Monday, April 16, 2018

Ultimate Frisbee Club tackles Japanese Barberry

By Alan Lau
GNCE at Connecticut College

Saturday, April 7, was an exciting day for Johnathan Monderer as he got twenty other volunteers, mostly from the Conn College Ultimate Frisbee Club, to join him in Paffard Woods, Stonington, CT to help pull Barberry plants which had invaded the stream line woodlands. The Japanese Barberry, or Berberis thunbergii, was brought to the United States in 1875 as an ornamental plant and promoted as a replacement for common Barberry. The plant was not considered a problem until the 1980’s when it began to spread. These weeds form dense stands that compete with native trees and herbaceous plants. The weed has naturalized as far north as Nova Scotia, south to North Carolina, and west to Montana. It has invaded a total of 31 states, with 17 states designating it as invasive. (Learn more at the National Invasive SpeciesInformation Center and here.) Japanese Barberry is a dense woody shrub with lots of spines connected to the branches. Its usual growth is about three feet high, but it occasionally reaches up to six feet. Flowers appear in May, and the fruits - red oblong berries - persist on the plant into the following winter.
The Connecticut College Barberry pulling Ultimate Frisbee team.

When cut, Barberry stems show a bright yellow sap.

The invasive plants leaf out earlier than native plants and  create a green mist in the wetlands.

The plants come out easily with roots intact.

Chilly day

The first hour was a bit chilly, about forty degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, after the first hour of work, the sun came out to give us a nice wave of warmth and comfort. Some of us might have gotten a bit too comfortable as I and two other students ended up falling knee deep into the stream and getting all our clothes wet. The other difficult part of pulling these invasives were the spines that would pick you almost every time you tried pulling one out. You could hear the volunteers yelping from the distance each time they pulled out a plant. The last thing all volunteers had to worry about were the ticks. The Barberry creates a perfect living environment for ticks which can carry diseases like Lyme disease, granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. (Click here to learn more.)
The longer I worked the more I began to get into a meditative state in which my senses felt enhanced. I started to hear the birds whistle, the laughter from my peers, and the sound of water gently flowing down the stream. It is quite fascinating how one can forget about all the clutter in their lives as they focus on the objective of pulling invasive Barberry plants.
Each volunteer is an essential cog in the machine that is Avalonia. Both young and old volunteers played a role in forming efficient lines to make the labor go by faster and easier. By the third hour things were ready to wrap up. All the remaining invasives we had pulled were dragged up the hill to parking area where Anne. N provided her famous Cookies and Juice for the volunteers. However, once we got to the top, the volunteers ignored the snacks at first and went straight for her dog Riley. Yup, there is nothing that a college club frisbee player loves more than a good dog. After a few minutes of mingling and photos, everyone departed on their way home.

Project leader Jonathan with all the pulled barberry, some in bags, but most in piles by the trail that will be chopped up and removed.

It wasn't all hard work.

Blogger Alan Lau recording the event on his phone.

Photographs by the students of Connecticut College.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Introduction to some of the Students at Connecticut College

 As promised, here we meet one of the Connecticut College GNCE students who, for his project, will be writing the blog for a while.   Part of Avalonia's mission is to communicate the value of our irreplaceable resources and what better way to do that than to have a student learn the value and then communicate it them self.   We will enjoy a youthful view on things for a while. Hopefully when it is my time to start writing again, I can report that spring has indeed arrived and there will be no more grousing about bad weather, cold, and storms. We all look forward to our spring stewardship efforts getting us back to the nature we love.   Beth

By Alan Lau

For the last six years Avalonia has been collaborating with Connecticut College students in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE). Approximately two dozen students learn about Avalonia, its achievements, and just how hard it is to keep a non-profit, non-political, tax-exempt organization running.

My name is Alan Lau, one of the sophomores in GNCE, and I will be taking over the Blog for a few weeks in order to update you all on the projects my peers are tackling. This collaboration between GNCE and Avalonia has truly been a great privilege for students that come from inner cities like myself. Before joining GNCE and learning about Avalonia, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how much work it took to manage a land trust. Then our good friend Beth came along and briefed us on just how complex the organization is. Officials must deal with governance, membership, fund raising, and a multitude of other aspects which all have a profound effect on the organization as a whole.

The first project is called the “Stop Sucking” campaign in which my fellow peers Anna Laprise and Avatar Simpson are pushing for the removal of plastic straws, by educating the public on the dangerous effects that plastic straws have on our planet and promoting alternatives that reduce plastic straw consumption. There are simple solutions to this problem, one of which is simply having reusable stainless steel straws, which can be cleaned and reused multiple times. Other solutions involve bamboo or paper straws which are much more biodegradable and recyclable than plastic. The problem with plastic straws lies in the plastic material which does not biodegrade but breaks down into small pieces of plastic that get consumed by animals and stay in the earth for hundreds of years. In addition to this, even if the plastic is recycled, only a very small amount of the plastic will actually be reusable until it goes back to a landfill. This problem is globally significant . The EU is pushing for a multitude of single-use plastic products like straws to be removed from 27 member states by the year 2030.
Here we have Avatar Simpson ‘20 and Anna Laprise ‘20. Their “Stop Sucking” campaign has already begun with local coffee shops on campus. One shop is beginning to tally how many plastic straws are being used per day and even adding stainless steel straws.

The next project is conducted by Jonathan Monderer. On April 7th, from 12-3pm, I and 30 other volunteers from Connecticut College went to Paffard Woods in Stonington, CT to help pull Japanese barberry plants that have invaded the stream line in the woodlands. At this time of year, the pulling is easier than other times due to wet soil. Some clipping was done but pulling was the best way to get rid of the roots. Once the plants were pulled, we used garden carts to bring the plants up to the parking lot to make piles for later removal. Getting rid of invasive plants is crucial to the survival of native plants around the area because they disrupt the food chain since the invasive plants do not have the natural predators they would have in their native lands.
Here we have Jonathan Monderer ‘20. He led the Work day at Avalonia’s site in Paffard Woods in Stonington, CT. Jonathan is on the Connecticut College’s Ultimate Frisbee Club where he recruited more than a dozen students to help with the work day on April 7. 

In all, we GNCE students are enthusiastic about our projects. We are ready to reach out to our communities to educate them on the land management, land preservation, and spreading the knowledge which corresponds to Avalonia’s mission of continuing to protect the threatened and declining habitats by conserving its natural resources. 

Paffard Woods is the location where Jonathan's work day took place on April 7.

A beautiful bridge in the Paffard Woods Nature preserve, crosses the stream where the Barberry grows.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan and  Alan Lau.

Monday, April 2, 2018

New England Cottontail makes a comeback

By Beth Sullivan
Since 2013 I have been writing about our New England Cottontail project on Avalonia’s Peck and Callahan preserves in Stonington. Not accessible to the public, people have had to rely on written reports and photos to follow the progress.
We have laid out the welcome mat. Now we wait.  Photo from USFWS.

New England Cotton Tail returns

The New England Cottontail was determined to be in danger of needing Federal protection due to plummeting populations. They are out-competed by the non-native Eastern Cottontail that is highly adaptable to living near people and our homes and gardens. The New England Cottontail (NEC) needs shrubby, overgrown thickets of dense brush, of the kind found decades ago when farm fields were abandoned and were overgrown. Once the fields progressed into forests which are now abundant in our state, the NEC had less desirable places to live, they didn’t breed successfully (like rabbits are supposed to do) and thus the population dropped.
Studying the problem, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined it would be far better to try and stabilize the population, create habitat, rather than allow it to further decline and need federally mandated protection. Since 2012, we worked with USFWS, CT DEEP and the Wildlife Management Institute to help create a big block of habitat up in the woods between Pequot trail and Route 184.
Last year this area was low and sparse. Now perfect habitat. 

You can read about the progress and process herehere, and here.
Last week representatives from several federal agencies and teams from New England States met in New Hampshire to celebrate a success story. Because of all the efforts to study and restore habitat in focus areas throughout New England, it was determined that the NEC did not need to be placed on the Endangered Species List.
Plentiful berries of several species provide food.

The next question seems to be: Why is that a good thing: don’t they still need protection?
The NEC will continue to need protection and monitored to make sure all the work done to create habitat is successful in having the rabbits move in and thrive. Studies will continue over the next years as the project areas regrow into the young forest habitat they need. Teams will go out in the winter when the ground is covered to collect rabbit pellets to check for DNA confirmation of NEC presence. THAT will be success! Then plans can be made to continue to work with this habitat management system, keeping it in rotation of optimal size and level of growth, and work with other land owners to provide more of the same.
Under the powerlines, the habitat is dense and thick.

If the New England Cottontail had been placed on the Endangered Species list, there would have been a huge, bureaucratic need to install protections on large territories where the rabbits might be located and restrictions placed on areas where they are found. Private landowners could lose the choice of being able to create habitat or not, to develop their land, or not. The expense to list and then protect a species far outweighs the money spent to provide what it needs to keep it off the list.
A large Black Rat Snake probably finds many small mammals to eat.

The added benefit of the work, is that there are a number of other species, about 50 in CT alone that benefit from the newly created habitat. Some of them were heading toward that E-List themselves.
Since our project was completed in August of 2013, we have visited a number of times. The area is almost impossible to walk through: Excellent for rabbits. Berry bushes cover the ground providing fruit for all manner of animals. It is teeming with more wildlife than ever before. We have counted new birds, noted many new insects in great numbers, and reptiles and amphibians as well.
Walking through the preserve in no longer easy.

On behalf of a special bunny, we are all grateful for funding by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Long Island Sound Futures fund (LISFF), the efforts of the USFWS, CT DEEP and those supporters who had the vision to proceed with the project.
We will keep you posted.
Link to The Day article on the NEC is here.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Stone walls

By Beth Sullivan
This is a good time to get out and begin to stretch our legs and take in the landscape after winter. The woods are open still; the greenery hasn’t yet begun to obstruct our views of the infrastructure of our open space. The rocky ridges, ledges, and even cliffs of some of our more rugged preserves can be most appreciated now. A walk off the trail to get to the base of a slope for a closer look is not likely to be disruptive to nesting animals yet. It’s easy to imagine larger animals taking shelter in the caves and openings created by rocks and boulders.
A pile of shells at the base of a wall or on top of a rock is a sign of a Chipmunk or Squirrel using the safety of the rocks.

Tracks show travel between protective walls in winter.

This Chipmunk sits up high and is never far from an escape into the wall.

Openings in natural ledges and ridges create places for larger animals to shelter.

New England's stone walls

It is also time to enjoy the bones of our landscape, the stone walls that criss-cross both fields and forests in our area. Much has been written about the history of the walls in New England. Much has been debated about their age, origin and the intention of the builders. No matter what the theory, we all agree that the walls are man-made as opposed to the exposed ridges and outcrops that are nature-formed. A great book to read is Stone by Stone by Robert Thorson, which discusses history and construction of walls in New England.
A recent article in the Northern Woodlands magazine, offered me a new reason to look at the stone walls more closely and in a different light. Those walls themselves act as unique ecosystems running through the woods. They can act as highways of travel on various levels. Small mammals like mice, voles and chipmunks can safely move inside, along, on, and under the rocks to travel from one area to another. They will often have their tunnel openings along-side a base rock and several escape routes as well. Chipmunks, in particular, are rarely found far from a safe hole and most frequently they are near walls. Explore along a length of wall in the woods and you may find piles of cracked nuts and acorns. Sometimes they are even atop the highest rocks, which provides a picnic site with a great view, a lookout spot, and if danger threatens from any direction, it is a quick and easy dive for cover.
Even in the depth of winter, the stone walls offer a greater degree of cover and protection. You can often find small tracks leading to and from an opening at the base of a stone wall, whether in the forest or along a field.
Bigger mammals like foxes and coyotes, weasel family members, and bobcats are frequently spotted near stone walls. They know that their prey is often attracted to those areas. But they also like to travel along the top length of the walls. It is quieter than rustling leaves, offers a higher vantage point, and leaves no tell-tale scent on the ground.

It's not a wall, it's a micro-habitat

Stone walls also alter the ecosystem by creating micro-habitats. The sunny side of the wall will retain the warmth of the sun, so very welcome in the early spring. Snakes, such as the Garter snake, which may have hibernated underneath the piles, will often be found basking in the early spring, soaking up the heat of sun warmed rocks. Those same rocks will retain warmth longer into the autumn as well. The Mourning Cloak butterfly, the first to be spotted in the early spring, will often hibernate over winter in cracks and crevices of stone walls, to emerge on a sunny warm day in late March. It will return to the same type place for protection when the winter weather returns, until it is safe to emerge for good.
On the flip side, the shaded side of a wall will retain moisture during the heat of summer. The forest floor can get hot and dry, but amphibians that require some moisture and less intense heat will find themselves drawn to the cool side and damp ground along the base of the shady side of a wall. Wood frogs and Spring Peepers, as well as many salamanders, make use of these areas because the leaf litter that piles up along the wall harbors insects and other invertebrates that they choose to feed on and offers protection as well.
Next time you walk in the woods and encounter a lost stone wall, you can wonder about its origins and usage. But also think about it as a unique mini-habitat for many woodland creatures. Think about how much farther that Chipmunk can travel safely using only the forgotten stone walls in our woodlands.
Bobcats will hunt for small prey along stone walls. Photograph by Rick Newton.

A Garter snake emerges  early to soak up heat from sun-warmed rocks. 

A Spotted Salamander will seek out the cool, moist leaf litter on the shady side of a stone wall.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Are we there yet?

By Beth Sullivan
Why is it that the journey to spring seems so very long this year? The old groundhog was right: we got six more weeks of winter and got slammed.
I like the photographic opportunities that winter provides. The lighting, contrast and subject matter is totally unique. But it gets a bit harder to tolerate the cold when I want to get out and get those photos.

Ah, Springtime

We are all looking forward to getting out and doing stewardship, but good spring stewardship, not constant winter clean up. The number of trees down after these last three storms is depressing. The greatest toll was on the big Oaks twisting in the wind. Many snapped up near the tops creating widow-makers: big branches that didn’t come all the way down (yet) and continue to pose a danger. Many Oaks just uprooted because their shallow root systems were not able to hold on in the saturated soils.
The biggest trees in CT forests are white pines. They can often be seen clearly standing head and shoulder above the other forest trees, especially at this time of year. Their needle-covered branches held the snow and caught the wind, leaving large breaks and raw scars. This kind of devastation will take decades to heal. The deadwood down on the ground is ugly, but it will provide cover for many creatures and its rotting wood will invite insects to feast, and the birds will follow. The standing trunks will be the snags that woodpeckers will excavate for nests one year, and those will be used by numerous other birds and even some mammals, over the next years.
As the woody debris decays, it re-nourishes the soil for seedlings that will sprout in the places where the sun can now reach the ground. Over time, the new opening in the forests will be filled with new trees and shrubs and will create the variety of habitats that makes the forest healthy.
The bench at Simmons Preserve will be waiting and warming.

The osprey will return to this nest on Paffard Marsh even if there is snow on the ground.

The Pine grove at Hoffman Woods took a beating and the habitat will change. In a few weeks there will be salamanders under these logs. Photograph by Keith Tomlinson.

Tough clean up

That all sounds good, but it doesn't help make the clean up any easier.
After this last storm with significant snow cover, the poor robins which had only just arrived here had no access to open ground. No worms to be found. Small flocks of them swarmed the Hollies that still had berries left and staked out their territories on Viburnum shrubs that also had dried fruits still attached to the stems. The bluebirds came out of the woods and returned to suet treats.
In the small vernal pools, where only a couple of weeks ago wood frogs “quacked” and larval salamanders swam, there is now ice and in many cases, inches of snow. These creatures adapt without complaint. They get down into the mud and leaves at the bottom of the pool and patiently wait for the next warm spell to invite them to the surface.
Maybe we should take our hint from some of these creatures. When Mother Nature tosses us more winter, we adapt, change some plans, hunker down and wait for the warmth.
But it is hard.
Spring arrives on Tuesday, so take some time to look for those small signs of hope: Pussy Willows in full bloom, egg masses visible in thawing vernal pools, skunk cabbages breaking through the snow and robins being grateful for every bare patch of ground they can find.
Pussywillows are in full bloom despite the storms.

Skunk Cabbage flowers through the ice.

Robins had to resort to dried berries when snow covered the ground.

When Mother Nature insists on giving us snow, kids know how to make the best of it.!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Calling the Next Generation

By Beth Sullivan
Avalonia is a pretty amazing organization. It is kept running by the hard work and dedication of a volunteer army. Last year alone, Avalonia stewards contributed about 1,600 hours of volunteer time (that doesn’t include meetings, research, office and administrative work). And that is only what was recorded. We know for a fact that so many of our volunteers never record and submit their volunteer time.
The government provides a value for such volunteer time and that amount equaled about $45,000 in 2017. Again, that is only for the volunteer land stewards who actually recorded their time.
It is probably also true that the average age of most of Avalonia’s volunteers is a bit north of 60. And, I will say, we are just great! But where is the younger generation? That seems to be a question asked by many volunteer organizations. Certainly those younger people are truly busy with very active and obligation-filled lives: young families, jobs, aging parents. Most of us have come through those stages and are freer to give our time and energy. Our time is more flexible, even if our joints are not. We are looking for ways to attract and engage those who will come after us, who will continue the mission, and all it takes, into the next decades.

A GNCE team cleaned up Paffard Woods roadside walls.

An outreach effort at the Stonington Farmers' market was a great success.

Connecticut College students return to Avalonia

One way I have been involved, for the last six years, is by working with the Connecticut College students in the Goodwin-Neiring Center for the Environment (GNCE). In their second semester of sophomore year, their main focus has been making a connection with Avalonia. The intent is to let them see some of the inner workings and challenges of trying to keep a land trust running successfully. It isn’t all fun, trail clearing and tree hugging. It is a lot of work and in areas that they never really thought about. Areas like governance, finance, fund raising, development, membership, and outreach are all essential to the growth and success of the organization. It has been my privilege to work with these great students, to introduce them to Avalonia, and also to help them develop projects of their choosing, that will help Avalonia in one way or another, while giving them an opportunity to get their eyes opened a bit, to other aspects of land trust operations.
This year there has been a greater emphasis on outreach and membership building. Most of the projects are dedicated to this in one way or another. Over the next two months, you will be introduced to these students, as you have been for the last several years. One student will actually take over the blog writing (lucky me.) and give insights into what his peers are doing.
These students understand the need for fresh energy and ideas. While this student population will not necessarily be residing in this area after graduation, I hope that their insights can give us the boost we need to reach out to those generations coming after us.
Stewardship work isn't always easy...

but it can be fun.

A special GNCE team worked on Collier preserve as a community service project.

Enjoy their stories

They will be posted as part of the blog series and on Facebook as well. Please comment or write to Avalonia and let us know what you think. Tell us how you think we can engage the next generation. And if you are by chance of that younger age set, please let us know how best you can help while still juggling your other obligations and busy lives. Every person makes such a difference. Our challenge is to make sure we utilize every person who offers.
While we older-but-still-active group are doing ok, we welcome the energy and enthusiasm of those who can help us out and then take the reins when we are ready to give them up.
Getting into the community is so important.

Engaging the very youngest nature lovers is truly necessary.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Northward movement

By Beth Sullivan
Migrate: To pass periodically from one region or climate to another, as certain birds, fishes or animals.
March is a month of migration. In many places the process began much earlier and will not stop until everyone or everything is where it’s supposed to be, to breed and raise young, and then it begins all over in reverse.
Now that the day lengths are increasing, and daylight hours are nearly equal to night hours, many creatures are being inspired to make their migration, usually in a northward direction, back “home” here, to where they belong, in our opinion.
In the month of March, I usually begin my list of firsts: things like Peepers and Wood frogs are important firsts. Those are checked off. The first Painted turtles out on a log have been spotted. But they never ventured far. They just stayed down and under all winter. They emerged recently to greet the warmth, but will dig back underground in the face of the cold that is surely coming in this fickle month.
The first Purple Martins have arrived in places like Florida and Texas, but they will not reach here until April. So I don’t get my hopes up for them for a while. You will certainly be getting reports as soon as ours arrive.
Purple Martins have already begun housekeeping in Florida. Photograph by Dennis Main.

March migrants

The migrants of March are the Osprey, the Eastern Phoebe and the Tree Swallows, that I eagerly await. For sure there are many more, but these have always been my true indicators of spring. All three of these arrive within a week, more or less, around the Vernal Equinox- the first day of spring. So much, though, depends on the weather that either assists them or keeps them grounded. If we get a nice southerly flow, they will all catch the wind and arrive earlier. If we continue to be hit with Nor’easter type storms, they will hunker down where they are and wait.
Interesting to note though, even as we eagerly anticipate the first sightings of these new arrivals, we sometimes overlook those migrants who slip away quietly from our area, to return farther north to their own breeding grounds. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the last Hooded Merganser I saw on a cove, or, come later into March and April, when I no longer hear the Juncos twittering in the bushes.
 The bird I really wait for is the osprey, sometimes showing up for St. Patrick's Day.

This Phoebe in Florida, is a real sign of spring in New England, but won't arrive until it warms up and are there are insects to eat. Photograph by Dennis Main.

Tree Swallows will arrive in a few weeks. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Sometimes it's hard to remember when the last Hooded Merganser took off from our icy coves to return north.

Another kind of migrant

There is another interesting group of migrants: people, know as snow-birds - those who leave the colder climates, not necessarily to breed and nest of course, but to escape the cold and enjoy the climate farther south.
What is also pretty funny to think about, is that many of the birds that leave here in the winter, end up in the same area as our snow-bird friends. Those Osprey, Phoebes and Tree Swallows, as well as Egrets, Herons and many Warblers are all down south with our friends and likely will return around the same time.
Also, thanks to population shifts, many southern birds have expanded their range north, so birds such as the Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Red Bellied Woodpecker have only recently, relatively speaking, become established here in Connecticut.
We may never see Wood Storks or White Ibis here in Connecticut, but that’s OK. I am always most eager to see that first Osprey of March and welcome them back to their nests here. And I will look forward to seeing friends return as well.
The Red Bellied Woodpecker only arrived in this area from farther south within the last four decades. Photograph by Dennis Main.

Some birds like these White Ibis, will probably never expand their range this far north, but who knows what climate change will bring. Photograph by Alan Brush.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration

by Beth Sullivan
Fifty years ago, Mashantucket Land Trust was formed ( learn more here), and to celebrate we threw ourselves a party at the Mystic Aquarium. Everyone was invited; so many wonderful people came.
“Hosted” by Chuck Toal, our Director of Programs and Development, his welcome set the tone for the evening. This event was, in part, a thank-you to honor those who gave shape to the organization over the last decades. A rolling montage of photos played on a screen, of faces from the past, some long gone. That drew many people who stood and watched and marveled at how young we all looked “ back then” . It brought back many memories of early work parties and hikes and pot luck dinners.
As videos rolled, visitors enjoyed drinks and appetizers and got to visit with old friends and make some new ones. Several of us staffed a members’ table, with brochures, newsletters and other information about the organization. Folks stopped to chat, introduce themselves, pick up name tags, and see what was new. I am not sure there were any people new to Avalonia at this event, but a lot of folks with renewed enthusiasm. On display at the members’ table was the beautiful commemorative platter created for the occasion by local artist Susan Scala highlighting the connection of habitats, wildlife, and people.
As people wandered and mingled they could enjoy enlarged members’ photos of several aspects of Avalonia preserves. A large screen computer played videos created by other members, one of which was a drone aerial tour of the Pequotsepos Brook Preserve adjoining the Stone Ridge Community. That was a hit for many. All of this was set against the backdrop of coral reefs and beautiful fishes. It was hard to take it all in.
At a member's table, people could stop, chat, and view our commemorative platter.

Beautiful photos taken on, or over, Avalonia preserves were on display for all to enjoy.

Old friends reunited.

Chuck Toal offered a welcome and introduction to all. 

Fifty years of conservancy

The event was also a recognition of where the organization is now, fifty years later. Many of our current Board of Directors were present to greet friends and members. Dennis Main, Avalonia President, explained the details of our mission and our challenge: to uphold the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices for excellence. It was no small task to gain accreditation, and it will be an equally big challenge to stick to the program and operate by these new guidelines for the next 5 years we have to get fully in line and prove we are worthy.
Representative Diana Urban is not a stranger to Avalonia, as she lives in and enjoys the open spaces of North Stonington. She presented Dennis with a citation, a State recognition of Avalonia Land Conservancy’s work over the years. Chuck also read a letter of special recognition from Stonington First Selectman, Rob Simmons, whose family has long been supporters of Avalonia as well.
The key speaker was Ct Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Rob Klee. He outlined some of the challenges the State, and even the Nation, has in trying to defend the environment from so many threats, including defunding of programs and climate change. It was especially pertinent considering our location in the Mystic Aquarium, in the coastal town of Stonington, where we are noticing the effects of sea level rise right in town. His speech gave hope for the future, that with guidance and new energy from the next generation, our work will continue to be successful.
In conclusion the event was a look to the future. As an organization we need to embrace and encourage that younger generation, many of whom were present at the event. Our mission is for perpetuity. We can look over our shoulders and be grateful for those that had the vision to get the environmental movement going, but we need to keep our collective eyes firmly on the future, to plan and protect for generations of people and wildlife to come.
This was a great way to celebrate both!
Commissioner Rob Klee toasted to the next fifty years of conservation efforts.

Diana Urban presents the State Citation to Dennis Main.

The Aquarium exhibits were a perfect backdrop to the evening.

The guests were enthusiastic about the glowing praise from the key speakers. 

Photographs by Bruce Fellman.