Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Catherine M. Ashcraft

Second Advisor

Shannon H. Rogers

Third Advisor

Dovev L. Levine


The primary objectives of this research were to understand what access to nature means for people engaged in the nature economy, economic development, recreation, conservation, and community development sectors of New Hampshire, to identify benefits, barriers and opportunities of access to nature with a focus on underserved communities, and to contribute data and knowledge to inform local, regional, and state efforts to advance equity in environmental protection, justice efforts, and future policy considerations impacting New Hampshire. This research involved qualitative analysis of interviews with statewide policy leaders and stakeholders that work with individuals and organizations closely related to nature economy and nature access. In addition, a case study conducted with the City of Rochester, New Hampshire, focused on a municipal perspective, particularly considering the City's recent efforts to improve access and recreation opportunities. I found that the New Hampshire natural assets most frequently identified by participants were mountains and water resources, such as lakes and ponds, rivers, the ocean, estuaries and wetlands. Rochester participants most frequently identified the Cocheco River and community trails as City natural assets. Participants were almost evenly divided about whether everyone in New Hampshire has access to nature, bit all participants identified barriers to accessing nature. The most frequently mentioned barriers were transportation, knowledge, cost to an individual, infrastructure, time, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. About two thirds of participants reported being engaged in organizational efforts to expand access for people identified as having limited access, most frequently through diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, expanding recreation opportunities, and making trails more ADA compliant. Almost all participants identified organizational challenges in efforts to expand access to nature, with funding and bandwidth being the most frequently identified challenges. The findings from this study are already supporting community education efforts to better connect people to nature through co-authored info briefs, a webinar, an in-person panel and walking tour of Rochester, and a presentation to a local conservation commission. The info briefs have been downloaded over 121 times, over 50 people attended the webinar, and 25 people attended the in-person panel and walking tour. These and planned follow up efforts aim to benefit New Hampshire’s underserved communities and the State as a whole, through individuals and organizations advocating and making positive changes for communities and environmental justice efforts.