Connecticut has two land conservation goals for 2023:
Goal #1: State Owned Land
“State parks, forests, wildlife management areas and other state-owned conservation lands shall constitute 10 percent of Connecticut's land area.”
In 2019, DEEP acquired 788 acres of land under the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program, the primary vehicle for adding land to the State’s system of parks, forests, wildlife areas, water access areas, and other open spaces.
Over the last 10 years, the state has preserved an average of approximately 640 acres per year. While Connecticut has made steady progress to increase the amount of land preserved, State preservation efforts are not nearly on track to reach the State’s preservation goal by 2023, which would require an annual procurement of approximately 15,000 acres over the next four years, as shown in the graphic at right.
Forests, farmland and other natural habitats absorb more than 11 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Land conservation offers a double benefit for the climate: it helps absorb greenhouse gases and it prevents significant GHG emissions that would result from development. In addition, research is showing that visiting a forest has real, quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical.
The state’s preserved lands were acquired with assistance from state, federal and private funding sources and private donations. Over the last 10 years, the total acquisition cost for state land has been approximately $36.5 million and the average cost per acre has been $5,376. Using the average cost per acre value and the amount leveraged in 2018, achieving the state land preservation goal will require a total of $324 million with the state’s share being $125 million using 2019 dollars.
Goal #2: All Conservation Land
"Land conserved by towns and cities, the state, land trusts, and others shall constitute 21 percent of Connecticut's land area."
As Connecticut comprises 3,205,760 acres, fulfilling the goal of 21 percent would require protection of a total of 673,210 acres. DEEP estimates that the amount of land preserved by its conservation partners, including non-profit land conservation organizations, municipalities, and water companies (identified as “Other Preserved Land” in the chart below) exceeds 248,000 acres.
The amount of developed land in Connecticut has increased by approximately 20 percent over the last 30 years while the state’s population has only grown by approximately 11 percent.* This development pressure underscores the importance of land preservation as a strategy for minimizing and mitigating the impacts of climate change, improving water quality, enhancing habitats, and increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation.
State grants helped municipalities and land trusts acquire or protect 435 acres through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program in 2019. An additional 1,070 acres were protected through DEEP’s involvement with “other” conservation efforts in the state.
The combined acreage of the state land noted above and the land preserved by DEEP’s conservation partners is estimated by DEEP to exceed 508,000 acres or approximately 75 percent of the state’s conservation goal. The exact acreage is unknown because there is no centralized accounting of privately preserved lands.
Public Act 14-169 required DEEP to "...establish a publicly accessible geographic information map system and database that contains a public use and benefit land registry…” DEEP has launched a registry portal as a pilot. To date, DEEP has added only about 26,000 acres or roughly 10 percent of the state-owned open space land into the registry
Technical Note: * Estimates of developed land based on the University of Connecticut Center for Land Use Education & Research state land cover statistics. ** Estimated.acres for “Other Preserved Lands” includes easements.