2021 CEQ Annual Report

Land Stewardship

Preserved Land               Farmland               Wetlands   


Quick Summary - x check dashClimate Change Indicator




Forest acreage has generally declined over the last five years. The reduction of core forests is concerning.

Forests and other natural habitats reduce water quality impacts associated with development, impervious surfaces, and certain agricultural practices; and provide valuable habitat. Research is showing that visiting a forest has real, quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical.16

Forest Inventory*:  It is estimated that forests cover approximately 55 percent of the land area in the state. The amount of forest land in Connecticut in 2019 (most recent data available) is estimated to have decreased since the 2018 inventory.17  Forest loss has stabilized somewhat from significant declines in forestland between the 1980s and early 2000s. In 1972, the first full year of the Council’s existence, the amount of forest land in Connecticut was estimated to be 1,860,800 acres or roughly 59 percent of the area of the state.18

Core Forest Acres: Core Forest Acres: Core forests** have been defined as forest features that are relatively far (more than 300 feet) from the forest-nonforest boundary. Core forests provide habitat for many species of wildlife that cannot tolerate significant disturbance. The loss of core forests diminishes the remaining forests’ water purification and habitat values, and could result in heavier runoff, which might lead to poorer water quality and impaired habitat.19 Forests that are fragmented, or divided by roads and clearings, provide some forest functions but are not fully-functioning forest ecosystems. Fragmented forests*** are known to provide substandard or poor habitat for some species of wildlife and, in many cases, less opportunity for hunting and a variety of recreational activities. Invasive species of plants and animals often colonize areas in the wake of activities that result in fragmented forests. 

Forest type percent change 1985 to 2015

Edge forests comprise the majority of forest type in Connecticut. These are areas that are the boundary between core forest and non-forested land cover features. Medium (250-500 acres) and large (>500 acres) core forests have seen the greatest percentage decline since 1985. Perforated forests have seen the greatest percentage increase over that same time period; however, perforated forests only make up about five percent of forest type in Connecticut. Overall, total core forest area has declined by more than 15 percent over the last 35 years.20

Connecticut’s forests offer an ability to sequester and store carbon above and below ground in their roots, trunks and branches and as long-lived wood products (e.g., carbon stored in lumber and furniture). Carbon sequestration rates and storage vary by stand age, tree species, growing conditions (including soil type, regional climate, topography, and disturbance regimes (natural or silvicultural).21  In the northeastern United States, carbon sequestration rates typically peak when forests are around 30–70 years old, but trees continue to sequester carbon through their entire life span. Approximately 85 percent of Connecticut’s forests are over 61 years of age. Carbon sequestration is also impacted by the type of trees that comprise the forest. Forests comprised of Oak/Hickory and Maple/Beech/Birch groups store a significant amount of carbon per hectare. These forest types combined comprise about 84 percent of Connecticut’s forests.22

The Council recently developed a position paper that examined the potential applicability of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) for state sponsored forestry, forest management and tree maintenance activities. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is aware that tree removal operations on a significant scale can affect the land and water and requires that forestry plans include consideration of wetlands, erosion, invasive species, endangered species, riparian corridors and many other factors that are normally considered in most environmental impact evaluations. Furthermore, forestry and forest management operations could “serve short term to the disadvantage of long-term environmental goals” such as retention of trees for their value as carbon sinks, retaining wildlife habitat, providing water purification for associated water bodies and protecting wetlands and riparian corridors. Consequently, it is the Council’s position that certain forestry, forest management and tree maintenance activities should be subject to CEPA review and that an agency-specific Environmental Classification Document (ECD) be developed to establish criteria/thresholds for such review.

Goal: “Keeping forest as forest” is the overarching goal of Connecticut’s 2020 Forest Action Plan.

Technical Note:
*The vertical axis in the “Forest Inventory” chart above has been shortened, beginning at 1,000 (1,000 acres) or one million acres rather than the customary zero. **Estimates of core forest acres were derived from the most recent data of the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), which uses satellite imagery to identify forests that are at least 300 feet from non-forest development, such as roads, buildings and farms. ***Fragmented forests consist of patch forest, which is forest along the edge of an interior gap in a forest that are degraded by "edge effects"; edge forest, which is forest along the exterior perimeter of a forest that are degraded by "edge effects"; and perforated forest, which consists of small, isolated fragments of forest that are surrounded by non-forest features and completely degraded by "edge effects".


16 New York Department of Environmental Comnservation, Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health; www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html#:~:text=We%20enjoy%20the%20beauty%20and,green%20spaces%20may%20improve%20health.
17 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service; www.nrs.fs.fed.us/fia/data-tools/state-reports/CT/default.asp.
18 DEEP and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Trends In Connecticut’s Forests: A Half-Century  of Change, NE-INF-143-01; www.fs.fed.us/ne/newtown_square/publications/brochures/pdfs/state_forests/ct_forest.pdf.
19 DEEP, GC3 Final Report: Working & Natural Lands Working Group - Rivers Sub-Working Group; portal.ct.gov/-/media/DEEP/climatechange/GC3/GC3-working-group-reports/GC3-WNLWG-Rivers-Final-Report-11-20-20.pdf.
20 University of Connecticut (UConn), Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) and DEEP, personal communication from D. Peracchio, October 15, 2020.
21 DEEP, 2020 Connect Forest Action Plan; portal.ct.gov/-/media/DEEP/forestry/2020-Approved-CT-Forest-Action-Plan.pdf.
22 USDA Forest Service. 2020. Forests of Connecticut, 2019. Resource Update FS–240. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 2 p. doi.org/10.2737/FS-RU-240; Connecticut's Forests 2019 Estimate Tables; www.nrs.fs.fed.us/fia/data-tools/state-reports/CT/default.asp.