Environmentalists Applaud Signing of Law to Help Protect State Conservation Lands

Environmentalists joined Governor Dannel P. Malloy, State Representatives Lonnie Reed, Elissa Wright, Gail Lavielle, Matthew Lesser and representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to celebrate a new law that will enhance the State's ability to preserve its conservation lands in perpetuity. Governor Malloy held a ceremonial bill signing for Public Act 14-169, An Act Concerning The Grant Of Property Interests In Property Held By The Departments Of Agriculture And Energy And Environmental protection And The Establishment Of A Public Use And Benefit Land Registry, was approved unanimously by the General Assembly may 7th and became law June 11th.

The law (1) grants the Commissioners of the Department of energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture the explicit right to place conservation restrictions on land acquired to protect natural resources, open space or agricultural uses; and (2) requires DEEP to create an online public use and benefit land registry containing information about state-owned conservation properties. The online registry will launch by January 1, 2015 showing maps and land records for three state parks. Each quarter, DEEP is required to add 10 more state parks to the online registry. other lands owned by state agencies, as we

ll as properties in public drinking-water watersheds, may be added in the future. The goal is to make information about critical conservation resources and lands of high conservation value immediately available to the public as well as to state, municipal and other decision makers.

Conservation advocates led by the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Sierra Club's Connecticut Chapter and Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society, have been working for several years to promote measures to better protect state conservation lands for their intended conservation purposes.

Governor Malloy said, "We should be proud of the tremendous assets we have in terms of public lands and natural resources here in Connecticut, and by passing this legislation we are taking a critical step forward in our stewardship of the state parks, forests and other natural resource lands that are important to us all."

"This Public Act is the result of the hard work and cooperation of many parties, including the Malloy administration and open space, recreation, farmland and natural resource advocates," said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. "This new law will help make certain that we highlight the importance and significance of State land that has been acquired for the public's use and benefit. These natural spaces protect our environment, offer excellent recreational opportunities for the public, and protect Connecticut's unique character."

Eric Hammerling, Executive Director the Connecticut Forest & Park Assoction, added, "The State holds over 250,000 acres on behalf of the public, but most of these public lands like State Parks do not have any land restrictions that would guard against being given away at the whim of a future General Assembly. Iconic public lands like Hammonasset, Gillette Castle, People's Forest, and many others deserve special protection, and we applaud thsi General Assembly and Governor for taking critical first steps today to better protect State lands."

Margaret Miner, Executive Director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, said, "State parks, forests, wildlife areas, and other state-owned natural spaces serve a vital function in protecting the health of rivers and wetlands. Preserving rivers, streams, and estuaries for the benefit of all requires saving the lands and natural vegetation bordering these waters. Public Act 14-169 will serve the public doubly, conserving both water and land."

Martin Mador, Legislative and Political Chair for the state Sierra Club chapter, applauded the Governor's signing of PA 14-169 and the efforts of the legislature and DEEP staff to craft it. "This is an important step in the ongoing campaign to ensure that the open space held by the state continues its contribution to add to the quality of life in Connecticut."

Sandy Breslin, Director of Governmental Affairs for Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society, said: "Connecticut's conservation lands guarantee state residents an enduring connection to nature while providing essential habitats for birds and other wildlife. These lands deserve the highest level of protection, and thanks to the leadership and support of Governor Malloy, the General Assembly and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this new law gives us tools to ensure more durable protection of our most cherished places."

Advocates also acknowledged the contribution of the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality whose report "Preserved But Maybe Not" highlighted the lack of permanent protections for state conservation lands, leaving them vulnerable to inappropriate sale or swap.

Contacts:

Margaret Miner, Rivers Alliance, Executive Director, rivers@riversalliance.org, 203/788-5161, website http://www.riversalliance.org/main.cfm, FB https://www.facebook.com/RiversAllianceOfConnecticut
Eric Hammerling, CT Forest & Park Association, Executive Director, ehammerling@ctwoodlands.org, cell 860/335-0812, website http://ctwoodlands.org/, FB https://www.facebook.com/CTForestandParkAssociation
Marty Mador, CT Sierra Club Legislative Chair, martin.mador@aya.yale.edu, 203/281-4326, website http://connecticut.sierraclub.org/, FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/207011239513/?fref=ts
Sandy Breslin, Audubon CT, Director of Government Affairs, sbreslin@audubon.org, cell 203/804-0488, website http://ct.audubon.org/ , FB https://www.facebook.com/AudubonCT?fref=ts