I am pleased to share DES’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, a big picture, long-term approach to ensuring a healthy environment that will support New Hampshire’s quality of life for many years to come. DES has been “living” this plan for the past several years. In fact, work is already underway on nearly 40 percent of the 93 strategic actions in the plan.
You may notice that the plan looks very different from our previous strategic planning efforts; you will not see a program-by-program or “medium-by-medium” goal framework (e.g.,“Clean Air,” or “Clean Water”), but I assure you that this plan is based on DES’s steadfast commitment to its mission of sustaining a high quality of life for all citizens by protecting and restoring the environment and public health in New Hampshire. This means that we are still hard at work ensuring high levels of water quality for water supplies, ecological balance, and swimming, fishing, and boating. We are also protecting the air that we breathe, cleaning up contaminated sites, fostering the proper management of municipal and industrial wastes, and managing water resources for future generations.
In a survey conducted in the spring of 2008, and as part of focus group meetings with over 40 organizations and several hundred individuals, we posed three unique questions: 1) What should a 21st century environmental services agency look like?; 2) If the environment functions as a complex, integrated system, shouldn’t we be operating in a more coordinated, holistic fashion?; and 3) 20 years from now, what will people say that DES and its sister agencies should have been doing to safeguard New Hampshire’s environment and public health?.Survey respondents and meeting participants alike told us that they shared our concern that climate change, energy issues, and uncontrolled growth appear to be at the root of many of the environmental problems we are experiencing today. The collective impacts of our individual actions seem to have outpaced the impacts of the relative handful of regulated entities. We are also faced with such challenges as aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, MtBE contamination in our groundwater, and other emerging contaminants like pharmaceuticals and personal care products in our water systems.
All of this leads us to approach our work differently. For example, we have started working on a Great Bay Estuary Water Quality Initiative to deal with water quality violations and dramatic declines in eel grass in this vital estuarine environment. We have established a “Lean Team” to help us continuously improve our many processes. We are enhancing our on-line One-Stop tool to provide easy customer access to more information. We are exploring ways to streamline the permitting processes associated with our Land Resources Management Programs. And we are finding new ways to communicate with the public in a more understandable and transparent manner about environmental conditions and trends.
The plan has seven goals and includes actions to achieve these goals. The goals are all of equal importance, and they are mutually supportive and interdependent. The first two goals relate to the new, overarching environmental challenges that we face — energy use/climate change and sustainable use of the state’s natural resources — and provide additional lenses through which we must view all of our existing work and programs. The other five goals relate to the measures we must undertake in order to better equip DES and people of the state as a whole to meet the environmental and public health challenges of the 21st century.
Accomplishing all of this and more, on top of everything else the department is responsible for, is no small feat given that we are trying to do this during one of the most difficult economic cycles in a long time. While many organizations “hunker down” and jettison such activities as strategic planning when times get tough, we instead have stayed the course with our planning efforts — because we believe that this actually IS the best time to be strategic.
If you think we are on track and see ways that you or your organization could be a partner in implementing this plan, please contact Vincent Perelli, Chief of Planning and Policy, at [email protected] or (603) 271-8989, or me at [email protected]. Please review the full plan and let us know if you have questions or think we may have missed something important. DES is committed to implementing this plan, with the help of all the people of New Hampshire, to ensure that the environment we leave to the next generation is even better than the one that was left to us.
Thomas S. Burack, NHDES Commissioner
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