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Saving Land Across a Special Watershed.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Saving land across a special watershed
By Tim Abbott 
Download the article here.

The west branch of the Aspetuck River is a very special place. Rising in South and North Spectacle Lakes in Kent, it flows through Beaman Pond, down through Kent Hollow and on through New Milford to the Housatonic River.


Its 25-square-mile watershed includes two significant tributaries— Merryall and Denman Brooks— and is considered some of the cleanest water in the state. Trout Unlimited ranks the West Aspetuck as one of the most intact watersheds for eastern brook trout conservation in the entire Highlands region, which includes portions of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 


The reason the water is so pure has a great deal to do with the way that surrounding lands have been cared for and conserved. People who live in the watershed appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, and a considerable amount of land protection work has taken place across the watershed. Kent Land Trust, Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust and the state of Connecticut have numerous conservation holdings here and are actively working to protect other significant properties in the watershed. 


At its annual fundraiser on Sept.9 at the home of authors Frank Delaney and Diane Meier, Kent Land Trust President Bill Arnold shared the latest news about the effort to acquire the 253-acreCamp Francis property from the Girl Scouts of Connecticut for $1.5million. The Kent Land Trust successfully negotiated a purchase and sale agreement with the Girl Scouts and is now actively seeking a combination of state, federal and private funding to complete its protection. 


The camp is beloved by Kent Hollow residents for its stunning views of the clear waters of Beaman Pond, cascading roadside ravine of the West Aspetuck tributary and wooded wilds. There are interior wetlands, extensive nature trails and even a small area of prime agricultural soil. It also connects a large system of protected land including state forest and land trust conserved land, providing an important opportunity for preserving a regional greenway corridor.


Just upstream at North Spectacle Lake, Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust is working with local partners to permanently protect a 15-acre waterfront preserve at the headwaters of the West Aspetuck Watershed. The soon-to-be West Aspetuck Headwaters Preserve boasts hemlock forest, critical wetlands and habitat for diverse wildlife, including wading birds, turtles and fox.


The preserve is included in the state of Connecticut’s Natural Diversity Database as a potential location of endangered, threatened and special concern species. North Spectacle Lake itself is known for its excellent bass fishing. Thanks to interim bridge financing, the land trust is now working with partners to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase the property and place it under permanent conservation protection.


Both of these organizations are part of the Litchfeld Hills Greenprint Collaborative, a partnership of 23 land trusts and conservation groups in northwest Connecticut sponsored by the Housatonic Valley Association.


Landscape-scale conservation partnerships are a growing trend in the land trust community and within their donor networks. Watersheds and wildlife corridors that go beyond the boundaries of a single community are seen as ideal places for conservation groups with similar interests but different geographies to work together to save more land and attract more funding than they can do on their own.


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