Connecticut has two land conservation goals for 2023:
Goal #1: State Lands
State parks, forests, wildlife management areas and other state-owned conservation lands shall constitute 10 percent of Connecticut's land area.
Rate of Preservation
Goal #2: All Conservation Lands
Land conserved by towns and cities, the state, land trusts and other nonprofit organizations and water utilities shall constitute 21 percent of Connecticut's land area.
Nobody knows what that total is today.
State law sets a goal of conserving 21 percent of Connecticut’s land area. The Green Plan, Connecticut’s official land conservation plan, establishes 2023 as the target date. That goal includes conservation land owned by towns and cities, land trusts and other nonprofit organizations, water utilities and the state.
As Connecticut comprises 3,205,760 acres, fulfilling this goal would require protection of 673,210 acres.
In addition to its own land acquisitions, State grants helped municipalities and land trusts acquire 1,443 acres through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program, nearly one-third more than in 2017.
Many acres also are preserved each year by municipalities and land trusts without state grants, but that information is not reported to the state. The oft-cited estimate that Connecticut has achieved about 74 percent of its goal is inaccurate. A review by the Council in 2015 of published landholdings of land trusts showed nearly 60,000 acres held in fee and close to 30,000 in easements -- far more land than what is included in most published estimates. There is, however, no accurate, current census of all the preserved properties in the state.
The absence of an accurate inventory of protected land in Connecticut is a serious deficiency. DEEP had been collecting data from municipal records in a sequential fashion for 14 years; that effort almost certainly will not be completed, and in any event the earliest-collected data is well out of date. To make land preservation more strategic and cost-effective, Connecticut needs a reliable and up-to-date registry of the protected lands. An Act Concerning the State's Open Space Plan, adopted in 2012, should eventually lead to an accurate tally of preserved lands, but progress has been slow. DEEP has launched a registry portal as a pilot.
How the Goal is Calculated
The State of Connecticut has been acquiring land for parks, forests and wildlife conservation for more than a century. In 1997 and again in 1999, it committed itself to the goals stated above. For the state itself, this meant acquiring another 104,000 acres to reach the goal of 321,000 acres (or 10 percent of the land within Connecticut's borders) by 2023. Achieving this goal would have required Connecticut, beginning in 1999, to acquire about 4,500 acres per year (on average), a rate that had been met (on average) up to 2008. Because the state has fallen below the goal track, it now will need to acquire about 12,200 acres per year. For more information about the pace of preservation, please see the To Get Back on Track page.
Preserved Forests = Clean Water
Rain that falls on land flows toward the nearest stream. If that land is mostly woods, there is a high probability that the stream will support a full range of aquatic life. If even 12 percent of the land is paved or built upon, then the life in the stream is almost certain to be affected. These revealing statistics are discussed further on the Rivers, Streams and Rain page.