Land Trust Exchange Projects
Photo: Old Saybrook Land Trust
The Lower Ct River and Coastal Forest Stewardship Initiative
The purpose of this initiative is to inform and educate woodland owners in the lower CT River and coastal region about forest stewardship, planning and management through various workshops and events. The woodland resources in the Lower CT River and Coastal Region are important to the environmental health and character of the region and helping to make the stewardship of your woodlands a more rewarding and satisfying task and is the priority for this project and its events. The mission of the LCR&CR Forest Stewardship Initiative is to provide you, the woodland owner, with the knowledge to manage your forest land using all the resources that are available to you. The LCR&CR Forest Stewardship Initiative began as a collaboration between the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Forestry Program and the Lower CT River Valley Council of Governments, supported by the US Forest Service, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and CT-DEEP Forestry Division. We will work to carry the initiative forward as programs recover their footing from the Covid epidemic.
Menunketesuck–Cockaponset Regional Greenway
The 18-mile long regional greenway known as the Menunketesuck-Cockaponset Regional Greenway functions as a wildlife and multi-use corridor which connects the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge- Salt Meadow Unit in the Town of Westbrook to Cockaponset State Forest, the Quinimay Trail, surrounding private forest land, and public recreational resources throughout the municipalities of Westbrook, Clinton, Deep River, Killingworth, Chester, and Haddam. The purposes of the Regional Greenway are to protect (1) private/working forested land, (2) water quality & quantity, (3) wildlife habitat, and (4) public recreational/scenic resources that create the character of the lower Connecticut River and Coastal Region.
Greenways, often formed as linear open space corridors, can be much more than that. They can be the links from city to country, from village to village, from state to state. They can reconnect people to their communities, to rivers, fields, and hillsides, enhancing the sense of place that helps define the quality of life in Connecticut. Greenways connect the places we live with the places we love.
The greenway was brought before the Connecticut Greenways Council by the Lower CT River Valley Council of Governments (formerly the Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency ) where it was established as a CT State Greenway under the authority of Public Act 95-335. In order to qualify for official designation as a greenway, the proposal had to meet numerous criteria. The critical element of all greenways, which the M-C Regional Greenway met, is connectivity. The process of greenway designation requires not only the involvement of the Greenways Council but also a strong commitment to the project’s long-term success at the local level. That local commitment helped the M-C Regional Greenway get established.
A brochure developed for the project provides additional detail.
Preservation of the Habitat of the American Cottontail
New England’s only native cottontail rabbit species is in peril. Over the past few decades, the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) has seen significant declines throughout its range, and the ongoing trend of habitat loss will further threaten the species in coming years. Fortunately, private landowners are in a position to make a significant contribution to the restoration of the species. By managing some of their land as shrublands—the required habitat for New England cottontails—landowners can provide cottontails with the food and cover they need to survive harsh, cold winters and avoid predation. If enough landowners join in the effort, the New England cottontail might be saved from becoming a federally listed species. Information about the New England cottontail and how you can manage your land for habitat is included in this guide. The New England cottontail is a medium-sized rabbit with a brown or buff-colored coat, overlain with a wash of distinct black-tipped fur that gives it a penciled effect. Unlike the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), the cottontail’s fur remains brownish gray rather than transitioning to white in the winter. The New England cottontail’s ears are heavily furred on the inside, with a line of black hair covering the inside edges and usually a distinct black spot between the ears.
New England cottontails occupy native shrublands associated with sandy soils or wetlands and regenerating forests associated with small scale disturbances that set back forest succession. New England cottontails are considered habitat specialists, in so far as they are dependent upon these early-successional habitats, frequently described as thicket.
In U. S. Fish and Wildlife Species Profile, the American cottontail is described as a "...medium-large sized cottontail rabbit that may reach 1,000 grams (2.2 pounds) in weight. Sometimes called the gray rabbit, brush rabbit, wood hare or cooney, it can usually be distinguished from the sympatric eastern cottontail and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) by several features. In general, the New England cottontail can be distinguished by its shorter ear length, slightly smaller body size, presence of a black spot between the ears, absence of a white spot on the forehead, and a black line on the anterior edge of the ears." A NatureServ Explorer Comprehensive Report provides a significant amount of information on the American cottontail while a Landowner's Guide to Cottontail Habitat Management provides a significant amount of information for property owners as well. Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online provides a variety of tools for sharing natural resources and environmental information. Types of information available include water resources, soils, open space, geology and aerial imagery.
Where Have All of the Bats Gone?
Bats have been dying off by the thousands. The condition was identified as "White Nose Syndrome" (WNS) and is caused by a previously unknown fungus, Geomyces destructans. In 2006, the fungus first started to appear on bats in caves in upstate New York and then spread from the northeast to states as far south and west as Virginia and Tennessee and northwards to Ontario, Canada. The condition is one where the fungus apparently invades and erodes the skin, particularly the wings, of hibernating bats. Although responding to some antiseptics, no effective method has been found to date to curb the disease from spreading further. What's worse is that most bats only give birth to one "pup" per year, meaning that it is unlikely that the affected populations can recover quickly from the devastating effects of the disease. The photo at right shows a bat that is not afflicted with WNS while the photo below shows five bats with WNS).
Jenny Dickson, a CTDEEP Biologist, has been surveying caves in Connecticut and tracking the mortality rates of bats since the inception of the disease. In Connecticut, WNS is affecting the Little Brown Bat and the Indiana Bat which is already on the Federal Endangered Species list. Some actually fear that the Little Brown Bat faces regional and possibly total extinction. Interestingly, three species of tree-roosting bats in Connecticut have not been impacted by WNS. Connecticut has eight of the eleven hundred known species of bats in the world, and the two most common here and in much of the northeast are the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown Bat.
Additional information available through this collaborative project include Bat Maternity Monitoring Information and Protocol, a blank Survey Data Sheet Form for bat roost information, a CT DEP Wildlife Division Public Bat Sightings survey sheet, and a June, 2011 e-Newsletter highlighting testimony by Bat Conservation International for federal funds to further study and eradicate White Nose Syndrome.