Protecting Land Protects Water
"Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children's lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land." —Luna Leopold
We work to protect forests and other priority lands for the prime purpose of protecting the quality and quantity of our water resources. While all land is conceivably worthy of protection from inappropriate development, the limit of time and finances creates the need for a triage system that ranks land available for protection based on these criteria.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the conserved forests in the Nashua River watershed, and the Merrimack River watershed of which we are a sub-basin, are among the best in the country for providing clean drinking water, and are first on the list as the most threatened in the United States. View the Water and People: Drinking water supply and forest lands in the Northeast and Midwest United States report.
Forests provide essential "natural benefits" such as: filtering air, reducing floods and erosion, sustaining stream flows and aquatic species, ensuring watershed stability and resilience, absorbing rain and naturally filtering runoff which refills wells, streams, and groundwater aquifers. And, properly managed forests provide the economic value of wood and pulp, and the less tangible, but still highly desired, physical benefits of scenic views, places for recreation, and places for quiet contemplation.
NRWA participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Legacy program, both as a project partner and as the sponsor for all funding applications in our region. Our collaborative large-scale Forest Legacy projects have protected thousands of acres of forestland to date. The NRWA is also leading a multi-year USDA-funded Forest Redesign project focused on identifying priority lands for protection using GIS mapping technology. The NRWA is a partnering organization in the Wildlands and Woodlands Partnership, an informal network that is collaborating on a 50-year vision to preserve New England's forests; the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership which works to protect and enhance open space in the North Quabbin region (parts of the western reaches of our watershed); and the Nissitissit Souhegan Highlands working group protecting land in some of our New Hampshire communities.
It has been NRWA's decision to date not to hold land in fee or seek Conservation Restrictions (Conservation Easements in NH); however, we are not prohibited from doing do. According to our Conservation Restriction Policy, we consider Conservation Restrictions specifically in those cases of last resort where no other eligible conservation entity will do so.
In addition to our work on land protection projects, the NRWA also leads efforts to encourage thoughtful land stewardship and land use planning that balances development with environmental protection. NRWA also provides free education programs for adults on topics relevant to water and land protection.