Saturday, October 15, 2005

Eco: CT Highlands Conservation funds

The federal goverment plans to spend $100 million to protect natural areas in our region over the next ten years. The USDA Forest Service is asking for ideas about which places in Connecticut's northwest corner ought to be saved, and will hold public meetings this month to let anyone who wishes have their say.


A view of the Connecticut Highlands from atop Bear Mountain. The Highlands area of Connecticut is a triangle around the northwest corner bounded by the state lines to the west and north, and as the crow flies from Torrington southwest to Danbury. Photo by ecologist Dr. Robert Craig.

The Highlands Conservation Act of 2004 authorizes the US Forest Service to conduct a natural, recreational, and cultural resource assessment of the Connecticut Highlands. In plain language, that means the federal government is prepared to offer as much of half of the cost for states in our region to acquire and place in the public trust natural areas that this new study finds are of exceptional value and importance. The Act provides a total of $100 million over ten years, so it will have to be spent wisely.

The Forest Service is inviting the public to participate in "public listening sessions" to be held at the New Milford High School, 388 Danbury Road, New Milford, on Wed., Oct. 19th at 7pm, the UConn Extension Center, 855 University Drive, Torrington, on Thurs., Oct. 28th at 7pm, and at the Housatonic Valley Regional High School, 246 Warren Turnpike Road, Falls Village, on Mon., Nov. 7th at 7pm.

According to the The USDA Forest Service, "the Act is designed to assist Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in conserving land and natural resources in the Highlands region through federal assistance for land conservation projects in which a state entity acquires land or an interest in land from a willing seller to permanently protect resources of high conservation value.

"The USDA Forest Service will identify lands that have high conservation value in the Highlands of Connecticut and Pennsylvania through a Regional Study Update similar to that completed for the Highlands of New Jersey and New York in 2002. Each year, governors of the four Highlands states may submit land conservation projects in the Highlands for funding not to exceed fifty-percent of the total cost; projects must be consistent with areas identified in the Update as having high resource value. The USDA Forest Service is responsible for doing the resource assessment and preparing the Update for the states involved; Department of the Interior has responsibility for project grants."

If you know of a place in the northwest hills you want to see preserved, this is your chance!

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