letter writing campaigns over two years, the coalition succeeded in June of 2000 with the signing of SB401 by then Governor Jeanne Shaheen.

It took many, many, many more years of work by others for LCHIP to begin to receive consistent funding and ultimately a regular funding mechanism – the LCHIP fee (a $25 fee on recorded deeds and surveys).  And although the past two biennial budget cycles have seen LCHIP receive all of the funding raised by the fee (some $8 million every two years), LCHIP has not yet reached its full potential.  The original Land and Community Heritage Commission, a legislative study committee that  recommended the creation of the program, also recommended it be funded at $12 million annually, a level that has never been reached.

Since leaving the Citizens coalition and working for an organization seeking these limited LCHIP funds, I have seen first-hand the growing impact that LCHIP can have in a region and an organization.  For SELT, LCHIP is a consistent and significant funding partner for our critical land conservation projects.  Without it, many of the lands you love would not be conserved – including the Flag Hill Winery in Lee and Epping or the Batchelder Farm in Hampton.  As SELT laid out an ambitious vision for the Pawtuckaway to Great Bay Greenway and conserving 1,500 acres adjacent to the Stonehouse Pond, LCHIP has been there as a partner in our success, funding multiple projects in these areas, and embracing the vision outlined by our proposals. Simply put, the fingerprints of LCHIP are and will be throughout the landscape of southeastern New Hampshire.  Beyond land conservation, LCHIP has invested in many historic preservation projects in downtown Portsmouth and smaller communities through Rockingham and Strafford counties.

Land conservation in New Hampshire has always been, and always will be, a private-public partnership.  For New Hampshire, LCHIP is the vehicle for the state’s commitment to its future generations – a commitment that values open spaces providing fresh food, a nearby place to hike, a glorious view, or clean water to drink. At a time of political discord over the role and impact of government, it is clearer than ever that LCHIP is a government program that is efficient, well run, and worth continuing.

Brian Hart