Menunketesuck Salt Meadow Marsh Protected (CT)

Westbrook, CT, 8/4/2008: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, along with officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), announced today that the FWS has purchased 20 acres of land along the Menunketesuck River that includes undeveloped and pristine tidal marsh, as well as upland forest and scrubland. This property, located on Lost Pond Lane in Westbrook, has been added to the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge’s Salt Meadow Unit.

Alicia Betty, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land, said, “We at TPL are delighted to have been able to step in and prevent the development of this important forest, marshland and river habitat. Protecting land for people to enjoy in highly developed coastal Connecticut takes a collaboration of many entities and individuals. We are grateful to all those who helped over the last two years to make this project a success, especially Senators Dodd and Lieberman and Congressman Courtney, who provided essential funding for this addition to the Refuge.”

Due to the scenic nature of this waterfront property, it was highly threatened by development. TPL stepped in to purchase the property in 2006, when a proposal surfaced to build condominiums on the site. TPL held the site off the market for two years and worked during that time to secure federal funding for the purchase from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the full support of the Connecticut delegation, Congress appropriated $1.1 million from the LWCF- the primary source of federal funds for federal land acquisitions.

Senator Christopher Dodd said, “I am proud that we have secured federal funding to preserve the Menunketesuck Salt Meadow Marsh. Untouched, unspoiled land is becoming increasingly rare, and we must always be vigilant in protecting our environmental treasures.”

Senator Joseph Lieberman said, “Today I join my friends at the Trust for Public Land and the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife refuge in celebrating the preservation of this ecological jewel on Long Island Sound. Once slated for development, the Menunketesuck Salt Meadow Marsh will now be forever protected as both a critical habitat for wildlife and a natural recreation area for generations to come.”

Congressman Joe Courtney said, “Eastern Connecticut is home to some of the more pristine natural environments in our state and region, and I am pleased that the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge will forever be preserved for future generations to enjoy. I applaud The Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for working together to protect this land, and I commend both Senators Dodd and Lieberman for their work on this project. Delivering the critical federal funding to ensure the success of this project was a true team effort for which I am proud to have participated.”

Andrew French, Project Leader for the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, said, “The Trust for Public Land skillfully managed another complicated real estate transaction and garnered the support and resources necessary to facilitate an important investment which will benefit plants, fish, wildlife, and people in perpetuity. Due to their efforts and the support from the Connecticut Congressional delegation, the quality and resiliency of the Refuge continues to improve and strengthen.”

The acquisition conserves a critical example of tidal marsh – a habitat which supports nesting populations of the globally vulnerable salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrow. In addition, the permanent protection of the site will ensure that it remains an important migratory stopover for the nearly 300 bird species that use the McKinney Refuge in Westbrook. This area has also been designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon.

This property was the top priority for acquisition for the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, the only federal refuge in Connecticut. The refuge, which is named to honor the late congressman who was instrumental in its creation, was established to protect migratory bird habitat along sixty miles of Connecticut’s Long Island Sound shoreline. Located on the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge provides important resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for many species of wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, and terns, including the endangered roseate tern. In addition to increasing habitat protection, the refuge now provides opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife-oriented recreation.

The original purchase included an historic cape-style home dating to the late 1700’s, which TPL sold to a private buyer. TPL partnered with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year to research the architectural and historical value of the house and to document its structural condition. With the results of the research in hand, the CT Trust then worked collaboratively with TPL to locate a buyer for the historic home. In seeking to protect both the historic and natural resources on site, this innovative collaboration serves as a model for future partnerships in land conservation and historic preservation projects.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization which works with others to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected over 5,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms and forestland, and historic resources in 32 communities across the state.