AFFILIATE SPOTLIGHT: New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions

The Affiliate Spotlight is a new column designed to give readers a closer look at affiliate groups of NHMA. There are over 30 such groups comprised primarily of municipal officials serving a particular position, such a city and town clerks, assessors, health officers, road agents, etc. In this issue, we introduce the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions.

TC:  What is the mission/goals of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions?

NHACC:  The NHACC Missions is to foster conservation and appropriate use of New Hampshire's natural resources by providing assistance to conservation commissions, facilitating communication and cooperation among commissions, and helping to create a climate in which commissions can be successful. The association serves as a resource network as well as a source of technical advice, education, and advocacy for all of our members and for the cause of conservation throughout New Hampshire. We're the only organization providing specific programs and support to our state's municipal conservation commissions.

TC: What are biggest challenges facing your professional group today?

NHACC:  New Hampshire municipal conservation commissions are tasked with conducting natural resources inventories, coordinating activities and environmental education, land protection, wetland permit review and so much more.  Working to protect our state’s natural resources can be a tall order.  It is a challenge to find and keep interested volunteers and make sure commissions have the knowledge to face emerging environmental issues.  Remaining relevant as an advisory board requires working with other town boards and public to accomplish goals.  NHACC understands that commissions need support and technical assistance to ensure that all conservation commissions remain strong and effective within their communities. 

TC:  How has NHMA helped your professional group to do your job?

NHACC:  NHMA has been a tremendous help to NHACC.  We have partnered with NHMA on two webinars and recently cooperated on an article for NHMA’s New Hampshire Town and City MagazineWhat is the role of Conservation Commissions in Wetland Permitting?  I often send our members to NHMA when they need legal advice or information that NHACC is not able to provide.  I also appreciate checking in with NHMA on legislative issues and see what they are following.  Likewise, staff from NHMA have checked in with NHACC to see what bills we are following and what we plan to support or oppose. It has been an extremely beneficial partnership!

TC:  What advice would you give someone who would like to follow in your professional footsteps?

NHACC:  Make connections with experts in the conservation community and know where and when to seek help from others.  I always promote coordination with other organizations and building partnerships to make sure we are efficient and effective.  As put forth in RSA 36-A: conservation commissions “shall seek to coordinate the activities of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes.”  It is a wise mandate.

TC:  Do you dislike any aspects of your profession? Which ones? Why?

NHACC:  It is critical to have a wide range of skills and abilities to manage a non-profit, and it can be hard to do everything well. I need to have knowledge of non-profit management, fundraising, board development, event coordination and still provide technical assistance to our members every day.  NHACC relies heavily on board members and volunteers who may have limited time and expertise.  We need to respond to the needs our members, follow what’s happening in the legislature and make sure we are fiscally solvent. It can be a challenge to get everything finished in a timely manner and make sure it is done well. 

TC:  Given the opportunity, what changes would you make to the profession?

NHACC:  NHACC wants to see every town in NH have an active conservation commission, playing a significant role in protecting natural resources in their community.  We currently have 217 conservation commission in NH, so we still have a dozen or more towns who need to establish commissions. Conservation commissions must continue to seek education and training to respond to increasingly complex environmental issues so we would like to offer more advanced technical training opportunities for commissions.