More Than 700 Acres on Skiff Mountain Protected (CT)

September 16, 2009
Connecticut

KENT, CT: Six properties on Skiff Mountain in northwest Connecticut will be permanently protected from development, The Trust for Public Land announced today. Combined, the properties total 705 acres and all are now protected from future development through conservation easements funded by the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program. The State of Connecticut will manage the easements.

After The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, protected 445 acres of land on Skiff Mountain in 2003, a group of landowners approached TPL to support permanent protection of their properties. Now these conserved properties will establish important linkages to more than 7,000 acres of protected local, state, and federal forest and recreation lands, including Macedonia Brook State Park, the Appalachian Trail, and many land trust-managed lands.

Over the last six years, TPL has worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Connecticut congressional delegation, and the U.S. Forest Service to assemble funding from the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) to support the purchase of the conservation easements.

"We are grateful to the landowners, the State of Connecticut, the Forest Service, the Connecticut congressional delegation, and our local partners for working tirelessly together to permanently protect these great forest lands," said Lisa Bassani, project manager, The Trust for Public Land. "Skiff Mountain is a defining feature for Connecticut with remarkable ecological value to the state and to New England, and today's additions underscore their importance."

To fund the purchases of the conservation easements, two separate federal appropriations totaling $1.97 million were secured from the FLP by the Connecticut Congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Congressman Chris Murphy. The easements, worth more than $8 million, are being purchased by the state for less than $2 million, thanks to the considerable generosity of the landowners.

"Connecticut is blessed to have places like Skiff Mountain, whose natural beauty and many nearby trails have long been a cherished part of the Northwest corner," said Sen. Dodd. "This important funding will ensure that this treasure will continue to be protected for many years to come."

"I was proud to fight with Senator Dodd and Congressman Murphy to secure funding for the purchase of the final plots of land which complete the 7,000 acre Skiff Mountain Preservation project. With these purchases Connecticut is assured that one of its magnificent natural treasures will be protected from deforestation and development for years to come," said Sen. Lieberman. "The Trust for Public Land has a done a tremendous job coordinating the many individuals, government agencies, and private foundations involved in this project, and because of their tireless efforts, countless future generations will be able to enjoy all that Skiff Mountain and its surroundings have to offer."

"Skiff Mountain is exactly the kind of natural treasure that the Forest Legacy Program was designed to preserve, and our effort was exactly the kind of cooperative, community-driven initiative that every Forest Legacy project should be," said Rep. Murphy. "As the Chairman of the House Land Conservation Caucus, I'm glad I was able to lend a hand in making this conservation effort a reality for countless generations to come."

Conservation of the six Skiff Mountain properties adds to a belt of forest within the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail, making its protection of both regional and national significance. Skiff Mountain was identified as a priority by the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Program, managed by the Housatonic Valley Association and established with support from TPL. The Greenprint identifies Skiff Mountain as a top forest conservation opportunity for Southern New England. Skiff Mountain is also a key feature in the nationally significant Highlands region-a 2 million acre forest, farm, and watershed complex stretching from eastern Pennsylvania through New Jersey and New York to northwest Connecticut.

"The DEP is pleased to be a part of this public-private partnership that resulted in protection and preservation of 705 acres of pristine properties in northwestern Connecticut," said Amey Marrella, Commissioner of the Connecticut DEP. "The new acquisition is adjacent to other protected lands, which provides for expanded and unfragmented lands safeguarded from development on Skiff Mountain. This will be especially valuable in preserving the natural habitats for both large animals that need space to roam and the declining songbird population."

"I am delighted to see that cooperation among landowners, TPL, and partners at the local, state, and national level has resulted in such a significant victory for conservation," said State Senator Andrew Roraback. "This project should serve as a model for future large scale projects in northwest Connecticut."

"This group of landowners, with remarkable perseverance and vision, has protected a forest landscape that is one of the largest remaining unfragmented woodlands in Connecticut, in the heart of the Housatonic River valley," said Lynn Werner, executive director of the Housatonic Valley Association. "HVA is delighted to have supported TPL's extraordinary effort to complete this deal."

Predominately forested, the properties provide important habitat for larger mammals, including bear, bobcat, and coyote, that require large tracts of unbroken forests. The Skiff Mountain properties also support declining songbird species, such as golden-winged warbler, blue-winged warbler, and wood thrush.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.8 million acres of land in 47 states, including more than 6,000 acres in Connecticut. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.