Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners / Wolf Den Land Trust


- by Fred Borman III, Program Specialist I, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Forestry

Forest fragmentation and parcelization are two of the top issues that concern State Foresters in the Northeast. Fragmentation is the breaking up of contiguous forest into smaller blocks and is associated with conversion to non-forest uses. Parcelization is breaking up a single land ownership into smaller tract ownerships. Fragmentation usually has ecological impacts, while parcelization has more of an economic impact.

According to the 1998 USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (C. Alerich, et al) of the state, Connecticut lost more than 88,000 acres of commercial forestland to development between 1985 and 1998. An additional 97,000 acres were converted from commercial forestland to non-commercial forestland. In 1985 the average parcel size was 17 acres. In 1998, the average parcel size had decreased to just over 13 acres.

To try and stem the conversion of forestland to non-forest uses, the US Congress, authorized the Forest Legacy Program in the 1990 Farm Bill, Title XII, State and Private Forestry. Funds were allocated to purchase Conservation Easements or Fee Title to lands deemed most threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. In order to participate in the Forest Legacy Program, a state must prepare an Assessment of Need (AON). Connecticut 's AON was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture in October of 1994, and applications were solicited soon thereafter.

In order to be considered for Connecticut 's Forest Legacy program, a property must meet certain criteria. These are:

  • Threatened by conversion to non-forest use.
  • Preservation of forestland base and opportunities to continue traditional forest uses. (Ex. Lands that abut existing protected land receive a higher priority.)
  • Environmentally important forestland.

Applications are received by the Division of Forestry. Tracts that meet the AON criteria and an initial evaluation by the Division of Forestry are then submitted to the State Forest Stewardship Committee for review, approval and prioritization. The list of approved tracts are then submitted by the Division of Forestry for review and acceptance by the USDA Forest Service. The list is generally sent to the Forest Service in January for consideration for funds to be allocated in the next Federal fiscal year. The list is then sent to the Appropriations Committee of the US Congress which makes the final determination as to which projects are funded.

Connecticut has seven project areas within two Forest Legacy Areas. The project areas encompass the following areas: Upper Housatonic River Watershed, Farmington River Watershed, Fairfield County , Scantic River Watershed, Quinnebaug/Shetucket River Watershed, Connecticut River Watershed, and the Pachaug River Watershed.

Since 1994, conservation easements have been purchased on three properties in Connecticut ; a 54 acre tract in Hampton , a 172 acre tract in Norfolk , and a 127 acre tract in East Hampton . All three of these tracts abut already existing protected forestland. In two cases the tracts abut State owned lands and the tract in Norfolk abuts Nature Conservancy land.

Currently, negotiations are under way to acquire easements on a 95 acre property in Glastonbury , 5,565 acres in the Towns of Norfolk and Canaan , and 94 acres on the Greenwich/Stamford line. One of the most exciting projects being worked on is a group application from the Stonehouse Brook Preservation Circle in Chaplin and Ashford. Eight landowners with an aggregate total of 706 acres are working together to protect their forestland in the Natchaug River Watershed. It is anticipated that this project will receive funding in either 2002 or 2003.

In 2001, Congress allocated $60 million nationally for Forest Legacy. In 2002, $65 million was appropriated for Legacy. It is anticipated that funding levels will remain constant or increase slightly over the next few years. As of January, 2002, 31 States now participate in the Forest Legacy Program.

For more information on Connecticut 's Forest Legacy Program, please contact Fred Borman, CT DEP, Division of Forestry, 79 Elm Street , Hartford, CT 06106. Telephone: 860 424-3634. E-mail: fred.borman@po.state.ct.us.

This article originally appeared in the March 2002 ECFLA/WDLT Newsletter.