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Protect state parks

Next week the New Hampshire House of Representatives will be voting on a bill to protect state parks from encroachment by landfill developers. The bill, HB 1319, would create a two-mile buffer around state parks, to protect all state parks from odors, scavengers animals, water contamination and other environmental insults.

Original support for HB 1319 comes from a large group of North Country residents and state legislators concerned that New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services does not have the tools to prevent Casella Waste Systems from building a massive new landfill in Dalton, right next to Forest Lake State Park, and within five miles of Casella’s existing landfill facility in Bethlehem. Forest Lake is, incidentally, the only state park with a swimming beach that is in the entire North Country – the large, but less-populated area of the state north of Franconia Notch.

Now, lots of downstate New Hampshire residents and state legislators support this bill. Our concern is that if the House does not pass HB 1319, then every state park could be under threat. Imagine the state park in your community, where your children swim, where you picnic or camp, with a stinky landfill right next door. Horrifying, right?

Opponents of this bill argue that the state needs more landfill capacity quickly. According to DES’ recent action on the Bethlehem landfill, this is not true; but even if it were true, is that a good reason to let a private, for-profit, out-of-state company locate another facility right next to a beautiful state park? No, it isn’t!

Opponents also argue that this bill would be an infringement on private property rights, a legal argument that gets trotted out all the time by large private landowners. It’s also not true, considering that as a state we make these kind of choices all the time. We would not allow an adult bookstore right next to an elementary school; why would we allow a landfill right next to a state park?

You can do something about this. Please call or write your state Representative and tell them you want them to protect your favorite state park, and in fact all state parks from encroachment by landfills. Tell them to vote YES on HB 1319. If your Representative votes no on HB 1319, you’ll know they don’t care enough about our state parks to protect them from landfill development.