New Director for Connecticut River Program
Northampton, MA, 12/29/04 – The Trust for Public Land announced today that it has hired Clem Clay as director of its new Connecticut River Program. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that 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. The program will bring new focus to TPL’s ongoing conservation work in the four-state Connecticut River watershed, provide “greenprinting” services to communities seeking to protect valued lands, and encourage partnerships among the communities, organizations, and agencies that can help protect the region’s valuable natural and cultural resources.
Significant funding for the development of the program has been received from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Host Foundation, and the Rintels Foundation. Recently, the United Technologies Corporation (UTC) of Hartford, CT, announced a $25,000 grant to TPL in support of the program. UTC also provides pro bono environmental services to TPL throughout New England. The Educational Foundation of America of Westport, CT, also announced a two-year, $50,000 grant to the program in July.
TPL has completed over 50 conservation projects in the watershed, protecting forests, farmland, and urban greenspaces. Recent examples include TPL’s protection of 170,000 forested acres in the Connecticut River headwaters region in New Hampshire and TPL’s purchase of four acres of riverfront farmland in Holyoke, MA, for transfer to a community group serving Puerto Rican market gardeners. The new Connecticut River Program will not only highlight TPL’s project work in the watershed, but will work with communities to help them define their conservation goals, secure local, state, federal, and private funding, and use land conservation as an important tool for protecting cherished local resources. This “greenprinting” approach has been successful for TPL and partner communities around the US. The town of New Hartford, CT, which recently benefited from TPL’s greenprinting experience, successfully passed a $1.5 million conservation bond measure this year. TPL will provide greenprinting services to additional communities in the Connecticut River watershed over the next several years. TPL will also work with communities, organizations, and agencies in the watershed, to develop partnerships around shared goals and increase recognition and federal funding to the Connecticut River and its surrounding watershed. As a new entrant into work that focuses on the watershed as a whole, TPL is working to develop productive relationships with organizations that have long histories in the region, including the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which has advocated for the four-state watershed for 52 years and led the American Heritage River designation effort, and the Connecticut River Joint Commissions in Vermont and New Hampshire. TPL also expects to work alongside federal and state agencies, national nonprofits, and local land trusts, watershed associations, and others interested in land conservation.
Mr. Clay is a graduate of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he completed a master’s degree in May of 2004. He completed coursework for a Professional MBA at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, this fall, and also holds a bachelor’s degree in soil science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has farmed, managed farmers markets, and consulted on sustainable agriculture and farm policy topics, and also has experience in database management and nonprofit organization management. A Vermont native and resident of Amherst, MA, since 2001, Clay says, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work to protect all that is special about the Connecticut River and its watershed. I feel fortunate to have the support of funders and the strength of a high-performance national conservation organization behind me, and I look forward to partnering with those who have worked for years to make the watershed one of New England’s crown jewels.” Mr. Clay will work from an office space provided by American Farmland Trust’s New England office in Northampton, MA.
Whitney Hatch, Director of TPL’s New England Regional Office in Boston, said “Bringing Clem on board allows TPL to move forward at a faster pace to develop an initiative that truly reflects the connectedness and multiple values embodied by the watershed. With a unified approach, I believe the watershed will take its rightful place as an iconic landscape in the public eye, and that federal, state, local, and private funding sources will support efforts to preserve a way of life that has defined the region for centuries.”
TPL’s Connecticut River Program seeks to protect and enhance the connection between the land and water in the 7.2-million acre Connecticut River watershed and the quality of life for which the region is known. The River is New England’s longest; 410 miles from its headwaters at the New Hampshire-Canada border to the town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. It provides 70 percent of the fresh water that flows continuously into Long Island Sound, and the tidal wetlands have received recognition as “wetlands of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention treaty and as one of Earth’s “Last Great Places” from The Nature Conservancy. The Connecticut River is one of fourteen American Heritage Rivers, and sections of several of its tributaries have been designated as “Wild and Scenic.” The watershed – the land area from which all surface and groundwater flows drain to the Connecticut River – comprises a significant portion of the land area of four states: 41 percent of Vermont, 34 percent of New Hampshire, 33 percent of Massachusetts, and 29 percent of Connecticut. The entire watershed is designated as the Sylvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, and refuge managers seek to protect nearly 100,000 acres of priority landscapes within the watershed that are of special value to fish and wildlife.
The watershed has supported land-based economies throughout its history, from Native American settlements along the Quenticut (“long tidal river”), to the 17th-century migration of European settlers up the Connecticut River and its tributaries, to the settlement of upland areas for agriculture and forestry, and the development of towns and urban centers for milling and other industries dependent upon the river system for power and transport. Today, over 2 million people live in the watershed’s 390 towns and cities, and many of them depend on the integrity of forests and prime farmland for their livelihoods. Many others depend on the availability and quality of drinking water that is filtered through the landscape and stored in reservoirs or pumped from wells. Tourism and recreation rely heavily upon the watershed’s natural resources as well. Urban centers have evolved away from their historical reliance on rivers for power and transportation, but now face the challenges of cleaning up contaminated sites near rivers and have opportunities to create recreational opportunities and open spaces that enhance the quality of life for their residents.