In 2002, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, in coordination with state and federal land conservation experts, established CELCP "for the purpose of protecting important coastal and estuarine areas that have significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, or aesthetic values, or that are threatened by conversion from their natural or recreational state to other uses," giving priority to lands that could be effectively managed and protected and that have significant ecological value.
Prior to 2006, CELCP funds were exclusively allocated through the congressional appropriations process. However, the 2006 appropriations bill called for NOAA to create a national priority list for CELCP appropriations. A New Hampshire proposal ranked Number 1 nationally in the 2006 competition. A partnership of organizations, including the Trust for Public Land, Bear-Paw Regional Greenways, and the town of Strafford worked together to conserve five properties in Strafford. The focal point of the initiative, a 287-acre parcel containing approximately 1.5 miles of frontage on the Isinglass River, was purchased with the help of a $1.3 million grant from the CELCP.The New Hampshire CELCP Plan identified priority areas for CELCP funding within New Hampshire’s coastal watershed and was approved by NOAA. The Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds was initiated by the Coastal Program and Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership and served as the foundation of the state’s CELCP plan. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Nature Conservancy and the Strafford and Rockingham regional planning commissions were all major players in the development of that plan, which was released in 2006.