Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was recently awarded a $985,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to acquire and preserve three different parcels totaling 82 acres of critical coastal habitat and to restore 60 acres of saltmarsh.
One of the parcels is the 21-acre Kaczynski property in Branford.Bill Horne, Chair of the Town’s Select Committee on Open Space Acquisition, said, “The Town is delighted that DEEP chose to include the acquisition of the Kaczynski property in its application for a NAWCA grant, and that the US Fish & Wildlife Service has chosen Connecticut’s application for an award. The protection of the Kaczynski property has been a high priority since the Committee's formation because the wetlands, fields and wooded ridge are important both as critical habitat for migratory birds and anadromous fish and as a key part of the undeveloped view from Beacon Hill and the Shoreline Trolley Museum tracks. The grants from the State and the Fish & Wildlife Service make it clear that the property is of high value regionally and nationally as well as locally."
Located in the lower Farm River estuary adjacent to Beacon Hill, the Kaczynski property contains a tidal salt marsh, upland grass land, undeveloped shoreline forest and about five acres of farmland soil. The property is within the southern range of the Bolton Range Forested Corridor, which has been identified as a habitat to thousands of migrating raptors.
The funds were made available through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) of 1989, which provides matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife.
The Act was passed, in part, to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement that provides a strategy for the long-term protection of wetlands and associated uplands habitats needed by waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America. NAWCA is a competitive grants program that requires grant requests to be matched by partner contributions at no less than a 1-to-1 ratio.
“The DEEP proposal competed with 34 other meaningful and important wetland projects across North America, and was chosen as one of 21 funded projects in the current grant cycle,” said Susan Whalen, DEEP Deputy Commissioner. “The tipping point for these projects being selected was that even though it involves low acreage compared to many of the other projects considered for funding, it brings together seven different partners and leverages over $4.6 million dollars. The projects are a perfect example of how conservation, particularly in tight financial times, must embrace multiple partnerships and interests.”
Partners involved in these projects are Ducks Unlimited, Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, Dennison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Town of Tolland, Town of Branford, and Branford Land Trust.
The project area and immediate offshore environment regularly harbors up to 20% of Connecticut’s wintering waterfowl population. Connecticut is one of the most densely populated states in the United States, with some of the highest coastal property values in the country, making conservation of remaining coastal wetlands very challenging. Over 90% of the coastline in our state is already developed. In spite of this high rate of development, the state has globally significant breeding and wintering populations of many highest-priority species of wetland-dependent birds, such as the saltmarsh sparrow (a species of special concern), the endangered roseate tern, and American black duck. The importance of the project area to those species and over 60 other Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) migratory bird species makes it a critically important conservation project. The project will protect several currently unprotected parcels remaining in important wetland complexes and restore degraded parts of the most important wetlands.
The acquisition and subsequent protection of two coastal saltmarsh parcels, one in Branford and the other in Milford, will not only provide critical habitat for migratory birds, but the upland elevations in both parcels will allow for marsh migration as sea levels rise. Over the last century, the sea level has risen approximately two millimeters per year. However, most projections indicate that sea level rise in Long Island Sound and the northeastern United States as a whole is expected to be of a greater magnitude and more accelerated relative to other systems on the Atlantic Coast.
-- the majority of information in this article was supplied by the CT DEEP