What are Conservation Covenants?
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, seventy landowners in the Chocorua Lake Basin signed mutually binding conservation covenants restricting the usage of their land. Between 1968 and 1973, practically all of the land immediately surrounding Chocorua Lake was placed under covenant. The conservation covenants permit only residential use, require a minimum eight acre lot size, and control building height and setbacks. The covenants also prohibit billboards, commercial extraction of sand and gravel, alterations to natural drainage, and clear cutting within 150 feet of Chocorua Lake.
The Chocorua Lake Conservancy holds these covenants and is responsible for monitoring covenanted properties and enforcing the covenant terms. In total, the Conservancy is responsible for protecting 3,000 acres through 74 conservation covenants and easements on over 120 different properties.
Coincident with the covenant movement, many large parcels of undeveloped land within the Chocorua Lake Basin have been donated by local residents to the Chocorua Lake Conservancy or other conservation organizations. Additional lands have been purchased by Chocorua Lake Conservancy, which now owns or manages 931 acres of conservation land.
The covenant initiative was unique within the State of New Hampshire. The Chocorua Lake Basin property owners were the first group of landowners to undertake mutual covenants on such a large scale and on lake frontage. No other major lake in New Hampshire enjoys an entirely protected shoreline, a particularly unusual situation in that a major state highway runs along one side.
The establishment of conservation covenants was exceedingly forward looking and predated the introduction of conservation easements in New Hampshire. In fact, the use of conservation covenants to protect the Chocorua Lake Basin provided the momentum for the easement legislation in New Hampshire. Although the concept of covenants had been in use for years, employing them for scenic purposes was novel. The Chocorua Lake Basin property owners were among the first in New Hampshire to recognize the value of, and subsequently to protect, scenery and a landscape for the benefit of the public, fulfilling a long legacy of stewardship for public enjoyment.
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