This is the third legislative/policy update for the 2024 New Hampshire Legislative session. I provide this update periodically (almost weekly) while the New Hampshire Legislature is in session to keep NHTOA members informed about what is happening in Concord. (If you do not wish to receive this update, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list.)

General Comments

This week only the Senate held a general session to act on bills while both chambers’ policy committees also met to conduct public hearings, deliberate, and vote on recommended actions for the full House or Senate to consider.

In the attached spreadsheet (click here for spreadsheet) is the list of the bills the NHTOA is currently monitoring and working on. The bills the House and Senate killed last week when they met in general session have been removed.

Three notes on this spreadsheet:

  1. The legislative process is very fluid and moves quickly. The House and Senate Status/Actions are as of the day on the report is printed. Please note these are subject to change.
  2. The link to the bill text should take you directly to the N.H. General Court website’s link to the bill. Note that during the heat of committee meetings and debate over amendments, this link will sometimes not take you to the most current amendments.
  3. The Priority/Action looks at the entire bill and weighs many factors. The NHTOA Executive Director analyzes each bill and makes a recommendation to the NHTOA Policy Committee. Where a question mark is present, we are still gathering information on the bill.

The summaries below are of the bills moving through the legislative process and in some cases—where the NHTOA is seeking assistance from our membership in the lobbying process (i.e., calling a local Representative or Senator—sending a letter or email to a committee, or attending a hearing to sign-in or testify).

Again, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of the bills listed.

Jasen

House Bill 1484 (line 8 one the spreadsheet)

Background: This is the second forest-carbon bill introduced by the same North Country representative unhappy with the recent shift in management of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters property in Pittsburg, which puts a greater emphasis on forest-carbon storage and sequestration. Writing state law to address a single transaction has unintended consequences and this is true with House Bill 1484. This bill proposes removing lands included in a forest-carbon program from current use assessment. This proposal is problematic for several reasons.

  • It is inconsistent with the purpose of this “open space” law (i.e., land subject to a forest-carbon credit contract is not developed and meets the definition of “open space” – like land subject to a conservation easement),
  • It is unclear whether it would require the imposition of a land use change tax on land already participating in a forest carbon program,

Because forest-carbon program participation constitutes private transactions, it is not clear how municipalities would learn of which lands to remove from current use, and

It sets a precedent that an unpopular land use could be penalized through current use law.

NHTOA Position: At the public hearing before the House Ways and Means committee on Jan. 17, the NHTOA joined several other conservation groups and individual landowners testifying in opposition to this bill. The only person speaking in support of the bill was the bill’s sponsor. The committee will be hosting a work session on this in early February.

Senate Bill 514 (line 9 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This is a bill state Sen. Howard Pearl submitted on behalf of the NHTOA. It does three things,

  1. Increases the volume of wood a landowner can harvest for personal use from 10,000 board feet and 20 cords of firewood to 15,000 board feet and 30 cords,
  2. Increases the threshold for when an intent-to-cut needs to be filed and timber taxes paid from 10,000 board feet and 20 cords to 15,000 board feet and 30 cords respectively for land being converted to a non-forest use, and
  3. Changes the whole-tree ton “equivalent language” in the land conversion exemption to allow the addition of 300 tons of whole-tree chips.

The purpose of this bill is to reduce the timber tax paperwork and time burden for very small timber harvests (i.e., 1-3 days; half dozen loads). On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee hosted a public hearing where no one testified in opposition. The bill passed committee 5 to 0 and will be voted on by the full Senate the first week of February.

House Bill 1183 (line 12 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill prohibits the ownership of agricultural land and land essential to New Hampshire critical industries (technology, manufacturing, and health care) by the Chinese government or Communist Party. It is very broad as it applies to companies, or subsidiaries that are owned whole or in-part or controlled by the Chinese government or Communist Party. The prohibition also applies to companies that are located within China and “Ownership” is also broadly defined to include leasing, possessing, or exercising control.

NHTOA Position: Although sympathetic to the sponsor’s concerns over national security, at its hearing on Jan. 9 the NHTOA signed in opposing this bill.

Status: There was little support expressed for this bill at the hearing, other than by the bill’s sponsor. The committee is now deliberating its merits. They will be having a work session on this bill next Wednesday (Jan. 24).

House Bill 1234 (line 13 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill seeks to require road-use agreements for residential owners on municipal Class VI roads. The agreement would obligate the landowners to contribute to the cost of maintaining the road and have the right to bring a civil action to enforce it. It is not clear what prompted the sponsor to introduce this bill.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA will be opposing this bill for two principal reasons. It

Establishes a precedent that private landowners would be obligated to pay for maintaining a public right of way, and forces landowners into an agreement they may not wish to enter.

The NHTOA will be testifying its opposition to this bill at the Jan. 30 public hearing before the House Public Works and Highways Committee.

House Bill 1033 (line 15 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill will require all lumber, logs, timber, or other wood products to advertise their true dimensions and not a nominal size.

NHTOA Position: Although we appreciate the sponsor’s intent to add a higher level of precision to the sale of forest products, it is not clear how this would account for defects and deductions on log sales and the slight variability that can occur when selling cord wood (i.e., stacks of firewood can differ slightly). Moreover, because this bill includes “timber,” it is unclear how it would apply to stumpage sales where the forester provides an estimated volume. The NHTOA will be raising these questions and concerns at next Wednesday’s (Jan. 25) public hearing before the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.

House Bill 1697 (line 18 on the spreadsheet)

Background: As printed, this bill sought to change New Hampshire’s participation in a regional carbon cap and trade program commonly known as RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). At the public hearing before the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee the bill’s author admitted modifying RGGI was not his intent. Instead, he introduced an amendment to replace the entire bill with a proposed two-year moratorium on forest-carbon credit sales. His motivation for introducing the bill was the recent announcement by the new owner of the Connecticut Lakes Headwater Forest (146,000 acres in Pittsburg, Stewartstown, and Clarksville) to increase their participation in the California carbon market by reducing timber harvests and selling more forest-carbon credits. Because of the size of this property and that it is subject to a Forest Legacy Conservation Easement held by the State of New Hampshire that promotes multiple-use management, including active forest management, the new owners’ decision has become controversial. Like House Bill 1484, writing a law that will cover every landowner in the state based on the activity of a single landowner is problematic. Moreover, as it came out in the hearing, the proposed amendment has multiple technical and operational flaws (including being unconstitutional).

NHTOA Position: Although sympathetic to many of the sponsor’s concerns, based on the many technical and constitutional problems with the bill, the NHTOA cannot support it.

Status: Due to the large number of people wishing to speak on the bill, the hearing was recessed. The House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee will be taking up this issue again on Monday (Jan. 22) at 9 a.m. with a presentation by Charlie Levesque from Innovative Natural Resource Solutions that will explain forest carbon and forest-carbon markets. Following Charlie’s presentation, the committee will resume taking public comment on the proposed amendment.

House Bill 1423 (line 37 on the spreadsheet)

Background: This bill requires the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to identify and map “old growth” on all public land. In the bill’s fiscal note, the department estimates it will require seven new staff members to identify and map “old growth” on all state, federal, and municipal lands. This requirement alone is a distraction from the department’s charges of forest health, wildland fire protection, timber harvesting law enforcement, and the management of state lands and is an unnecessary waste of resources, as the state has already identified the few stands of “old growth” on their land already. Moreover, the bill fails to define “old growth,” although earlier drafts had defined it as any stand of trees over 60-years old. Therefore, to legislate this is inappropriate.

NHTOA Position: The NHTOA testified in opposition to the bill at the Jan. 10 public hearing before the House Resources Recreation and Development Committee. The hearing went well with only the sponsor, Sierra Club, and an out-of-state organization opposed to timber harvesting called “Standing Trees” providing testimony in support.

Status: The committee will be voting on this bill next Wednesday (Jan. 24).

House Bill 1408 (line 76 on the spreadsheet)

Background: Last year, through the state budget, the Governor proposed an overhaul of the state’s professional licensure and certification system. This proposal included the merging of land surveying with engineers and total elimination of forester licensing. Under its own weight, the proposal failed. In 2024 about a half dozen bills have been filed to implement portions of last year’s failed attempt. Although it will not eliminate forester licensing, House Bill 1408 seeks to remove two public members (forest landowners actively engaged in forest management) from the board of seven.

NHTOA Position: Because of the consumer protections this law provides to landowners seeking professional advice for the management of what is often their largest financial asset, the NHTOA will be opposing this change at the Jan. 31 public hearing before the House Executive Departments and Administration. Having forest landowners and their perspective on this board is important. We are asking our members to submit testimony opposing this change or attend the public hearing at 1:15 p.m. in Room 306 of the Legislative Office Building (gray building behind the state house) on Jan. 31. To submit written testimony, use the House online testimony portal,

https://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx

After you enter your personal information in “Step 1.”

In Steps 2 and 3

  • –select the hearing date– January 31;
  • select the committee name – House Executive Departments and Administration;
  • choose the bill – House Bill 1408; identify yourself as a member of the public; indicate you are representing yourself;
  • check the  box indicating you OPPOSE the bill.

In Step 4 either

  • upload a written document, or
  • type in the text box you oppose the removal of landowners from the forester licensing board and explain why (i.e., consumer protection, etc.).