While there has been a regional focus on the lack of and need to create young, early-successional habitat in recent years, there is also recognition and consensus from wildlife biologists about the importance of older, late-successional forests for wildlife. Many of the components of these mature forests - large living and dead trees and downed woody material, for example - are important to a variety of wildlife species.
New Hampshire is home to an abundance of diverse wildlife habitats and natural communities, which can make it difficult to decide where to focus conservation efforts. There are many ways to identify and prioritize areas for conservation. One strategy is to identify rare habitats and exemplary natural communities and focus on protecting those areas first. Becase they are uncommon, protecting these areas can provide habitat components not available elsewhere, which will help to support a diversity of wildlife species on the landscape.
Climate change poses a number of threats to New Hampshire's water bodies, from rising temperatures and increase risk of drought to greater stormwater runoff due to more extreme precipitation. Protecting water quality and quantity will be increasingly important in the face of a changing climate, not just for the wildlife that live in and depend on water resources, but also for NH communities.
Ultimately, the best way to protect wildlife and habitats in the face of climate change is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are contributing to the problem. The first step is to understand our individual and organizational/community contributions to climate change, also known as our "carbon footprint" - i.e. how much greenhouse gas emissions do our activities and behaviors contribute to the atmosphere. Check out this Carbon Footprint Calculator from The Nature Conservancy. From there, we can identify opportunities to reduce these emissions by making changes to our behaviors.
Towns have limited resources to conserve land. A conservation plan or land conservation selection criteria can help your conservation commission prioritize projects to pursue for permanent land conservation. A community conservation plan will help you educate landowners, new commission members, other town officials, and the general public about important natural resources in your community. It will also demonstrate to potential funding entities that you are operating in a professional manner.
Conservation and education organizations throughout New Hampshire offer a variety of workshops and trainings focused on wildlife habitats, forest management, and good stewardship. Attending one of these workshops can provide a great learning experience and often involves a chance to go in the field to observe the natural resources or management being discussed, interaction with professionals, and learning from the experiences of others. Workshops can range from short indoor presentations to day-long outdoor field trips.
The Speaking for Wildlife program offers free public talks and walking tours, focused on wildlife and habitats, to libraries, town boards, classrooms, and other interested community groups in New Hampshire. The program has a network of volunteers, trained by UNH Cooperative Extension, who are available to deliver wildlife presentations and lead walks on public lands.
There are currently six presentations available to choose from, including:
A Garden for Wildlife: Natural Landscaping for a Better Backyard
The shorelines of lakes, ponds, and rivers are valuable real estate in New Hampshire, but their importance as wildlife habitat is also significant. The quality of riparian habitat (land adjacent to and directly influenced by streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes) may be the single biggest influence on the abundance and variety of wildlife that live in or around a water body. Lakes, ponds and rivers with plentiful natural vegetation and undeveloped shores surrounded by large blocks of forest will support the greatest number of wildlife species.
People who are aware of the problems associated with invasive plants can end up getting discouraged, once they realize that yes, they are all over the place. But don’t get discouraged! The good news is that they are not everywhere in New Hampshire, and there are options for towns, conservation groups, private landowners, and public agencies to actively work to control invasive plants.
Engaging youth in conservation commission activities can create meaningful and lasting connections. Get started by reaching out to your local school or teacher and don’t feel like you need a fully fledged plan. Suggest project ideas that can be simple to start.