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Our Turn: Towering trees, not transmission towers

New Hampshire’s forests, lakes and scenic landscapes are central to our state’s identity. They are critical to our state’s traditional tourism and logging industries. They provide hunters, fishermen, campers and hikers with recreational opportunities. They provide New Hampshire citizens a sense of place. And their natural beauty is awe-inspiring.

All of us have a responsibility to protect our natural resources, particularly in the North Country where commercial and industrial development could jeopardize some our state’s most treasured natural resources.

Twelve years ago, the two of us set up a task force that identified a way to protect these lands and today, we need to renew our commitment to protecting New Hampshire’s unspoiled beauty.

The Connecticut River headwaters lands cover many of New Hampshire’s most scenic areas. From the forested hills surrounding Lake Francis and the Connecticut Lakes, to the rushing waters of Indian Stream Gorge, these areas are precious.

They are home to many noted New Hampshire species including loons, bald eagles, osprey and pine martens and offer some of the best hiking in Northern New England.

In addition to their beauty, these lands are the backbone of our northern economy, offering working forests that have supported New Hampshire families for generations.

In 2001, the two of us came together to protect these treasures when International Paper Co. announced plans to sell its timber ownership of 171,000 acres of land in Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown, including the headwaters of the Connecticut River. We created and co-chaired the Connecticut Headwaters Partnership Task Force, a broad coalition of community and business leaders, state and federal officials, private nonprofit organizations and other interested parties, to create a future for the land that would reflect the best interests of our citizens, economy and quality of life.

This group developed a comprehensive, consensus-based plan to purchase and maintain the land’s traditional uses so it could be used for forestry, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities. The plan also protected the largest un-fragmented block of land in the state, providing critical natural habitat for moose, deer and other wildlife.

This group’s collaborative nature and commonsense approach showcased some of our state’s best attributes. And it underscored what we can accomplish when we work in a bipartisan way with an eye on a common goal. As a result of this effort, the state now holds a conservation easement on 146,000 acres of these lands, with the land itself remaining in private ownership subject to the terms of the easement. With these property rights comes a responsibility to steward the area for generations to come in partnership with the private landowner.

This includes an obligation by the state to defend the easement from encroachment by

inappropriate uses or users.

The easement was designed to protect these lands from commercial or industrial development that is unrelated to the traditional land uses of forestry and outdoor recreation.

But recent land purchases by Northern Pass project developers suggest that a potential route for transmission towers and lines may attempt to cross land protected by the Connecticut Headwaters easement.

That would unnecessarily jeopardize some our state’s most treasured land.

When we worked together in 2001 and 2002 to protect this land, we imagined towering trees protected for future generations, not transmission towers.

We believe the state has a responsibility to actively protect these lands for our children and grandchildren.

(Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator. Republican Judd Gregg is a former U.S. senator from New Hampshire. Both are also former governors.)

Legacy Comments7

The Conn. Headwaters conservation easement was not created for use by private entities like Northern Pass, which are purely elective money-making schemes. It's unlikely that the project would produce any "public benefit" - certainly not the cheap electricity prices that gullible people seem to think would result, and the power is neither "clean" nor "green." Nor is it "secure." Long overhead transmission lines are vulnerable in the worst ways. In any event, all of that is irrelevant to the central issue: the Headwaters was conserved for entirely different purposes. Would you build a Wal-Mart on it because it might bring lower product prices and some low-paying employment? Ridiculous! Of course not. Thanks to Senators Shaheen and Gregg for reminding everyone of the fundamental point: NH will not sell out on its commitments to all the parties who worked so hard to create this easement - and to the public for whom the easement was created.

Well Shaheen and Gregg got one right. We ought not be running this line through pristine landscapes and taking private property by eminent domain.....long term the impact will be minimal.

Thank you Senator Shaheen and (former) Senator Gregg!!!

Thanks to Senator Shaheen and Judd Gregg. It's reassuring to see more and more of those in a position of influence speaking out against the damaging proposal called "northern pass". We need all our leaders to stand up and speak up for NH. This is a completely non-partisan issue as it negatively affects us all. We need laws like CT that insist that large scale transmission lines like this go underground where they belong. Find out how you can help make sure our state doesn't get trashed while foreign and out of state profiteers laugh all the way to the bank.

using "visual purism" as an argument against the extremely essential national security issue of reliable , secure , green , cheap abundant power is at best a week argument

Will someone tell me what the plan is to get some good clean water power from Canada to the US? It has to be better than burning coal or oil. It has to be better than filling up my oil tank twice a year. Would it be better to run a powerline from there to here, or have more of New England burn oil and gas for heat? Someone please tell me.

Except for the intrusion of some messy facts: for instance, the power from Northern Pass is not "clean", for starters since thousands of acres of northern forest have been flooded to create that hydro-power; using electricity to heat homes--electric baseboard heating-- is the least energy-efficient, and most costly, of any heating source. It is highly unlikely that electricity from Northern Pass would ever be used for home heating--it would be beyond stupid. Energy conservation measures like upgrades to more efficient boilers and better insulation would deliver many times more bang for the buck--and produce many more jobs in the process.

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