Public Forum Will Focus On Protecting Wetlands

Chocorua — August 21, 2006 — The Green Mountain Conservation Group will host a Wetlands Forum on August 30th from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Runnells Hall in Chocorua to provide information for the public on wetlands protection. The forum will feature presenters from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, professional planners, area conservation commissions, and wetlands experts. The public will also have an opportunity to ask questions of panelists and learn about local strategies for wetlands protection.

Wetlands are vital natural resources that serve important functions for both humans and animals. Flood control, shoreline erosion protection, and clean drinking water are a few of their benefits. They are also among the most productive ecosystems in the world, as well as a source of substantial biodiversity. Locally, they provide valuable fish and wildlife habitat, supporting great blue heron rookeries, raptor nesting areas, fish spawning areas, deer wintering habitat, moose feeding areas, bear denning sites, and critical breeding areas for rare aquatic invertebrates, such as certain dragonflies and damselflies. Heath Pond Bog in Ossipee and the Chain of Ponds in Madison are a few local examples of wetlands considered exemplary wetlands for the state of New Hampshire.

According to Dr. Rick van de Poll, owner of Ecosystems Management Consultants, in 1620 there were upwards of 221 million acres of wetlands in the United States. By 2000, wetlands were reduced to less than 105 million acres due to agricultural expansion, residential and commercial development, and damming for reservoirs. Around 22% of these wetlands are located in the Northeast, with more than 60% occurring as inland, forested wetlands. Unfortunately, more than 90% of wetland violations occur in these types of inland wetlands when they are filled or dredged.

The Ossipee Watershed is expected to experience one of the most rapid surges in population growth in any region in New Hampshire over the next 20 years, according to the Office of State Planning. There are a number of tools that towns can use to protect their wetlands from becoming degraded or lost to development, including: wetlands setback requirements, conservation ordinances, groundwater/aquifer ordinances, special use permits, water resource management plans and prime wetlands designations. These options will be presented at the Wetlands Forum by Senior Planner Steve Whitman of Jeffrey H. Taylor & Associates in Concord.

Sandy Crystall, Senior Resources Manager with the Department of Environmental Services’ Wetlands Bureau, will present information about New Hampshire’s wetlands, including how they are identified, the importance of protecting them, and how the state’s wetlands law and rules accomplish this primarily through permitting processes.

A moderated panel discussion and question and answer session will follow the keynote presentations. Conservation commissioners from Madison, Tamworth, Sandwich, Ossipee, Effingham and Freedom will share notes on their town’s wetland protection measures and address important wetland issues that they are facing. The audience will be invited to ask questions and further the discussion.

The public is encouraged to attend this informative gathering of local residents, municipal officials, and experts. Public input is needed to help with the future protection of the region’s wetlands resources. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact GMCG at 539-1859.

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