Congressman Murphy Joins Skiff Mountain Celebration (CT)

KENT, CT, 10/17/2009: U.S. Congressman Chris Murphy joined the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, The Trust for Public Land, the U.S. Forest Service, landowners, and local conservation organizations today on Skiff Mountain in northwest Connecticut to celebrate the protection of 705 acres. 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.

The event was held at the Marvelwood School, whose campus on Skiff Mountain overlooks some of the newly conserved properties. The properties will be permanently protected from development through conservation easements funded by the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP), secured by Connecticut’s congressional delegation. 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. The State of Connecticut will manage the easements.

“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.”

“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 Senator Joe Lieberman.

“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 Senator Chris Dodd. “This important funding will ensure that this treasure will continue to be protected for many years to come.”

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. 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 FLP to support the purchase of the conservation easements.

“This has been a great day,” said Donald Connery, one of the six landowners whose land is now protected. “It is enormously rewarding to have played a part in adding a substantial territory of woods and wetlands to the many thousands of preserved acres in a corner of the country where every prospect pleases. What I think is striking is that the Skiff Mountain neighbors who joined in the Forest Legacy Project met many times to discuss the details of their commitments but spent no time telling each other why they were sure this was worth doing. There was common belief, needing no expression, that saving the mountain’s wildness just had to be. They felt themselves privileged to be able to make sure that these natural wonders would remain for others to know and enjoy-not for just a while but forever.”

“The protection of these properties will curb additional development pressures in the northwestern part of the state, help preserve the Housatonic watershed, and conserve a large tract of unfragmented forest that provides linkages to over 7000 acres of other protected land,” said Lisa Bassani, project manager, The Trust for Public Land. “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.”

“The Skiff Mountain project shows how versatile the Forest Legacy Program can be. Rather than protecting only large single ownerships, the program can help a group of private forest landowners to join together and protect a larger important forest,” said Anne Archie, field representative, U.S. Forest Service. “This collaborative effort among all the partners, landowners, State of Connecticut, U.S. Forest Service, Connecticut congressional delegation, and The Trust for Public Land have resulted in an enduring legacy for the people of Connecticut and the nation.”

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 Christopher Martin, director of DEP’s Forestry Division. “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.”

“Today’s celebration was a real tribute to this group of landowners, who showed remarkable perseverance and vision in this conservation effort. Together they have 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.