Avalonia Land Conservancy, Inc., has been awarded three grants from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition (OSWLA) program totaling $945,750. DEEP OSWLA funds enable conservation organizations and communities alike to acquire local, environmentally-significant land to ensure protection of clean water and viable wildlife habitats. All land purchased with DEEP grants must, in addition to protecting land, provide public access for passive recreation. It is important to note that OSWLA funds are generated from real estate transfer fees, not tax revenue. Grants can cover up to 65% of the land’s acquisition price, but grant recipients are required to raise the remaining cost, as well as stewardship funds, before closing on the property.
Three new properties totaling 674 acres will be acquired over the next one to two years. The largest acquisition, a 409-acre property, straddles three towns: North Stonington, Griswold and Preston. The second, 87-acre property is located in North Stonington and a third, 178-acre property is located in Preston. “These properties contain both conservation and historical value,” said Dennis Main, president of Avalonia’s board of directors. “They are in close proximity to other conserved lands and will protect groundwater and wildlife corridors.” Each parcel will be open to the public as soon as possible after it is acquired and trails have been blazed and management plans developed.
Avalonia, now a nationally accredited land trust, was founded in 1968 and currently owns or holds easements on approximately 100 properties totaling 3,500 acres located in eight towns within their 22-town southeastern Connecticut mission area. All Avalonia lands are conserved in perpetuity for present and future generations. The new acquisitions will represent a major step forward in a five-year plan to acquire over 2,000 additional acres. Avalonia will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018.
Photo: Babcock Ridge vernal pool. Photo by Janice Parker
Caption: OSWLA grants provide funding to protect wetlands like the above vernal pool on Avalonia’s 74-acre Babcock Ridge, a 2014 OSWLA acquisition located in North Stonington. A rapidly disappearing habitat, vernal pools form in the late fall and early winter, and serve as critical springtime breeding and nursery areas for spotted salamanders, wood frogs, fairy shrimp, and a wide variety of insects.