Livable Landscapes: By Chance or by Choice?

Documentary and Community Events to Examine Land Development in Northern New England

For Immediate Release

Development is radically changing Northern New England's landscape, affecting where and how we live. Livable Landscapes: By Chance or By Choice? is an hour-long documentary to be broadcast on New Hampshire Public Television, Maine PBS and Vermont Public Television on January 29 at 8pm. 

The program explores how citizens in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are facing the challenges that growth poses to their communities and to the landscape that defines them. To coincide with the PBS broadcast, special viewing events are being organized across the region to bring community members together to discuss the local concerns about growth and change raised by the film. 

Livable Landscapes explores five communities struggling with choices about transformations, including: Stratham, New Hampshire, located in the fastest growing part of New Hampshire, where John Hutton is determined to farm despite waves of suburban development on land he once worked. Local citizens are responding by approving land-conserving subdivision designs and raising money to buy important open spaces; Burlington, Vermont, where citizens in Chittenden County have hotly debated the proposed Circumferential Highway for decades. Some argue that the new highway will solve traffic problems, but others claim it will contribute to sprawl in outlying rural areas; Littleton, New Hampshire, where merchants, local officials and activists have transformed a dying Main Street into a vibrant, attractive place to live, work and shop; Shoreham, Vermont, a rural area that for now is beyond the reach of sprawl. Local farmers are working to assure that their town will remain a farming community far into the future; Scarborough, Maine, where developers and neighbors are working together to create a "new” New England village, and in the process are rethinking the zoning rules that have made it nearly impossible to "grow smart.” 

Screening events will convene concerned citizens, local officials, and civic and business leaders to discuss issues in their own communities related to the documentary. A viewers' guide is available with ideas and questions, and an interdisciplinary teaching curriculum has been developed for middle and high school classrooms. Both publications are available at 

For information about screening events in your area, or organizations working on smart growth in your state, contact:
In New Hampshire: Sarah Thorne, Society for the Protection of NH Forests; (603) 224-9945,
In Vermont, Beth Humstone, Vermont Forum on Sprawl, (802) 864-6310,
In Maine, Beth Dellavalle, Maine Office of State Planning, (207) 287-2851, 

Livable Landscapes: By Chance or By Choice? was produced by Melissa Paly of Cross Current Productions, a Portsmouth-based company specializing in the development of science and environmental media. The documentary is a collaboration with New Hampshire Public Television and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, produced in association with ITVS, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Additional support was provided by the: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Statewide Program of Action to Conserve our Environment, New Hampshire Humanities Council, Arthur Getz Charitable Trust, Community Development Finance Authority of New Hampshire, French Foundation, Lyda Ebert Family Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, Mainstream Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, Maine Humanities Council and the John Sage Foundation. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by the vision of media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. Contact ITVS at or visit ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. 


Posted on January 14, 2003