Land conservation is a non-structural approach to managing flood hazards through water retention, protecting areas where floodwaters can be stored to prevent downstream flooding, and prevention, protecting floodplains to avoid added risks from new construction and infrastructure. This presentation presents preliminary findings from ongoing research investigating how New Hampshire’s coastal watershed municipalities are implementing land conservation to manage coastal and riverine flood risks. Specifically, we analyze (1) the kinds of criteria municipalities are using to prioritize land conservation and whether managing flood risks is incorporated into the criteria, and (2) the factors that may explain variation observed across municipal land conservation strategies. This research is based on an analysis of publicly available planning documents and 28 semi-structured interviews conducted with municipal staff and officials during 9/2018 – 4/2019 including conservation commission chairs and town planners. Qualitative analysis of the interviews is ongoing.

Preliminary analysis suggests there is significant variation across municipalities in the use of criteria for land conservation and that flood risk mitigation is often part of multi-objective selection criteria. Common land conservation criteria include: water resources protection, flood mitigation, climate regulation, nutrient cycling and uptake, soil retention and formation, aesthetic and scenic value, community character, recreation, public access, historic value, and wood supply. Even though nearly all municipalities include land conservation criteria in planning documents, a surprising percent of interviewees (29%) report not using criteria to prioritize land conservation, which suggests a possible disconnect between strategic planning and implementation. Many communities integrate local and regional priorities in developing their land conservation strategies. And, many communities struggle to prioritize flood risk mitigation relative to other competing needs. We conclude with a few examples of data presentation products from this research and ideas for next steps.

This presentation was given at the September 10th, 2020 meeting of the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership. More information about the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership can be found at: http://www.greatbaypartnership.org/


Natural Resources and the Environment

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Support for this project was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the NH Agricultural Experiment Station Award #NH00651.

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