June 22, 2017
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
Updated Forest and Forest Birds page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4910&q=587364
Updated Bats page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4910&q=587388
Updated Compliance page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4910&Q=587396
Updated Driving (Mileage) page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4910&q=587390
Link to Full Report: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=986&q=477460
CEQ's Midyear Update to Annual Environmental Report:
Birds and Bats Continue Their Decline;
DEEP Enforcement Programs Show Effects of Staff Reductions
- Connecticut's woodland birds declined steeply in 2016. These birds -- 13 carefully-selected species of warblers, thrushes, woodpeckers and other "indicator species" -- have been declining for 15 years, but the trend accelerated in 2016.
- Cave-dwelling bats, which declined catastrophically ten years ago, show no sign of recovery, based on the census taken in early 2017.
- The number of inspections and enforcement actions conducted by the Pesticide Management Program of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), first reported in CEQ's April report, continued their slide through the current month.
- The average resident drove about the same number of miles -- about 24 per day -- in 2016 as in 2015. Combined with data on fuel consumption, this statistic does not bode well for attaining the state's goals for local air quality and reducing the pollution that contributes to global warming.
"The reasons for the discouraging trend in birdlife are many and complex," said Council Chair Susan Merrow, a resident of East Haddam. "In general, the bird populations reflect the health of our forests, which themselves face many challenges ranging from invasive insects to fragmentation (the breaking of large parcels into smaller ones)."
"Many landowners and organizations, from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to local nonprofit land trusts, work hard to solve Connecticut's land and wildlife conservation problems," Merrow said, "but overall it is insufficient."
"On the encouraging side, nonprofit organizations are doing great things as the state itself does less," Merrow continued. "For example, the Connecticut Audubon Society announced this month that it acquired a new preserve of more than 800 acres, which is more acres than DEEP acquired in all of 2016."
"The bats are a sad story," Merrow said, "having been nearly wiped out by disease."
The CEQ's report published in April displayed the ongoing and steep decline in the number of inspections conducted by DEEP and looked particularly at the pesticides program. "This month, we dug even deeper into the pesticides data," Merrow said. "It appears -- based on three quarters of data and one quarter of projections -- that DEEP will conduct fewer than half of the number of pesticide inspections it conducted as recently as 2014, and will issue a relative handful (perhaps 20) of Notices of Violation."
"At some point, if this trend continues, the people handling dangerous chemical pesticides will know that they have only a small chance of ever being discovered or penalized if they break the law," Merrow said.
Traffic, Heat and Bad Air
"We always show the number of miles driven by the average Connecticut resident," Merrow said, "and, beginning last year, we show the amount of gasoline and diesel consumed. We now see that the miles driven is fairly flat but fuel consumption has been going up. This is important for two reasons: First, Connecticut will not meet its targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, without reducing fuel consumption. And second, we will not curb the bad-air days of summertime unless emissions are reduced."
The April report showed that Connecticut had unhealthful air on 31 days in 2016. "The summer of 2016 was Connecticut's hottest on record," Merrow explained, "and heat contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, the cause of almost all air quality alerts. While we don't know what the rest of the summer will bring, we do know that we are right where we were last year at this time, having had seven bad air days already."
Merrow also called attention to the many other environmental indicators throughout the CEQ’s report that are influenced significantly by climate change, from water quality in Long Island Sound and small streams to air quality and coastal birds. “The CEQ’s reports are the only place where residents can find this information in one accessible document,” she said, “and it would be a shame to lose that data base,” in reference to budget proposals that would eliminate the CEQ.
Merrow concluded, "If states to our west do not reduce their emissions, Connecticut residents will forced to endure bad air days for the foreseeable future. And as we pointed out in April, we can no longer count on Washington for help. As a result, Connecticut will have to try harder."
Established in 1971, the Council on Environmental Quality submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to section 22a-12 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects 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 serve without compensation.