The Connecticut Audubon Society released its Connecticut State of the Birds 2015 report, “Protecting and Connecting Large Landscapes,” at the beginning of December and called for an increased emphasis on habitat connectivity and land protection. The report highlighted work by Highstead, Wildlands and Woodlands, and the Hudson to Housatonic Regional Conservation Partnership, among others, as efforts successfully answering that call.
“Connecticut’s large natural areas contain the habitats essential to the state’s flora and fauna,” said Alex Brash, president of the Connecticut Audubon Society at a December 8 press conference. “But they also provide other ecosystem functions that benefit the state’s human population, including nutrient cycling, waste treatment, food production, climate regulation and water-supply protection.”
The report showcased successful conservation efforts in Connecticut, New England and beyond, including the Hudson to Housatonic RCP, which engages landowners in western Connecticut and adjacent eastern New York to protect land.
It also featured an article co-written by David Foster of the Harvard Forest and Bill Labich of Highstead Foundation. The article, titled “Conservation Trends, Aspirations, and Collaborations in Connecticut,” looks at the current state of conservation in Connecticut, highlighting the increasing threat of development and growing hope offered by various collaborative conservation projects. Examples of successful efforts mentioned in the article include the conservation of the $10 million, 1,000-acre coastal forest Preserve property, and work by the Mass-Conn Sustainable Forest Partnership to secure $2.5 million for its Whip-Poor-Will Woods US Forest Service Forest Legacy Program.
To protect Connecticut’s natural landscapes, the report says states and municipalities must establish a steady source of funding for land conservation and a realistic spending plan.
“The large landscapes that are essential for the well-being of our environment are getting sold, broken-up, disconnected and developed, to the detriment of all creatures, human and wildlife, that live in Connecticut,” said Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for the Connecticut Audubon Society.
“We hear it all the time: we can’t acquire conservation land now because the economy is weak, because prices are too high, because we’re having budget problems. The knee-jerk reaction is that there’s never a good time to conserve land, and the result is that despite the occasional triumphs, we are losing opportunities.”
The report’s other recommendations include:
- Protect large tracts of forest and utilizing management plans to sustain natural diversity.
- Prioritize forest and habitat connectivity in the Green Plan and other Connecticut conservation efforts.
- Get landowners involved in regional conservation plans.
- Include biological connections in each municipality’s state-mandated Town Plan of Conservation and Development.
- Require all elected and appointed officials to be familiar with the Green Plan.
- Consider removing dams on privately-owned sections of streams to improve habitat and increase connectivity.