Exploring The Last Green Valley: Land trusts are crucial to conservation
I spent March 23 at Wesleyan University in Middletown with more than 550 other people for the Connecticut Land Conservation Council’s annual conference.
Gathered at the conference for training and workshops on the myriad issues facing conservationists were landowners, students, educators, municipal commission members, land use professionals, representatives from more than 140 land trusts and others. The conference epitomized the collaboration that must occur for conservation efforts to be successful.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection 2018 Open Space Annual Report highlights the need for partnerships. It lists 507,946 acres of public open space in the state. DEEP holds an estimated 259,655 acres of land in its system of parks, forests, and wildlife management and water access areas. DEEP also estimates its partners held 248,291 acres, and of this total, 66,432 were held by nonprofit land conservation organizations, with municipalities holding 84,106 acres and water companies 97,753 acres as open space.
I want to draw your attention to the nonprofit land trusts.
In The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor, we benefit from the hard work of a number of local land trusts. In total, they represent more than 18,000 acres of conserved land within the 35 towns of the National Heritage Corridor.
There are also larger New England and national land conservation organizations with holdings in our region, including the Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the New England Forestry Foundation. All these conservation organizations offer passive recreation on their properties. I have enjoyed countless hours hiking, birdwatching and simply enjoying our region’s beautiful outdoors on land trust properties.
Here is a list of our local land trusts. Each was included in TLGV’s Fall/Winter 2017 quarterly In Touch magazine, which focused on woodland conservation. Please understand in the intervening two years some of the land trusts have been quite active, adding to the number of acres protected. You can find this issue on the TLGV website at: https://thelastgreenvalley.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/InTouchFall2017web.pdf.
– Avalonia Land Conservancy is the largest land trust in Southeastern Connecticut with more than 3,500 acres preserved on more than 90 properties. To learn more about their work and properties check out their website at: www.avalonialandconservancy.org or by calling (860) 884-3500.
– Dudley Conservation Land Trust has 12 properties totaling almost 350 acres organized into eight conserved areas with all but one in Dudley, Mass. That one property is in neighboring Oxford. To learn more about their work check out their website at www.dudleyclt.org.
– The Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association/Wolf Den Land Trust was founded in 1979. They provide educational programs on forest management practices for landowners in the region. Wolf Den Land Trust owns 14 properties totaling 685 acres, plus three properties where it holds conservation easements on 200 acres. To find out more about their work and properties check out their website at: www.ecfla.org.
– The Groton Open Space Association was founded in 1967, owns four properties and worked with the state to preserve three more, totaling 1,742 acres. Learn more at www.gosaonline.org or call (860) 572-5715.
– Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust is Northeast Connecticut’s largest conservation organization. The organization was founded in 1966 and has conserved about 4,500 acres in more than 70 tracts. To learn more about their work and properties visit www.joshuastrust.org, call (860) 429-9023 or visit their headquarters at The Atwood Farm, 624 Wormwood Hill Road, Mansfield.
– The New England Forestry Foundation was founded in 1944 and has conserved about 27,000 acres throughout New England. It has three community forests in The Last Green Valley. To find out more about their work and properties check out www.newenglandforestry.org or call (978) 952-6856.
– The New Roxbury Land Trust was formed in 1999 to preserve and enhance the rural character of the Northeastern Connecticut towns of Woodstock, Eastford, Pomfret, Putnam, Thompson and Union. The Trust has preserved more than 305 acres. Learn more at www.nrlt.org.
– Wyndham Land Trust was founded in 1975 and has acquired more than 50 properties in Northeastern Connecticut. It has protected 2,271 acres and has conservation easements or restrictions on another 700 acres. Check out their website at www.wyndhamlandtrust.org or call (860) 963-2090 to learn more.
I hope you’ll consider joining one or more of the land trusts mentioned here. Each is actively working to conserve land in The Last Green Valley. They provide beautiful properties for outdoor recreation and several have informative publications and programs for their members. I have had the pleasure of visiting some of the properties held by our land trusts and have enjoyed meeting their passionate volunteers – people like you and me who care deeply about our region and our precious natural resources.
We live in a beautiful region called The Last Green Valley. Thanks in part to our local land trusts, our valley remains 77 percent forest and fields. We are green during the day with dark starry skies at night. I hope you’ll join me, our local land trusts and so many others as we care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.
Bill Reid is the chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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