97 percent of voters in New Hampshire support land conservation

October 25, 2012 – The results of a survey supported by the Open Space Institute’s Saving New England’s Wildlife initiative show broad-based, non-partisan support for land conservation among New Hampshire voters. 

Additionally, the survey’s results, which were released recently, indicate that voters believe the state should fund conservation efforts in New Hampshire, and want revenues intended for the protection of open land and historic sites used only for those purposes.

“Even in the worst economic times, voters of all political affiliations in New Hampshire have strongly affirmed that conservation is worthy of public investment,” said Rodger Krussman, the New Hampshire state director of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), which also supported the poll. “The same is true across the country, but these are the strongest numbers we've ever seen in comparison to other states.” 

The survey of 505 registered voters was conducted by the UNH Survey Center, an independent non-partisan academic survey research organization. It was funded by OSI’s Saving New England’s Wildlife program, the New Hampshire chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and TPL. 

Saving New England’s Wildlife was a two-year grant-making initiative which supported 30 projects and helped protect over 20,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It also assisted a series of “amplification” projects—including the New Hampshire poll—designed to increase visibility for conservation efforts. 

The New Hampshire poll found that a remarkable 97 percent of the state’s voters surveyed agree (76 percent strongly agree and 21 percent somewhat agree) with the statement “we must invest in land conservation to protect New Hampshire’s quality of life for future generations.” This support for protecting land cut across party lines, with 94 percent of self-identified Republicans, 98 percent of Independents, and 99 percent of Democrats agreeing. Support for land conservation was also consistent across every region of the state. 

Voters see a connection between conservation and the state’s economy as well. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed agree that “protecting land, water, and wildlife in New Hampshire is critical to our tourist industry and helps create jobs.” 

The poll also asked voters about the state’s current conservation funding program, the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP). Established in 2000 by nearly unanimous votes in the Legislature, LCHIP is a state authority that makes matching grants to protect natural, cultural and historic resources. The program has helped fund the protection of over 263,000 acres of land around the state and 126 historic structures. 

The overwhelming majority of voters oppose state lawmakers’ raids on the program’s funds, which have plagued it in recent years. In 2008 the LCHIP program’s funding was moved out of the state budget to its own dedicated funding source: a $25 fee collected on the filing of certain documents at the County Registries of Deeds. However, in the five years since the dedicated fee was established, more than half of all the revenues have been diverted by the state legislature to fund general government. In the state’s current fiscal year, all of the LCHIP fee revenues go to the state’s general fund, and nothing to LCHIP. 

When asked whether they approve or disapprove of the legislature’s diversion of LCHIP funds for other purposes, 79 percent said they disapprove (65 percent strongly disapprove), versus just 6 percent who say they approve of the funding diversions. Yet again, opposition to the diversion of LCHIP’s funds cut across party lines. Seventy-nine percent of those who identify themselves as Republicans oppose the diversions, as do 70 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats. 

“We have seen similar situations with raids on the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund,” said OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman. “But voters have repeatedly said that they don’t approve of these diversions. It is clear that money designated for conservation should be spent on conservation.”

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