Connect to Protect

Feb 3, 2023

The Great Bay Reserve is working to protect high priority conservation lands, including family farm’s like the Harvey’s in New Hampshire’s coastal watershed.

An acre a day. That’s how quickly natural lands are being lost in New Hampshire’s coastal watershed due to development. To help protect these places for the future, the Great Bay Reserve teamed up with The Nature Conservancy–NH, University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension, and other partners to translate the 2021 New Hampshire Coastal Watershed Conservation Plan into usable tools for local communities and conservation groups interested in protecting local lands.

“There isn’t any time to lose—as the climate becomes hotter, drier, and stormier, the cost of protecting these lands will only increase,” says Cory Riley, manager of the Great Bay Reserve and project team member. “We must act now to protect them before they’re lost.”

The Plan identifies high priority areas for conservation based on their ability to protect drinking water, recharge groundwater, sustain important habitats, protect farmlands, and mitigate flooding for 42 communities across the watershed. 

“Their focus areas align perfectly with our mission and work,” says Duane Hyde, land conservation director at the Southeast Land Trust (SELT). “We have been able to put the Plan to work immediately as we review and select land conservation projects and it will also become the basis for our own updated Conservation plan.” 

With support from the NERRS Science Collaborative, the team translated this information into a user-friendly website and tandem trainings for local land use decision makers. Seventy-eight participants from 33 municipalities, as well as representatives from land trusts attended these trainings last fall. Based on that outreach, the team is providing technical assistance to six communities and two regional land trusts in New Hampshire and Maine that are interested in using the plan to further their conservation efforts.

“The plan is making a meaningful difference in the projects we choose to work on,” says Hyde. “Projects that we may not have previously thought to have important conservation benefits are now shown to play a critical role in our region.”

“We’ve set an ambitious goal of protecting 4,000 acres a year, and that means we need everyone to be engaged,” says Amanda Stone, specialist for UNH Cooperative Extension and team member. “With these tools, we’ve been able to help communities find conservation partners, communicate the value of land protection, and know where to find funding.”

Scruton’s Dairy in Farmington, New Hampshire.

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