Monday, October 27, 2008

Big Land Deal Preserves Big Acreage in Guilford

The Goss family of Guilford, Connecticut, has decided to forego a development plan that could have resulted in scores of new houses and instead sell 577 acres near Long Island Sound for preservation and protect another 47 acres with a conservation easement.

The family has owned the land, on Guilford's East River, just above (I think) I-95, for decades and my guess is that their plans to develop were half-hearted, particularly since they will continue to live on the 47 acres of conservation easement land. So in that sense the deal – 624 acres for $14.4 million, or $23,000 an acre – is a great one for them and, undoubtedly, a great one for the town and the state.

Here's the Hartford Courant story, and here's how the New Haven Register reported it. In the Courant, David Funkhouser wrote:

The East River runs from Guilford Lakes south into Long Island Sound. The agreement, negotiated with help from Audubon Connecticut and the state Department of Environmental Protection, would protect nearly 2 miles of the river corridor and the second-largest high tidal marsh around the Sound. Audubon's Guilford Salt Meadows Sanctuary and protected state land are just downriver.

The area is a rich habitat for fish, shellfish, birds and other wildlife, including several species in need of protection.

A high tidal marsh, by the way, is one that is dominated by Spartina patens, the short, cow-licked salt marsh grass; it gets inundated by the tides just a couple of times a month. A high-marsh has the taller Spartina alterniflora, and is flooded twice a day.

In the Register, Rachael Scarborough King wrote:

The land — the largest privately owned tract left in Guilford — includes wetlands and about two miles of shoreline along the East River, which flows south through the Audubon Society's Salt Meadows Sanctuary into Long Island Sound. Tom Baptist, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, stressed the importance of the area for the health of the Sound and the salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow, a threatened species that has a strong population in Guilford.

"It is one of the most ecologically important coastal properties left in Connecticut," Baptist said.

Audubon's press release explains further:

The land in question is adjacent to Audubon's 200-acre Guilford Salt Meadow Sanctuary established by area landowners in the 1960's. At a press conference on Friday, Baptist stated: "Audubon Connecticut is proud to be a partner in this landmark initiative to preserve this area. Conservation of the property will protect 1.9 miles of coastal shoreline, helping to preserve water quality in the East River Marsh, which hosts a globally significant breeding population of Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows, and also provides a vital refueling stop for thousands of migratory birds during spring and fall migration season."

In addition, Baptist noted: "Protecting this stretch of river corridor will improve capacity for marsh migration in the face of sea level rise due to global warming, a serious threat to the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow and other species that rely on the Marsh."

According to Audubon, the also property marks the southern terminus of a large-scale forested landscape known to conservation biologists as the Cockaponset Triangle/Bolton Range Corridor. "Successful preservation of this site will help to maintain the ecological integrity of this large forest tract, which is easily identifiable in aerial photographs as a relatively green and, at night, dark swath of land running from the shoreline to the northern part of the state," said Baptist.

Representative Rosa DeLauro secured $3 million in federal funding for the project, and Guilford voters will have to approve the rest. By presenting it at a press event on Friday as a done deal, both sides might have helped prevent any real local opposition from arising, although you can never tell.


Blogger David said...

Tom, thanks for posting this. For those especially interested in these issues, it's nice to get the added detail that won't fit into a 12-inch news story (which is about the standard in these days of shrunken news hole).

The East River is a great paddle -- spent three hours wandering up and down it over the weekend, much of that along the Goss property, where a pair of juvenile bald eagles have been hanging out.

1:00 PM  

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