Putting Down Roots: Environmental Justice in New Hampshire

Summer 2024

Melina Hill Walker: A More Equitable Future

In a Manchester neighborhood, children live in housing with lead paint, with poor air quality, with ancient pipes. Cars race down the two-lane, one-way ‘neighborhood highway,’ making the walk to school unsafe. Their neighborhood lacks tree cover: in summer, it’s hotter there than in leafier parts of town, and the children don’t have access to space where they can safely take their shoes off and feel the grass beneath their feet.


The environment these children live in is so different from the pastoral mountains, lakes, and forests of New Hampshire's image.


People in low-income communities, communities of color, and people with limited English proficiency often suffer first, and worst, from climate and environmental perils. New Hampshire is no exception to this unfair environmental burden, and many New Hampshire communities lack resources to help prevent negative environmental impact, build resilience, and improve quality of life. And environmental hazards do not only affect children in Manchester, nor do they only affect cities. For-profit companies are more likely to place landfills – and all their associated dangers – in rural, low-income communities. Water pollution affects fish spawning grounds in the White Mountains and in coastal estuaries.


"Environmental justice” is the condition of fair, equitable access to environmental benefits – like clean air and water, safe housing, shady streets, and green places to play – and freedom from the burdens of an unhealthy environment. In New Hampshire, a growing movement is working to ensure that everyone, regardless of income, race, primary language or social status, has access to a healthy environment. 

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Streets devoid of trees are almost 15 degrees warmer than their leafier counterparts.

Through community advocacy and with the help of CLF, the city of Manchester received a $2.2 million USDA grant to launch an urban forestry program. In the next five years, more than 500 trees will be planted and nurtured in city center neighborhoods.

Determinants of Justice: Building an EJ Movement in New Hampshire

North of Beech Street, in one of Manchester’s more affluent neighborhoods, a city pilot project took a two-lane, one-way street – a too-fast ‘neighborhood highway’ – down to one lane with a bike path. As a result, traffic slowed. Accidents decreased. The neighborhood is quieter. South of Beech Street, in the less-affluent neighborhood, no changes have been made to address the noisy, accident-prone neighborhood highway.

Now, residents are demanding better. The Manchester Community EJ Advisory Group is working to address the environmental challenges of the Queen City, and this place-based, community-led model is creating promising solutions. Across the state, Granite Staters are organizing in the pursuit of environmental justice and addressing the issue at monthly “Environmental Justice Roundtables.”

When Marina Vaz, Nashua-based Environmental Justice Community Advocate with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) talks about “Environmental Justice” (EJ) she’s talking about the immediate impact of people’s surroundings on their life and health. She’s talking about access to green space, clean air and water, costs of energy and food and housing, and safer streets.

“Injustice determines everything,” adds Arnold Mikolo, Manchester EJ Community Advocate with CLF. Both Mikolo and Vaz point to certain neighborhoods bearing the burden of bad planning. These are neighborhoods devoid of trees, where concrete shimmers in the heat. It is houses painted with lead-based paint, and “neighborhood highways” where cars speed through residential areas. One of these neighborhoods is city-center Manchester, where rates of asthma, occurrence of lead paint, cost of housing, and poverty level all rank in the high-90th percentile of anywhere in the United States.

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To register for the next Environmental Justice Roundtable, visit:

NH EJ Roundtable Registration

For information regarding NH EJ work and related questions, email:


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