Major Federal Grant Will Help Continue the Restoration of the Smith Richardson Preserve in Westport
January 8, 2018 – The transformation of 36 weed-choked acres in Westport into a thriving sanctuary for birds, pollinators, and native plants took a major step forward recently when the Connecticut Audubon Society was awarded a $145,780 grant from the federal government.
The funding is earmarked for a section of the H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve on Sasco Creek Road. It will allow Connecticut Audubon to plant 1,200 trees and shrubs chosen for their value to birds and other wildlife, and to continue the creation of a two-acre pollinator meadow. Invasive plants and vines that have far less value to birds and insects are being removed.
The grant was awarded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund and requires matching funding of $135,000, which Connecticut Audubon is working to raise.
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The 36 acres are only about a tenth of a mile from the Sound.
“Great bird and wildlife habitat so close to Long Island Sound is relatively rare, and we are excited about this chance to make a real difference,” said Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive director. “We are grateful to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, and we are looking forward to the transformation of Smith Richardson into a great place for birds in all seasons.”
The Long Island Sound Futures Fund combines funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In all, the futures fund awarded $1.2 million to 18 projects in Connecticut in late 2017.
The H. Smith Richardson preserve consists of three sections, all on Sasco Creek Road. In addition to the 36 acres that are the focus of the grant, the preserve includes a 24-acre Christmas Tree Farm, and 12 acres that Connecticut Audubon recently restored into a meadow.
The restoration of the 36 acres is being overseen by Milan Bull, Connecticut Audubon’s senior director of science and conservation. It is an ongoing project that is expected to last for several more years. The part of the work funded by the grant is scheduled to be completed in late fall of this year.
A neighborhood group called Friends of Smith Richardson, organized by two members of Connecticut Audubon’s Board of Directors, Jerid O’Connell and Charles Stebbins, has conducted preserve clean-up days during each of the last four Novembers. The Friends group is responsible for the big increase in local visibility and enthusiasm for the project.
The grant will allow Connecticut Audubon to build on the momentum created by that grass-roots work.
New sections of shrubs will provide nesting areas for species that are quickly declining in Connecticut, including perhaps Blue-winged Warblers, Indigo Buntings, and Eastern Towhees, and greatly improve habitat for migrating and wintering birds.
Conifers and native hollies will be planted in clusters, to provide cover for the Saw-whet, Barred and Great Horned Owls the sanctuary is known for. Other areas will be reserved for white spruce, white pine, American holly, and red cedar.
Work on the grant project started recently and will continue as weather conditions allow.