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Bar Journal - December 1, 2001

Introduction

By:

New Hampshire’s two greatest assets have always been the natural beauty and natural resources of this state and the character of its people. Although it has been a decade since the New Hampshire Bar Journal devoted a full issue to environmental topics, that decade has witnessed many initiatives designed to protect the state’s natural resources. These include the "Land and Community Heritage Investment Program," as well as initiatives to reduce emissions, protect our water supplies and address the issue of sprawl. This issue of Bar Journal is intended to continue the conversation about these initiatives.

Community Heritage Initiative. New Hampshire recently enacted the "Community Heritage Investment Program" (RSA 227-M), an initiative that deserves special attention. The statute states its intent very clearly: "growth and development should be balanced with careful protection of the state’s most important natural, cultural and historical resources."1 The Program is funded by the state; and the first grants were made to communities throughout the state this year. The scope of the grants is very broad. The statute speaks of acquiring property and "providing funding for restoration and rehabilitation of cultural and historical resources…"2 An annual report is to be provided no later than December 1; and those interested in applying for grants should obtain that report.

A list of the grants awarded and information on the Land and Community Heritage Program may be obtained from the web site of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (www.spnhf.org). The initial grants varied in size from $300,000 to Ashland (the Ashland Elementary School) to $4,920 to Columbia (the Columbia Covered Bridge). One example of how this program works is the grant ($250,000) to the town of Weare to preserve approximately 2,000 acres of undeveloped land, known as Melvin Valley. That property included impressive vistas, protected plants and wildlife habitats. The grant, together with other funding sources, will allow for the purchase of 850 acres of land, with an option to purchase the remaining 1,000 acres. The Land and Community Heritage Program will provide the seed money needed to start similar programs throughout the state. In 2001, a series of seven training workshops were offered throughout the state to help communities apply for the grants.

Environmental Articles. The articles in this issue offer different perspectives. The article by Dr. Rosemary Caron focuses upon the critical interplay between environmental hazards and the public health. Dr. Caron is a member of the Manchester Public Health Department, one of the few municipal public health departments in the state. The Manchester Department has a well-earned reputation for undertaking initiatives of its own, including publication of the first "Public Health Report Cards" in this state. Dr. Caron’s call for continued cooperation among environmentalists and public health advocates is very timely.3

The first article in this issue is by Maureen Smith of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. It deals with acid rain generated by industries located outside this state and with legal efforts to address that problem. Acid rain, as everyone knows, has an adverse impact not only upon the lakes and streams of this state but upon the health of New Hampshire citizens. It is a special problem for the Northeastern states; and the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers is actively engaged on a regional level to address the problem.

The article by Nancy Girard of the Conservation Law Foundation addresses the issue of sprawl. Her article focuses upon Article 6-a, Part II of the New Hampshire Constitution. This provision was adopted in 1938; and the article argues that the policy adopted in 1938 may actually be contributing to the phenomenon known as "sprawl." The article combines good legal analysis with an interesting public policy perspective.

Gretchen Rule, of the Department of Environmental Services, has contributed a detailed analysis of the laws regulating land development. She provides a remarkable hand book for any attorney practicing in that area of the law. She deals with shorelands and subdivisions, public and private water supplies, petroleum storage tanks and solid waste, and the permitting process and enforcement actions. It is a thorough - and valuable - vetting of the environmental statutes and regulations.

Peter C. Roth, with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, addresses the concept of sovereign immunity – the immunity enjoyed by the state, its officials and employees from legal claims in the environmental area. Peter addresses both the state and federal issues in a very concise manner.

Stephan T. Nix does an interesting analysis of New Hampshire’s rangeways – those roads or strips of land that were originally laid out along town lines, often in Colonial times. His article begins in 1629, with the statement that "New Hampshire was given away by the crown before it was settled… In 1629 [John] Mason became sole proprietor..." For those interested in historical deeds and descriptions, from the first settlements through to the present, this article is well-worth reading.

Finally, this issue includes a number of articles by Franklin Pierce law students. These articles were intended to be included in the annual review of New Hampshire law prepared by the law students. However, because of lack of space in that September issue, these articles are being published in this issue. This is an appropriate time to acknowledge the work that both the faculty and students at Franklin Pierce Law Center devote to preparing that annual survey of New Hampshire cases. It has become one very effective way for the Bar Association to let law students know that we welcome them, their enthusiasm and their skills into the practice of law in New Hampshire. The late Dean Viles was instrumental in starting the annual Franklin Pierce Law issue and it is one of his many legacies at the Law Center.

ENDNOTES

1. New Hampshire RSA 227-M:1 (Purpose)
2. New Hampshire RAS 227-M:3 (Land and Community Heritage Investment Program Established)
3. The "New York Times" featured an article on the City of Manchester on October 27, 2001 on the outbreak of anthrax in one of the mill buildings in Manchester, New Hampshire in the 1950’s and the steps that the city, state and federal governments took to deal with that problem. The Manchester Department of Public Health and Frederick Rusczek were featured in that article.

The Author

Attorney Michael S. DeLucia is the Director of Charitable Trusts at the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office. He is a past president of NASCO and serves on the governing board of NASCO, an affiliate of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

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