2023 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 especially concerning.

Forests and other natural habitats reduce water quality impacts associated with development, impervious surfaces, and certain agricultural practices; sequester and store carbon; 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 between 57 – 60 percent of the land area in the state. The amount of forest land in Connecticut in 2021 (most recent data available) is estimated to have increased since the 2020 inventory but was less than the previous ten-year average.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 

table depicting the percentage of forest types in CTCore Forest Acres**: Core forests are defined as unfragmented forest land that is 300 feet or greater from the boundary between forest land and nonforest land. Core forests provide habitat for many species of wildlife (edge-intolerant species), provide connectivity and corridors for species migration, and increased opportunity to maintain overall biodiversity. These larger blocks of forest are generally more important for wildlife habitat, drinking water supply protection, and ecological resilience. 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.19 Forests that are fragmented, or divided by roads and development, provide some forest functions but do not contribute the full range of ecosystem services that core forest do. Fragmented forests*** are not able to provide the needed habitat for some species of wildlife, and, in many cases, less opportunity for a variety of recreational activities. Invasive species of plants and animals often colonize areas in the wake of activities that result in fragmented forests.

As depicted in the chart above, 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 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 74 percent of Connecticut’s forests, by area.22

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, by area, are over 61 years of age.

 tree canopy cover in environmental justice communities in Connecticut
Urban Forests23
Urban forests are composed of all trees within urban areas. Urban forests differ from rural forests in that urban forests typically have a lower density and
percent of tree cover, and the trees are often associated with human activity and built structures. In 2020, (most recent data available) approximately 35 percent of Connecticut’s land area was designated as “urban”.24 Connecticut also had one of the highest urban tree cover in the nation at 61.6 percent (2014).25 Urban trees and forests help keep cities cooler and absorb storm water, help filter the air and water, maintain biodiversity, and increase resilience to climate change impacts.26
Goal: “Keeping forest as forest” is the overarching goal of Connecticut’s 2020 Forest Action Plan. Public Act 23-206, Section 2 established a goal for environmental justice communities with current tree canopy cover less than 40 percent to increase the tree canopy area by five percent by 2040.

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 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 Conservation, 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. Forests of Connecticut, 2021. Resource Update FS-370. Northern Research Station; www.fs.usda.gov/nrs/pubs/ru/ru_fs370.pdf.
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.usda.gov/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, p. 5; 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); clear.uconn.edu/projects/landscape/ct-forestfrag/ and clear.uconn.edu/projects/landscape/ct-stats/.
21 DEEP, 2020 Connect Forest Action Plan; portal.ct.gov/-/media/DEEP/forestry/2020-Approved-CT-Forest-Action-Plan.pdf.
22 USDA Forest Service. 2022. Forests of Connecticut, 2021. Connecticut's Forests 2021 Estimate Tables.
23 DEEP, D. Danica and UConn, I. Zafetti, personal communication 3-12-2024.
24 United State Census Bureau, County-level Urban and Rural information for the 2020 Census, (Updated September 2023)
County-level 2020 Census Urban and Rural Information for the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Island Areas sorted by state and county FIPS codes, accessed March 18, 2024; www2.census.gov/geo/docs/reference/ua/2020_UA_COUNTY.xlsx.

25  Nowak, David J; Greenfield, Eric J. 2018. US Urban Forest Statistics, Values, and Projections. Journal of Forestry. 116(2): 164-177.; www.fs.usda.gov/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2018/nrs_2018_Nowak_003.pdf.
26 DEEP, General Urban Forestry Information; portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Forestry/Urban-Forestry/General-Urban-Forestry-Information.
27 UConn CLEAR, CT Forest Fragmentation; clear.uconn.edu/projects/landscape/ct-forestfrag/.