In defense of LCHIP
Last month I spoke at the Conservation New Hampshire Legislative Breakfast about the state's Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP. LCHIP, an independent authority established by the Legislature in 2000, has the goal to maintain New Hampshire's quality of life and economic vitality by protecting the state's most important natural, historic and cultural resources through public-private partnerships. It is funded, in part, with $200,000 annually from the "moose" conservation license plates.It carries out its mission by providing matching grants of up to 50 percent of project costs to eligible applicants, municipalities and nonprofits. Annual grant rounds have ranged from $500,000 in 2005 to $6 million in 2008. However, in recent years the Legislature has directedLCHIP to contribute funds back to the General Fund. This year $1.9 million was awarded to 24 projects.In the 10 years since its founding, LCHIP has contributed funding to 202 projects helping to protect more than 290,000 acres and 118 historic structures in 136 of New Hampshire's cities and towns.LCHIP has an endowment established to provide annual funds to insure easements and protections are reviewed and monitored in perpetuity.I have been a board member of LCHIP for almost four years as the local planning representative from the Initiative For a 2020 Vision for Concord.LCHIP is most often the "but for" funding (as in "but for LCHIP's contribution, the project would not happen"). The funding it provides is especially critical in this ongoing recession.Job creationLCHIP's staff of three, with an additional part-time administrator, works diligently to make communities and not-for-profits aware of the program, how and when to apply, and occasionally, how to reapply in subsequent rounds as well as reviews the applications that are sent in. The staff presents recommendations to the board who ultimately approve the projects.Having participated in several grant rounds, I have been very impressed with the process and the results. There are many earnest and dedicated people working to achieve the best outcomes.These projects protect land and significant buildings, but they also create jobs in the process. In the past two years, over 140 jobs have been supported in 34 projects with total wages of $1.9 million. This is not a "feel good" program; it is an investment in our quality of life, our landscape and our built environment that makes this state a great place to live and attractive to tourists.Economic development is a key outcome from this program. However we cannot back away from this effort in tough financial times. LCHIP is not a luxury; it is an investment, one we need to maintain year in and year out, like a savings account for our future.LCHIP's success and continued positive impacts come from its fostering of public-private partnerships. LCHIP's endorsement often gives funders and participants confidence that the project is worthwhile and important. We are talking about both our natural and man-made environments. These are the things we who live here enjoy every day and they also attract tourists, a very important component of our state economy. It is easy to be spoiled and take for granted much of our natural beauty and our recreational spaces.We are blessed, but we need to protect these assets. Do not be bashful about telling your legislators how you feel about this worthwhile program.Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA) with the Building Owners and Managers Association. He can be reached at email@example.com.