After a four-year consideration and review, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has finally issued a draft proposal to change the rules regarding wetlands. The NHTOA has been an active participant in a stakeholder group working on the proposed rules, and has made several important recommendations to ensure that the eventual proposal would protect wetlands as well as be fair to the forest products industry.
The draft proposal issued on Jan. 31 by DES is a major disappointment. It is a complicated, overly burdensome, and, in places, impenetrable document. It appears that not a single recommendation made by the NHTOA or its members has been included in the draft. 
Throughout the process, the NHTOA and its members consistently commented that new rules should: 
  • Be easy to understand – Any landowner, or land manager should be able to read them and know what approvals their project will require.
  • Recognize the unique nature of forest management — The rules should recognize the uniqueness (e.g. ephemeral impacts, habitat enhancement, etc.) of forest management projects and that forest management is a desirable land use.
  • Be outcome-based – Focus on resource protection, not numeric details for crossing widths and structure dimensions.
None of these common-sense recommendations, which the NHTOA originally made to then-administrator of the DES Collis Adams in 2014, made it into the draft proposal. To read the 2014 comments, click here.  
Instead, the proposed rules will impose a number of additional requirements and restrictions on landowners and land managers, including:
  • Requiring a forestry impact plan prepared by a licensed forester for wetland crossings,
  • Reducing stream crossing width from 8′ to 5′,
  • Requiring “Category 3” crossings (formerly Major Permits) when a Natural Heritage element is present or the project is a “special resource area” (e.g. forested wetland greater than 10 acres where over half is very poorly drained soils).
To see the full text of the NHTOA’s Feb. 20, 2018, comments, click here.