January 7, 2014
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
Read the special report, Preserved But Maybe Not.
Read the cover letter.
COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY RECOMMENDS
PERMANENT PROTECTIONS FOR STATE PARKS AND FORESTS
HARTFORD – Many Connecticut state parks, forests and wildlife management areas do not have the permanent protection that people assume they have, according to a special report released today by the state Council on Environmental Quality.
“The General Assembly and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have been asked to consider proposals during the past three years to transfer, exchange or re-purpose hundreds of acres of state parks, forests and wildlife management areas,” the report says. “Most of those proposals were not completed, but analysis of the cases reveals procedural deficiencies that routinely put state conservation lands in jeopardy of being 'unpreserved'.”
The special report, Preserved But Maybe Not, analyzes several recent proposals to swap or transfer state conservation lands and finds that three common threads run through the proposals to use conservation lands for other purposes:
The state land is viewed by those proposing its transfer as being unused, underutilized or vacant, as opposed to serving a specific conservation purpose.
To the proponents, the door to an exchange appears to be wide open because the conservation lands are not in fact preserved forever in legally binding ways.
Complete and accurate knowledge needed to make a good decision arrives late in the decision-making process.
To bring order to the decision-making process and to protect the lands for conservation in perpetuity, the Council offers nine recommendations, several of which will require legislation to become effective.
“Adoption of these recommendations will do two things,” said Council Chair Susan Merrow of East Haddam “First, it will get the essential scientific information to the front end of the decision-making process and, second, it will make sure that we preserve state parks, forests and other so-called preserved lands in perpetuity.
The report notes that state conservation lands in New York are protected by constitutional limitations on swaps and transfers, and the Council recommends that the General Assembly look into a similar amendment to Connecticut’s constitution.
Other recommendations are to create a clear and uniform procedure to be used by the General Assembly and state agencies to generate essential natural resource information about any parcel under consideration for transfer, and placement of appropriate protections on existing state parks and forests and on the deeds of lands purchased in the future. Also recommended is a restriction on the release of conservation easements without public notice.
About the Council on Environmental Quality
The Council on Environmental Quality is required by state law to submit the state’s annual report on the status of Connecticut’s environment to the Governor and to recommend legislation for correcting deficiencies in environmental laws. The Council publishes special reports, such as Preserved But Maybe Not, to analyze identified problems in greater detail. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects and environmental impact evaluations of other state agencies, publication of the twice-monthly Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House.
All reports are available on the Council’s website, www.ct.gov/ceq