Monday, November 10, 2014

Planning for the Future : Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan

By Beth Sullivan
On November 8 several of us from Avalonia attended a meeting, with Ct DEEP biologists, to discuss issues confronting the wildlife here in CT: specifically Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), habitats that are imperiled along with their flora and fauna, identifying threats, both specific and broad to our wildlife and the beginnings of action plans that can be initiated to prevent further declines.
Free flowing streams are imperiled in CT.

The CT DEEP website

There is a wealth of information on the CT DEEP website. Personally, I love seeing that some of my tax dollars are going to issues I feel strongly about: conservation of land and wildlife. On the website, it is easy to get lost in all the varied areas of interest. The information about the discussion today can be found here. These dedicated wildlife biologists are working to identify species, abundance, threats, needs, and are asking for the public’s help to give them ideas of what we perceive are the greatest needs.
A salt marsh along the Stonington shore.

As a non-profit, all volunteer land trust, for us it was pretty easy to generalize: FUNDS! Funds for research, funds for staff, funds for stewardship, funds for acquisition. Without funding, so much is at stake. We cannot begin to protect the least or greatest of these species without the funds to do so.

Building public awareness

The next biggest need identified was public awareness. We all expressed great concern and frustration that not enough people seem to care. Or at least they don’t show up and demonstrate that they care. There was seating today for more than 30 people. There were really only 5 attendees if we don’t count the involved but captive staff of the Stonington Free Library! How do we get people concerned, interested, and involved? Good PR helps, and education would be fantastic. But even those things take money and time-and more people to do those things.
Avalonia is trying to do everything on a shoestring, with a small dedicated core of volunteers who act as executives, decision makers, PR staff, educators, wildlife watchers, stewards and laborers, and writers of plans and grants.
The good news is that even on that shoestring, Avalonia has succeeded in preserving over 3200 acres, most of those include the very habitats that the DEEP was talking about today.
We have many forested preserves that include wetlands, bogs, seeps, and vernal pools. Take a peek at Paffard Woods for forests with vernal wetlands and flowing streams. In the future there may be an effort to remove a downstream dam or create a fish ladder to improve the health of the Stony Brook that runs along its western edge all the way up to Fennerswoods and beyond. Free running streams are one of the habitats of concern.
Vernal pools are a very unique habitat.

Go to any of our coastal properties, from Stonington to Groton and even up to Ledyard along the Thames River to discover tidal wetlands, salt and brackish marshes and intertidal beaches, flats and shores. Avalonia holds offshore Islands: Sandy Point and South Dumpling that are of special concern for nesting shore birds.
The fragile habitat at Sandy Point needs protection.

Knox Preserve is unique as a Maritime Shrubland, and it also boasts coastal sandy habitats as well as mixed warm and cool season grasslands.
An example of coastal shrublands at Knox Preserve.
The Henne Preserve is a most wonderful example of a freshwater inland swamp, some of which is forested with Red Maple, some is shrub swamp, and some freshwater meadow and marsh.
Hoffman Preserve boasts mixed hardwoods and coniferous groves.
Dense evergreen groves can be found at Hoffman Preserve.
The Peck Callahan Properties are now prime to become early successional shrub to young forest land that will be habitat not just for the New England Cottontail but all the other species that depend on that special and quickly disappearing habitat.

Everyone can help

To start your own action plan, support Avalonia if you are in our area, or support your local land trust if you are not. Get involved. Make a statement; make a commitment. Look at the DEEP website and see what you can identify with and then go out onto a preserve and see what you think. See what strikes a chord and think how you can invest in your future by supporting land conservation in whatever way you can.
It is a good investment.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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