Law will strengthen how state protects and conserves open space: Gov. Malloy; Advocates celebrate

Jul 19th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Story, Open Space

(HARTFORD, CT) – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Daniel Esty, Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky, and environmental advocates at the Session Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington for a ceremonial bill signing for Public Act 12-152 An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan.  This legislation strengthens Connecticut’s efforts to preserve important land as open space.

Governor Malloy signs the act into law. With Agriculture Commissioner Steven Reviczky, Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty and Tom Baptist. (From the Audubon Connecticut Facebook page facebook.com/AudubonCT)

“Protecting open space is paramount to preserving our quality of life,” said Gov. Malloy.  “By improving the way we coordinate land management and planning, we will make sure that we strike the right balance between development and land conservation, and protect the immense natural beauty of our state.”

The new law will help Connecticut meet the goal of protecting 673,210 acres, or 21 percent, of state land as open space by 2023.  It requires DEEP to:

  • Update the state’s open space plan by December 15, 2012 and then at least once every five years,
  • Prioritize land acquisition to integrate existing priorities such as wildlife habitat and ecological resources having the greatest need of immediate preservation,
  • Make recommendation for establishing a voluntary statewide catalogue to keep track of all conserved lands—private, municipal, state, and federal—in a format that is easily accessible to the public; and
  • Develop a plan to identify and permanently protect land of conservation value that is held by other state agencies

“This law puts a sharper focus on land conservation efforts and DEEP looks forward to working with a variety of partners during implementation,” said Daniel Esty, Commissioner of DEEP.  “It also requires us to think more creatively and develop a strategy to better prioritize and track our progress—all important to meeting our ultimate goal of protecting 21 percent of Connecticut’s land.”

“This new law recognizes the critical importance of working lands and strengthens the efforts to preserve them through a strategic, collaborative approach among agencies and organizations that protect land in the state,” said Steven K. Reviczky, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture.  “Connecticut continues to be a model for the nation on this front.”

With the assistance of two other DEEP initiatives, the Recreational and Natural Heritage Trust Program and the Open Space and Watershed Grant Program, Connecticut currently protects 493,452 acres of land as open space.  Public Act 12-152 had widespread support from state officials and advocates and was signed by the Governor on June 15, 2012.

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From Audubon Connecticut:

Audubon Connecticut  joined Governor Malloy, Commissioner Dan Esty, Commissioner Steve Revicsky, several lawmakers and a crowd of wildlife, open space and farmland advocates to commemorate passage of Public Act 152, An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan.

“Today, more than ever before, natural habitats, watershed lands and productive farmland are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Tom Baptist, Executive Director and Vice President of Audubon Connecticut, the state organization of the National Audubon Society. “With [this bill], our state is stepping up its efforts to protect our living and working landscapes.”

Audubon Connecticut worked with The Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) the state’s land trust umbrella organization devoted to land conservation and stewardship, Working Lands Alliance a broad-based coalition that champions policy and education initiatives to protect productive farmland and advance agricultural viability, and Connecticut Audubon Society, a statewide group focused on bird and habitats conservation through science-based education and advocacy since 1898.

According to Baptist, the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality played a key role in passage of the legislation, featuring it in their annual priorities for several years and providing input at critical moments during passage of the bill.  “We also commend DEEP for their willingness to work with us to refine this legislation and see it passed,” said Baptist.

“PA 152 received unanimous support in both Chambers of the General Assembly,” Baptist continued, “ proving once again that like the birds and wildlife it protects, conservation knows no political boundaries.”

“Now is the time for us to plan for the continued growth and economic health of our state, while preserving the forests, rivers, grasslands, working lands and Long Island Sound that make our state unique,” Baptist concluded. “[The bill] gives us the tools to do just that. We look forward to working with the Malloy administration and with our partners to do just that.”

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