Connecticut residents who are concerned about conservation have reason to be optimistic this week.
Governor Malloy signed a new law on Friday — Public Act No. 12-152, An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan — that requires Connecticut to devise a formal strategy for protecting open space, and to update it every five years. That’s good news because Connecticut’s official goal is to protect 21 percent of the land in the state, and it’s obviously easier to reach a goal if you have a plan for getting there.
We at Connecticut Audubon Society are particularly pleased because many of the bill’s provisions started as recommendations in our annual Connecticut State of the Birds reports.
The bill requires the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to prepare the strategy for achieving the 21 percent goal in consultation with the state Department of Agriculture, the state Council on Environmental Quality, municipalities, regional planning agencies, and private land conservation organizations such as Connecticut Audubon Society.
The strategy must include an estimate of the number of acres preserved statewide, as well as timetables for land acquisition by the state, plans for managing the state’s preserved lands, and an assessment of the resources the state will need to acquire and manage open space.
It has to identify the highest priorities for land acquisition, including wildlife habitat and ecological resources that are in greatest need of immediate preservation, and the general location of each priority. This is particularly important because many of the state’s highest quality conservation lands are at risk of being lost partly because few people know where they are.
The bill also requires the DEEP to work with other state agencies to identify lands they own that might have conservation value, and to devise a plan for preserving the tracts with the highest conservation value. This provision could lead to the preservation of important acreage without having to spend state funds.
In short, the new open space law will lead to a more rational process for conserving land. We at Connecticut Audubon Society look forward to working with the DEEP and others on making the most of the new law.
Connecticut Audubon Society commends Governor Malloy for signing the bill. Likewise we commend the members of the General Assembly, in particular Senator Ed Meyer, for weeks of hard work drafting it and securing the votes.
We also send our appreciation to the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality, which beginning in early January worked to draft the bill and guided it through the General Assembly; and to Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society, for its leadership in getting the bill passed.
And of course you, our members and supporters, made phone calls and sent emails to Hartford at key moments to express your support. We thank you all. – Tom Andersen, director of communications and community outreach