Upon Closer Examination, State Land Preservation Goal Looks "Nigh Impossible" | Connecticut Public Radio

Upon Closer Examination, State Land Preservation Goal Looks "Nigh Impossible"

Dec 22, 2015

It's an endpoint looking more and more out of reach.

Connecticut needs to conserve more land -- and do it much faster -- if the state hopes to meet a conservation goal set for the year 2023, which seems increasingly out of reach.

Twenty-one percent of Connecticut's land should be protected by 2023. That roughly translates to 670,000 acres of open space, according to a state plan developed in 2001. 

So how close is the goal? The state is about 75 percent of the way there. On the surface, that doesn't seem so bad, but Alexander Brash, President of the Connecticut Audubon Society, said the state still needs to conserve about 8,000 acres per year to meet its goal, "which is no small task," he said, "in increasingly tough economic times."

To put that number into context, a 2014 investigation from the state Council on Environmental Quality found Connecticut added about 5,700 acres to its network of state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas in the last decade.

This year, 1,000 acres of coastal forest at "The Preserve" were conserved and that was a major win for environmentalists. But even considering that, the numbers still say this, to achieve its overall goal, the state will need to preserve more land than it has in the last decade every single year until 2023.

It's an endpoint looking, more and more, out of reach.

In a memo this month, the CEQ described the goal as "nigh-impossible."

Going forward, Alexander Brash said better public-private conservation partnerships are needed. And, he said acreage isn't the only conservation issue. Restoring river flows, setting aside more conservation money, and preserving natural "green corridors" are also important.

"There are many species in Connecticut: our moose, our black bear, various turtles, all of whom need that connectivity -- certainly lots of birds," Brash said.

The Connecticut Audubon Society addressed the land shortfall problem in its annual "State of the Birds" report.

Next week, WNPR will check in with an official from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to learn more about land acquisition and why Connecticut is lagging in its progress toward its ambitious 2023 goal.