September Lands Update: Celebrate Your Success on Land Conservation

Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks at the Deer Lake press conference.

Each Wednesday, we bring you an update on one of our program areas. This week: Protected Lands. Read other recent updates on our blog: Healthy Waters, Climate & Resiliency, Ecological Restoration, Legal Actions

Deer Lake a done deal!

Deer Lake was sparkling and so were the smiles on the faces of those who gathered on the camp’s lawn on the sunny morning of September 16 to celebrate an incredible grassroots movement that saved the 253-acre property in Killingworth, CT from development! The nonprofit organization Pathfinders, which has led a summer camp on the property for decades, undertook a powerful fundraising campaign to beat a developer’s offer and purchase the property from the Connecticut Yankee Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

“Conserving this land will preserve some of Connecticut’s great natural resources, including forest, streams, and Deer Lake itself,” said David Anderson, Save the Sound’s land campaigns manager. “Protecting some of Connecticut’s last remaining contiguous forest land from development helps keep intact the natural habitat of wildlife from bobcats to thrushes. In addition, it protects all of us because this undisturbed forest captures pollutants and cools stream water before it reaches Long Island Sound.”

This conservation success depended on the coordinated efforts of many organizations and officials, including the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, the Connecticut Audubon Society, the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, state Attorney General William Tong, state Senator Christine Cohen, and Nancy Gorski, First Select of Killingworth. Last, but certainly not least, nearly 400 of Save the Sound’s members and supporters responded to our calls for action and helped spread the word and apply the pressure needed to make this sale possible. Thank you!

Plum Island wetlands

Plum Island a contender!

According to a story in The Washington Post’s newsletter “The Climate 202” earlier this month, Plum Island, NY is being promoted for consideration on President Biden’s National Monument short list. It was mentioned along with two other sites—Castner Range in Texas and Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada—as potential picks along with Colorado’s Camp Hale, said to be likely to be proclaimed by the president as a National Monument in coming weeks. Reporter Maxine Joselow wrote, “As Biden eyes the sites in Colorado, he faces a flurry of calls from congressional Democrats, environmentalists and Indigenous leaders to protect other landscapes across the country.” Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “I am in favor of any alternative that will preserve Plum Island without commercial or residential development.”

Last April, Blumenthal joined Senate colleagues Chris Murphy, Charles Schumer, and Kirsten Gillibrand in sending a letter to the president. In it, the senators wrote, “We urge you and the administration to consider and utilize all available executive and administrative tools at your disposal to ensure the permanent protection of Plum Island and its management for conservation by the Department of the Interior.” Senator Blumenthal continued his push in late August, directly urging the president to declare Plum Island a National Monument in a press conference and follow-up letter to the White House. Many other state and local elected officials from both NY and CT have since joined the call, including Long Island’s East End Supervisors and Mayors Association, the entire Suffolk County Legislature, NYS Senator Phil Boyle, and Assembly members Fred Thiele and Steve Englebright.

Have you made your pitch for Plum Island? If not, there’s still time to send your own letter to President Biden. You can also ask your state elected officials to write a letter to the President. Urge your local mayor or supervisor to weigh in, too!

pitch pine nursery

Oswegatchie Pitch Pines are growing

Meanwhile, members of the Save Oswegatchie Hills Coalition have been busy with stewardship projects in and around the Town of East Lyme preserve, which borders 236 acres that we continue to fight to save from development. Put together, these properties comprise the last mile of undeveloped Niantic River saltwater shoreline.

The new Greg Decker Pitch Pine Nursery, a popular pre- and post-hike gathering point in front of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve, features growing beds for Pitch Pine saplings, pollinator gardens, benches on a circular patio of paving stones, a strolling path through Pitch Pine trees, and educational signs that tell the story of this historic tree species that has disappeared from much of the state due to loss of habitat.

In nature, Pitch Pines get crowded out by taller trees such as Eastern White Pine and hard wood trees. The heat of forest fires would naturally release the seeds from fallen pine cones and clear out competing vegetation so the young seedlings could flourish. Today, Pitch Pines are most often found in exposed rocky ledges, often in nature preserves, where other trees can’t survive and crowd them out.

Volunteers recently dug young Pitch Pine saplings out of the nursery growing beds and replanted them around the strolling area. The next crop of little seedlings, sprouted from pine cones collected in the Oswegatchie Hills that stewards heated to simulate effects of a forest fire, have now been planted in the beds. After a couple of years of growth here, they’ll be planted around the nursery and up in the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve.

The Six Lakes team is growing, too

Our push to open up the Six Lakes property in Hamden as a park for all is also moving forward. In partnership with the Yale Center for Environmental Justice, the Six Lakes Park Coalition is working with graduate student Rennie Jones as an EJ Community Fellow, who will work this academic year on research and community engagement. EJ Community Fellows are Yale graduate students doing graduate-level environmental justice work or research with partner organizations in the region like Save the Sound. Rennie is an artist and architect from New York City whose architectural work is focused on urban-scale interventions in climate adaptation and resilience. They are now studying for a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale School of the Environment. Welcome, Rennie!

And speaking of teams:

Excited by the land conservation work we’re doing in the Long Island Sound watershed? We’re hiring! Our new Regional Director of Land & Community Resilience will spearhead major land conservation efforts and advocate for climate adaptation and environmental justice in Connecticut, Westchester, and New York City, and on Long Island. Find the full job description and more positions here.

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