NCLC Conserves 48th Working Farm

NCLC Conserves 48th Working Farm

Along the border between New Milford and Washington, 103 acres are now permanently protected as forest and farmland, thanks to the vision and commitment of its owner, Ramanan Raghavendran, who donated the land to create the Chapin Ramanan Farm.

Every farm protected in Connecticut is meaningful. Connecticut is losing farmland at an alarming rate. According to a recent study published by American Farmland Trust, the State’s agricultural lands rank in the top three for most at risk of loss to development in the country. Since 1965, NCLC has been dedicated to conserving working agricultural lands, and the Chapin Ramanan Farm marks its 48th working farm conserved.

The Chapin Ramanan Farm is particularly scenic with distant views of the western horizon. Stonewalls crisscross through its fields, a reminder of the history of the land, which has been in agricultural production for hundreds of years. Today, the fields are still hayed by members of the Chapin family, who have a long history of farming in New Milford.

The conservation of a single property often takes decades or more. The conservation of the Chapin Ramanan Farm began in 2008 when members of the Chapin family sold over 100 acres of the original dairy farm to Mr. Raghavendran, who, in turn, granted a conservation easement over 73 acres to NCLC in 2009. Earlier this year, Mr. Raghavendran chose to give the entire property to NCLC—both the 73 acres previously protected by easement and an additional 30 acres of hayfields and forest that were unprotected and could have been developed.

The Chapin Ramanan Farm contains pristine woodlands, with mature and diverse hardwood species, that protect 2,500 feet of Walker Brook and two of its tributaries. Protecting land around rivers and streams keeps the waters cool and clean. In addition, many species, including reptiles and amphibians, depend on the land around rivers and streams for their survival. The forests themselves provide excellent habitat for numerous species, including bobcat, bear, and coyote

With the addition of the Chapin Ramanan Farm, NCLC now protects 13,158 acres in Litchfield and northern Fairfield Counties, including 21 public hiking preserves, over 40 working farms, and more than 3,000 of acres of habitat for rare and endangered species.

Plenty of Good Cheer at Annual Meeting and Holiday Party 

NCLC’s annual meeting and holiday party was a time to celebrate volunteers, partnerships, and share conservation goals for the region. More than 60 members from NCLC and from land trusts throughout the region gathered at the Kent Community House on December 4 and enjoyed refreshments and good conversation.

Board members in attendance included NCLC board president Hiram P. Williams and vice-president Margery Feldberg, who will assume the role of president when Williams steps down in January.

Williams, who has been the head of the board for 12 years, commented, “I feel good about where the organization is and has accomplished and I am excited about where we are going.” His proudest accomplishments have been building an excellent staff, led by Executive Director Catherine Rawson, and a dedicated board of directors. “The combination of the two is going to enable us to meet some pretty significant conservation challenges in the next ten years,” he said.

For her part, Feldberg is looking forward to her new role. “Our area has been discovered and there is a lot of pressure, but we are confident we can continue to preserve and protect space. We are scaling up to triple our pace of conservation between now and 2030 and we look forward to the challenge,” she said.

Amanda Branson, NCLC’s director of operations and finance, reviewed highlights from the year and spoke about the need to increase the pace of conservation in the coming years. The State of Connecticut has a goal to protect 21 percent of the state’s lands and water by 2023. The state intends to protect 10 percent and land trusts and other partners are tasked with protecting 11 percent. Based on the State’s current pace, it would take 65 years to reach this goal. Branson explained that land trusts have done extraordinary work to advance conservation and that any hope of reaching the State’s goal rests on land trusts.

Members of area land trusts who attended the event expressed appreciation for the help they receive from NCLC, including Julie Stuart of the Bridgewater Land Trust, who commented, “I came to the meeting to learn from the best, I appreciate everything that they do.”

Branson took the conversation a step further and reported on NCLC’s Pace of Conservation Report, an analysis of the collective conservation of the region’s land trusts within the 30×30 framework.  This global conservation goal calls for 30 percent of the earth’s lands and waters to be conserved by 2030. NCLC aggregated transaction data of 19 land trusts working in Litchfield and northern Fairfield Counties between 2010 and 2020 and found that during this period land trusts protected 9,772 acres. The Pace of Conservation Report is also evaluated the role of lands that have some protection against development but are not permanently protected.  This category includes water company lands and some privately owned recreational lands. Including these, “quasi-protected” lands in combination with the collective work of our region’s land trusts, achieving a 30×30 for Northwest Connecticut is possible. NCLC set a goal in 2021 to triple its pace to protect 20,000 acres by 2030 in concert with the area’s 22 land trusts and communities

The presentation concluded with recognition and celebration of the more than 90 volunteers who donated over 1,000 hours of their time to NCLC’s trails, preserves, and public events.

Founded in 1965, NCLC is the largest land trust in Connecticut, protecting 13,000 acres of vast, connected natural areas in Litchfield and northern Fairfield counties. The lands include 21 public hiking preserves, 41 working farms, and over 3,000 acres of habitat for rare and endangered species, and 500 nature preserves in 17 towns.




2022 Directors Emeriti

In 2022, three NCLC Board members were elected as directors emeriti in recognition of their extraordinary service, leadership, and commitment to conservation. Their work on behalf of Northwest Connecticut’s natural and working lands has created a legacy that will benefit future generations. We are so grateful for their service.
Kirsten Peckerman demonstrated her extraordinary commitment to conservation in Northwest Connecticut through her 13 years of service on NCLC’s Board. In addition, she served other conservation organizations, including but not limited to Steep Rock Association, Housatonic Valley Association, and the Washington Garden Club.
Linda Allard served as a member of NCLC’s board for 12 years. Linda is a natural collaborator and an exemplary leader whose support has been deeply appreciated by NCLC’s staff and her fellow directors. Linda’s commitment to good causes and generosity extends beyond NCLC to her work with The Garden Conservancy, American Ballet Theatre, Shakespeare Society, and local organizations like Housatonic Valley Association, Steep Rock Association, and After School Arts Program. Linda opened her home, Highmeadow, for special and much-adored community gatherings such as holiday cookie baking, apple cider making, and garden tours.
Helen “Lennie” Lillis served as a board member for a truly extraordinary 23 years. In addition, she also served the Town of New Milford through her years of service with other community organizations, including but not limited to the New Milford Conservation Commission, the Village Center Organization of New Milford, and the New Milford Implementation Committee for the Revitalization of Downtown New Milford, the New Milford Fireworks, Red Cross, Connecticut District FTD, Rotary Club of New Milford, and the Greater New Milford Business Association.
Three members of NCLC’s Emeritus Board, from left to right, Kirsten Peckerman, Linda Allard, and Hellen Lillis.

Volunteer Spotlight: Lou Memoli

Lou Memoli is the former president of Brookfield Open Space Legacy, Inc (BOSLI), the current chair of NCLC’s Brookfield Council, and a lifelong supporter of the environment. This month we asked Lou to share more about the role volunteering and the environment have played in his life.

Q: How did you become interested in the environment?
Lou: I have been an environmental enthusiast for most of my life. I’ve enjoyed hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife photography, and hunting (although I stopped hunting over 40 years ago). When I attended college as a biology major, all my electives were in the environmental sciences (ecology, field biology, geology) – I even participated in the first Earth Day celebration. I consider myself an environmental scientist but not in the way most people might think. As a health physicist I studied the effects of radioactive contaminants in the environment and their effects on biological systems… pathways much like those of pesticides and other toxins.
Q: Why did you decide to volunteer on NCLC’s Brookfield Council?
Lou: When I joined BOSLI, I found that I was among like-minded people and it gave me a new outlet for my environmental interests – one where I might have the chance to educate and influence others in the Brookfield community. I may no longer be the president of BOSLI but my love of nature and my desire to educate and influence others still remains and it is the reason that I am on the Brookfield Council.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about land conservation?
Lou: I think that most people consider conservation as being passive – keeping things from changing and while conservation is intended to preserve our wild and natural spaces – keeping it from development, it requires ongoing effort to ensure that the habitat remains viable for wildlife, that endangered or fragile species are protected, and that the quality of our soil, vegetation, and water are preserved. Now, with climate change upon us, conservation efforts need to be even more proactive. Soil, water, biodiversity, invasive species, carbon capture… all these areas require action. And now is the time. COVID has created new enthusiasm for the outdoors and this is an opportunity to engage with the public through social and educational events, sponsorships, and collaborations with the goal of creating awareness and fostering environmentally prudent public policy. NCLC is active in all these areas and this is why I continue to volunteer my time and effort.













Thank you Lou for all that you do for NCLC!