Comprehensive Open Space Acquisition Strategy 2016-2020 Green Plan For Connecticut

Developed in 2017 by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), along with its municipal partners, conservation organizations, and water companies, this update to Connecticut's Green Plan highlights ways for the agency to preserve open space - especially areas that are threatened by development. A 5-Year Action Strategy which covers the period of time from the end of the previous plan through 2020 is included to help unify the efforts of DEEP, stakeholders, and conservation actors with implementation. A priority of the updated Green Plan is to strategize land acquisitions for climate change resiliency. Over the next five years, DEEP will plan for and prioritize the protection of lands for open space that support natural resources’ adaptation to climate impacts.

Though it recognizes the challenge of declining funds from state, municipal, and private sources, the plan sets the goal of conserving 21% of Connecticut’s land base as open space by 2023. Acquisitions are targeted to protect water resources, the coast, natural heritage resources, and outdoor recreation.

Land acquisitions that will support ecosystem resilience to climate change are a strategic priority. The Green Plan seeks to conserve land that will help protect the state’s natural resources from climate impacts such as sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and shifts in habitats and species communities. In order to maintain long-term resiliency, DEEP intends to “update its land acquisition and open space grant programs project selection processes to include the evaluation for lands most at-risk of impacts from climate change.” Updated State project selection criteria will include priorities for lands identified in Connecticut’s Climate Change Preparedness Plan as having habitats at most risk from climate change, and include the location of forested swamps, lands adjacent to freshwater and tidal wetlands, riparian lands adjacent to cold water streams, and beaches and dunes.

Two actions are identified for DEEP to Strategize Acquisitions for Climate Change Resiliency:

  1. Include evaluation of lands identified as at most risk from climate change in the State’s land acquisition and open space grant programs selection process.
  2. Collaborate with partners to identify and develop key data sets necessary to support climate resilience land conservation planning.

The report identifies additional priorities in program administration to foster:

  • Partnerships and Public Support for Open Space
    This plan aims to ensure access to open space for all people, especially areas related to the coast, natural heritage, outdoor recreation, and natural waters. It also mentions engaging “non-traditional” public space users, such as youth, urban communities, municipalities, universities, the disabled community in the planning process. 
  • Improvement of Open Space Data and Tools
    The importance of using best available geo-spatial data to map critical habitats, potential areas for marshland migration, and unprotected acreages is addressed throughout the report.
  • Development Strategies to Preserve Lands of High Conservation Value
    To achieve this goal, DEEP is responsible for soliciting input from other state agencies which may currently be in control of lands with high conservation value. After lands with high conservation value are identified, DEEP is to work with agencies to add eligible lands to the state’s open space portfolio. 
  • A Streamlined State Acquisition and Grant Program
    The report recommends a more a streamlined acquisitions process and the development of a preliminary project review sheet intended to reduce potential applicant’s eligibility questions and to help DEEP and its partners in the decisionmaking process.  

 

Publication Date: 2017

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