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Funding cut leaves many in a tough spot


May 11, 2011
NEW DURHAM — Recent cuts by the Strafford County Commissioners have resulted in the elimination of a pair of vital programs that benefit Strafford County.

The Strafford County UNH Cooperative Extension office and Strafford County Conservation District are both being closed as a result of budget cuts.

Steve Panish, one of the founders and the former chairman of the Moose Mountain Regional Greenway, is disappointed by the commissioners' office.

"The commissioners ended up zeroing out everything," Panish said.

The elimination of the SCCD will effect conservation easements in the county.

"The Conservation District is one of those entities that can hold easements," Panish said. "They are a less expensive alternative to a private land trust."

In addition to holding easements and helping monitor those easements the SCCD also helps obtain federal grants.

"It's a cost of a few tens of thousands that brings in millions of federal money into the district," Panish added. "They do some of the leg work that is involved in obtaining federal grants."

The elimination of the cooperative extension office will result in the elimination of many education programs that helped local farmers.

Panish and the MMRG run programs throughout the year and the extension office often provided education information at events and even provided kayaks and canoes for an annual event that the MMRG held.

"The events will certainly be different without the extension office," Panish said. "To have those educational components really enhanced our events."

The extension office also held workshops and provided farmers expertise in what they are selling.

Panish has a farm in Milton that includes a timber forest that was forested poorly in the past, and he would have used the extension office to help pay for improving the forest.

"There was a lot of bad forestry that happened," Panish said. "When the land has been very badly cut over, you want to provide it with a little bit of guidance."

The extension office wouldn't have provided all of the funding to help improve his forest, but through a cost-sharing program they typically provided about 75 percent of the cost.

Now for Panish, he will either have to go about improving the forest at a much slower rate or not do it all.

"I don't know how it's going to work out," Panish said. "I am not going to be hiring somebody to do it."

Panish is disappointed that a program that helped put money into the local economy is being eliminated.

The extension office also managed a very large body of volunteers, more than 400, that helped provide gardening and farming assistance.

Farmers, gardeners and other citizens of Strafford County will greatly miss the services provided extension office and conservation district.

Panish feels that is was a relatively small amount of money that paid the salaries of the individuals that ran the programs that benefited the county, and now those programs are gone.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

Garnett Hill
Penny Pitou
Martin Lord Osman
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