House Bill 543 seeks to establish a 50-foot protective buffer adjacent to all wetlands and a 100-foot buffer adjacent to “high value wetlands.” “High value wetlands” is a proposed new category of wetland that is based on:
- Presence of natural heritage elements (rare, threatened, endangered species, or a species of interest);
- Within a tier 3 stream (drains 640 acres) floodplain;
- Forested wetland greater than five acres where more than 50 percent of the soil is very poorly drained; and
- Any wetland in a floodplain subject to flooded soils.
In both cases (50-foot and 100-foot buffers), the buffer is to be maintained in a “…natural condition, without any disturbance to or removal of vegetation…” In addition to removing large blocks of land from productive forest management (e.g., every 435.6 feet of buffer to a “high value wetland” removes one acre of land), the restrictions in this bill will make timber sale layout (especially if the property contains wetlands or a stream) extremely difficult and expensive.
Moreover, the New Hampshire Department or Environmental Services (NHDES) just concluded the public comment period on a five-year wetland rule rewrite. This bill would turn this rulemaking effort on its head, as it will dramatically expand NHDES’s wetland regulatory jurisdiction into upland areas.
At a public hearing in February on HB 543, some of the most compelling testimony came from the State Forester, who is concerned that this bill expands the NHDES’s jurisdictional reach into upland areas, which raises a host of questions (e.g., landowners having to hire wetland scientists to map wetlands on their property before conducting a timber harvest, impacts on existing basal area laws, and what additional costs will the state incur managing state-owned property).
We continue to ask NHTOA members to submit comments to the committee. Below is a brief description of the bill and instructions for sending emails to the committee. Please note that because some NHTOA members have had trouble with the committee-wide email address, you should include the chairwoman’s, vice-chairman’s, and clerk’s email address.
Here is the committee contact information and the talking points:
Address your email to:
Representative Suzanne Smith, Chairwoman
N.H. House of Representatives Resources, Recreation, and Development Committee
New Hampshire Legislative Office Building, Room 305
Concord, NH 03301
Send your email to:
In your email:
- Introduce yourself and company:
- Town where you own timberland in (include how many acres of land you own);
- Town your timber-related business is located in, and towns where you work;
- # employees (gross payroll figure would be good).
- Thank Chairwoman Smith and the members of the committee for the opportunity to comment on HB 543.
- Clearly state you oppose House Bill 543. 3.
Talking points for why you oppose HB 543:
- It will remove timberland from forest management (merchantable timber Red Maple, Spruce, and Eastern White Pine all can grow in what is technically defined wetland);
- HB 543 will increase the complexity of timber sale layout and planning (e.g., How can I cross wetland if I can’t “disturb the vegetation”?);
- The bill will impact sawmill saw log availability as timberland is removed from production and timber sales become more costly to operate;
- HB 543 fails to recognize the thousands of hours of public comment and staff time put into the NHDES’ five-year wetland rulemaking process; and
- HB 543 fails to recognize that NHDES already regulates upland areas adjacent to wetlands through the department’s Alteration of Terrain permitting process (the intent to cut form serves as the permit application for forest management projects).