Working on Peterborough’s Master Plan Open Space chapter, I tried to search that one out (optimum percentage of conserved land). Forest Society’s "NH Everlasting" set the goal as 25%, noting that percentage at that time for NH towns was an average of 10%. The report itemizes the natural resources that this would help preserve: forest, agricultural, water, etc. (as I recall). Water quality usually is mentioned #1 -- aquifer recharge, quality protection through naturally vegetated buffers, flood control (certainly in the news now). We fudged the question in our narrative, stating an "immediate goal" of 25%. Here’s the language:
Appropriate Amount of Open Space
Almost 19% of Peterborough’s 24,000 acres can be classified as protected open space -- from federally-owned MacDowell Dam land to town-owned conservation land to privately-owned conservation land -- although several of these properties lack legally binding development restrictions.
The answer to the question, "How much is enough?" is not an easy answer to deliver. New York City is 27% open space, indicating that percentages don't necessarily tell the whole story.
A recent study by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests recommends a minimum of 25% protected land for towns in the state.
The Open Space Committee suggests that location of conservation land is more important than percentages. Location guidelines should be determined by resource protection criteria, whether that resource is a natural shoreline buffer, water body, forest, agricultural field, wildlife corridor, or recreation trail. The larger the block of unfragmented open space, the greater its conservation value.
Respondents to the Master Plan Survey confirmed the results of previous town surveys. Eighty-two percent stated that preserving open space is "very important" or "important." The Open Space Survey and Master Plan visioning sessions confirmed the high value townspeople place on rural character, and oncompact village development surrounded by a natural landscape. Preserving the "look and feel" of Peterborough remains a high priority for residents.
In support of this mandate, we recommend… that the town support the protection of an additional 1,500 acres through conservation easements and town purchase to arrive at an immediate goal of 25% protected open space; and that the town formalize a permanent Open Space Committee to achieve these goals so that the "look and feel" of Peterborough is preserved for future generations.
(The Open Space chapter also cites numerous studies that show the economic value of open space - tax friendly, job friendly, tourism friendly, etc. and the various benefits of open space - water quality, scenic, flood control, etc. etc.)
10/14/2005 8:33 AM Francie Von Mertens [email@example.com]