Communities Take Action on Climate Change

Lisa Wise

Photo by Bob McGrath

In coastal New Hampshire, many planning board members and municipal staff have been engaged in climate adaptation projects, such as vulnerability assessments and planning initiatives. However, conservation commissions have typically not been as involved in these efforts. Since 2017, Taking Action for Wildlife team members Amanda Stone (UNH Extension) and Lisa Wise (NH Sea Grant & UNH Extension) have been meeting with coastal conservation commissions to share climate-related information that is specifically relevant for land and water quality protection.

In 2016, The Nature Conservancy released the Land Conservation Priorities for the Protection of Coastal Water Resources: A Supplement to The Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds (2006)The 2016 Water Resources Update data covers the coastal watershed and identify areas that provide one or more of the following benefits:

  • Flood storage
  • Salt marsh migration opportunities
  • Water quality protection
  • Public water supply protection

And of course, what is good for protecting water resources, is also good for protecting wildlife and habitats!

These benefits are important to begin with but even more so in the context of climate change, which is causing rising sea levels and groundwater levels, more extreme precipitation, and potentially increased drought impacts due to rising temperatures. The data can be explored via the NH Coastal Viewer.

This outreach to conservation commissions began in 2017 with the NH Setting SAIL Project, during which Stone and Wise brought information from the NH Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission Report to coastal conservation commissions and discussed actions they could take to more explicitly consider climate impacts to natural resources in their work. The effort continued into the 2018-2019, focused on the 2016 data from The Nature Conservancy. Stone and Wise brought community-specific maps of the data plus this simple handout describing the available data to meetings with 11 conservation commissions in the coastal watershed. Over 100 people participated in these meetings (primarily conservation commission members as well as other board members, municipal staff, and community members). A number of communities also expressed interest in including Wildlife Action Plan data and climate change impacts in their natural resources and conservation planning documents, as well as  the Water Resources update data.

Living shoreline and stream restoration

(Left) Living shoreline project in Durham, NH. Photo by Todd Selig. (Right) Volunteers at a stream restoration workday. Photo by UNH Extension.

The table below summarizes conservation commissions’ actions resulting from or informed by the Water Resources Update Project:

  • Updated conservation lands data on GRANIT
  • Incorporated Water Resources Update data into conservation criteria and co-occurrence map, natural resources assessment storymap, and internal mapping tool, which also included wildlife data(working with Strafford Regional Planning Commission)
  • Accessed Water Resources Update data shapefiles for use in project review
  • Developed revised conservation criteria (incorporating this data), adopted by OLC on June 20, 2019
  • Shared Water Resources Update  maps with the Planning Board
  • Have used WRU maps in project review and consideration of wetland mitigation proposals
  • Working on an all-boards forum re: data and information around climate and natural resources, building off of the Water Resources Update information
  • Shared wildlife habitat brochures and maps at the transfer station
  • Review WAP maps as a companion to the Water Resources Update data
  • Keeping track of what other seacoast towns are doing to take action on climate change.
  • Hired Rockingham Planning Commission to write an updated Natural Resources Inventory that includes a climate change thread
  • Developing an NRI that incorporates climate change and the Water Resources Update data, and wildlife data and information
Hampton Falls
  • Incorporated Water Resources Update  data in QGIS tool to evaluate conservation value of potential projects
  • Also reviewed WAP data and maps for inclusion in NRI.
  • Working on NRI update (and accompanying storymap), incorporating the WRU data and wildlife data.
North Hampton
  • Shared Water Resources Update  maps with Select Board, Planning Board, and Town Administrator
  • Featured one of the WRU maps in the Community Newsletter, directing readers to the Town website to view all 3 maps
  • Updating conservation easement database
  • Working with Rockingham Planning Commission to update 1993 NRI (and natural resources master plan chapter as well) which will include wildlife data as well
  • Working with UNHCE/NHSG to present the WRU maps to other municipal boards/committees and community members
  • Shared data with Town Planner who plans to use the data in parcel reviews
  • Shared data with the Rye Planning Board and others
  • Town Planner asked town’s GIS staff to put the maps on the Town of Rye’s GIS
  • Conservation Commissions members each took the maps home for a couple of days to review them in more detail.
  • Working with UNHCE/NHSG to develop a plan for updating their NRI (and incorporating Water Resources Update and current Wildlife Action Plan data)
  • Worked with UNHCE/NHSG to present the WRU maps to other municipal boards/committees and community members at a public forum on November 18 (attended by 40 Rye residents).

By Lisa Wise, NH Sea Grant and UNH Extension & Amanda Stone, UNH Extension
Winter 2020 Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter

This project was funded by the Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1451-1466, administered by the Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in conjunction with the NHDES Coastal Program.

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