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For LCHIP, new budget means a windfall for conservation, preservation projects

  • Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

  • Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Dijit Taylor, executive director of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), poses for a portrait in her office in Concord on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. In June, New Hampshire House and Senate leaders voted to fully fund the program.<br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

The New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is suddenly flush.

The state created LCHIP in 2000. The program awards grants – 226 as of last year, totaling about $27 million – to help conserve open land and preserve historic buildings across the state.

Its funding comes from two main sources: the sale of conservation license plates (the so-called Moose Plates) helps cover the program’s administrative costs, and $25 fees charged on four types of filings at county deeds offices provide funding for the grants.

For years, the demands of the state budget have prompted lawmakers to divert some or most of the fee revenue to help pay for the rest of the state government. In the last two-year state budget, LCHIP got just $640,000 in administrative funding, and awarded grants with unused grant funding from previous years.

But for the next two years, LCHIP will be fully funded at $8.45 million for the biennium.

Gov. Maggie Hassan proposed restoring some of that funding, the Republican-controlled Senate added the rest back and the Democratic-controlled House agreed to keep that funding in the final, compromise state budget. The new biennium began July 1.

The Monitor sat down last week with Dijit Taylor, LCHIP’s executive director, to discuss the windfall.

So, how good is the news for LCHIP in the new state budget?

Absolutely fabulous. We are thrilled and a little bit surprised, but pleasantly so.

When was the last time LCHIP had this much funding?

Theoretically, in fiscal 2008, but some of that was taken back after it was given to the program. Back in 2003, there was good funding. So that’s 10 years ago, almost at the start of the program. This is fabulous. A funding source that was supposed to be permanent and provide good funding, and now it’s really going to for these two years.

Originally, when LCHIP was set up, it was supposed to be funded directly by the Legislature. When did it switch to the dedicated funding from records fees?

That was 2009, and the fund has been raided every year since then at different levels.

Except this time.

Except this time.

Even with reduced funding, you’ve still been awarding grants. What are some of the projects you’ve supported the last few years?

Last year was a very small grant round. We only had $500,000 to give out, and the board had to choose among projects that requested over $2.5 million in value. We’ve got a project going on in Bow. The Bow Bog Meeting House is doing some needed structural repairs, and I understand that right now they’ve taken off part of their tower, their steeple, and it’s sent away for repairs. . . . Gilmanton just put new windows into their town hall, which used to be their academy, to make it more energy efficient and retain the historic appearance. We’ve got a couple of land conservation projects in Hooksett that are just about to finish up this summer. We just completed a conservation easement in Springfield.

So what does the funding increase mean? Does it mean that you’ll be able to fund more projects, or that projects will get more money?

Probably some of both. It will depend in part on how the applications come in (during) the grant round, when the board opens a grant round. In that very small

grant round that we just held last year, hardly anybody got all they asked for.

The board penny-pinched all around in order to spread the money around more widely. I would hope that they would not have to do that with the new money.

In past budget cycles, lawmakers have treated LCHIP almost as a luxury, which is why it hasn’t gotten all the money it was supposed to get. What changed this year?

I think they listened to public input about how important this is to communities, and I think we had really good advocates and supporters in both chambers, but particularly in the Senate Finance Committee. . . . Sen. (Jeanie) Forrester (of Meredith) is a good supporter, but Sen. (Sylvia) Larsen (of Concord) helped create the LCHIP dedicated fund and has had a long-standing interest in it.

And Sen. (Bob) Odell (of Lempster), who has always been a big supporter of the projects in his district, seemed to take more of an interest in seeing the funding come through for the whole program this year.

When will you be doing the next round of grants?

That’s a decision that
the board of directors makes, but . . . we anticipate that
they will encourage us to
open a grant round this summer.

Correction, July 8: An earlier version of this article misstated funding for the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program in the last state budget. LCHIP received $640,000 in administrative funding over the biennium, and awarded grants with unused grant funding from previous years.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

They cut funding to help feed the poor, homeless, elderly and sick but add in funding for this. The state priority is to rebuild old buildings in towns that the people who live there want but are not willing to pay for. Also buying up more conservation easements in towns that people who live there aren't willing to pay for either......I heard somewhere the goal of Hopkinton was to get over 50% of the town in conservation easements by 2020. Get other tax payers in NH and the rest of the country to pay for it through conservation so there is less land for sale supporting higher values for their property. Must be on that "NH Advantage" list.

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