In this brief, author Meghan Howey examines the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on the vulnerable cultural heritage of coastal New Hampshire. Coastal New Hampshire has been identified by scientists and recognized by policy makers as an area experiencing many of the effects of climate change, including increasing temperatures and rising sea levels. The continued trajectory of such change places the seacoast region at a very high risk of coastal flooding today and of coastal land submersions within the next 50 to 100 years. Coastal New Hampshire stands to lose 14 percent of its known prehistoric and historic cultural heritage sites, including twelve sites on the National Register of Historic Places, to sea-level rise. These losses would negatively impact the region’s robust tourist economy. More than 80 known historic cemeteries are at risk of damage or complete destruction by sea-level rise. The potential damage to unknown, yet-to-be discovered burial grounds is also of concern. Communities across the region face difficult questions about what they are willing to lose and what efforts they are able and willing to make to protect vulnerable cultural heritage sites and graveyards from sea-level rise. Given the significance of these cultural heritage sites in coastal New Hampshire and the disproportionate contributions they make to the state’s revenue, these questions must addressed head-on, and continued analyses, discussions, and policy development will be important for addressing the vulnerability of the region’s cultural heritage.

Publication Date

Spring 4-10-2018


Regional Issue Brief #52


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2018. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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