The Role of Conservation Commissions

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According to NH RSA 36-A, conservation commissions may be established for, and are the only local board specifically charged with, “the proper utilization and protection of the natural resources and for protection of watershed resources” in a given city or town. Commissions fill an advisory role to planning boards and other local bodies on conservation matters.

RSA 36-A also states that a conservation commission must:

  • “…conduct researches into its local land and water areas…”

  • “…seek to coordinate the activity of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes…”

  • “…keep an index of all open space and natural, aesthetic or ecological areas…all marshlands, swamps and other wetlands…”

  • “…keep accurate records of its meetings and actions…”

And a conservation commission may:

  • “…recommend…a program for the protection, development or better utilization of all…areas (in the index)…”

  • “…receive gifts of money and property, both real and personal, in the name of the city or town, subject to the approval of the local governing body, such gifts to be managed and controlled by the commission…”

  • “…advertise, prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts, plans and pamphlets…necessary for its work…”

The NH statue governing Fill and Dredge in Wetlands, RSA 482-A, allows a conservation commission to request time to investigate an application for a dredge and fill permit filed with the NH DES Wetlands Bureau. The conservation commission is the ONLY municipal body with the authority to “intervene” (request this delay).

The conservation commission may also prepare the report and maps for the local designation of prime wetlands under RSA 482-A.

RSA 155-E:3 requires that an applicant for a sand and gravel excavation permit send a copy of the application to the conservation commission. This provides an opportunity for a commission to make comments and recommendations on proposed excavation and restoration plans.