Baldwin Hill Preserve

Baldwin Hill Preserve
10 acres and 68 acres

Landscape-scale conservation is a process that often unfolds over many years, but the collective vision of neighbors can create lasting protection that will safeguard water quality, habitat for wildlife, and farmland soils for future generations. In the Town of Washington, neighbors Robert Copen, Tal Fagin, David Faber, and Jenny Harris permanently protected hilltop land along Baldwin Hill in New Preston in a two-step process that continues the legacy of the previous landowners. The result is that 78 acres on Baldwin Hill are permanently protected from development.
NCLC: Why did you decide to protect this land with NCLC?
This land has been open space in New Preston for many years and was last used as farmland in
the early 1980s. As long-time residents with homes next to the land, we had watched a
succession of sales occur over the years, with each subsequent owner drawing up ambitious
architectural plans for the construction of large homes, outbuildings, pools, tennis courts, and
more. Thankfully none of these plans reached fruition, but the risk that this beautiful land
would one day be forever altered remained.
Over this time, our two families developed both a close friendship and a shared concern for
preserving the rural character, open space, and abundant wildlife in our neighborhood. Both of
our homes are directly across the street from Averill Farm, a working farm exceeding 200 acres
which has been continuously owned and operated by the Averill family since 1746. In the
1990s, the Averill family sold the development rights of the farm’s acreage to the State of
Connecticut. The effect of this has been tremendously beneficial to the entire surrounding
area, including the historic district of Calhoun Street.
When, during the pandemic, the land sold once again our families determined that if the
opportunity arose for us to team our resources and terminate the risk of future development
we would act boldly to do so. We got lucky. Through a series of unpredictable events, the new
owners decided to abandon their development plan for building an estate from scratch, and
instead bought a local home they could move into immediately. They listed the land for sale.
Rejoicing at this potential opportunity, we were able to quickly negotiate a purchase. We then
began a multi-year process to construct a conservation plan, which culminated in the gift we
made to the land trust in December. Our local attorney, James Kelly, drove the strategy behind
the project, and Catherine and the whole team at the land trust were phenomenal to work
with. We can’t thank everyone enough and are thrilled with the result for us, our neighbors and
the Town of Washington.
NCLC: What do you wish everyone knew about land conservation?
Land conservation is typically a win/win endeavor. Residents and the town benefit in a myriad
of ways from the preservation of open space and the responsible stewardship of the land.
NCLC: Can you think of an experience you had that inspired a love of the natural world?
It is kind of hokey, but we acquired the land via a legal entity we chose to name “Scoop River
LLC”. “Scoop” and “River” are the names of our respective family dogs! Wandering out and
about over the past many years with them inspired us to appreciate nature in new ways —
through their eyes (and noses) rather than just through the human lens.

Member Spotlight: Anthony Ficalora

Long-time NCLC member, Anthony Ficalora, works out regularly sporting his NCLC cap. At 100, he has seen many changes in the landscape and understands what is at stake. We wanted to know more about why he loves this part of Connecticut.
Q: What makes Northwest Connecticut a special place?
Anthony: “In 1969, I first answered a “Land for Sale” ad in Bridgewater, Connecticut. My interest in Bridgewater goes back many years. Bridgewater was the perfect hide-away, with undulating land, charming farms, and interesting architectural homes with splashing ponds, an old-fashioned general store, a post office, and churches on two corners on Route 133. Driving through Bridgewater reminded me of the Tom Mix western movies. As a young boy I remember the scenery of tall evergreen trees in between rocky terrains and the undulation of hills in those films.
The more I toured the area, the more fascinated I became of Bridgewater. Beautiful Lake Lillinonah surrounded by green trees is an unbelievable dream setting of high willowing trees reflecting on the lake’s surfaces. Riding along Lake Lillinonah, there was an unusual Arabian horse farm. This was an unexpected sight at this colorful location. Driving further along Lake Lillinonah, I discovered Lovers Leap Park that was dedicated in 2007. The leap of Lover’s Leap is a rock formation, overlooking Lake Lillinonah where, tradition has it, the Pootatuck Chief Waramaug’s daughter, Princess Lillinonah and her lover, plunged to their deaths. This was Indian Territory with lots of history. There are many historical sites with Northwest Connecticut Land Trusts that will be enjoyed forever.
I must compliment Catherine M. Rawson, Executive Director, and talented staff, for their creative approach in expanding NCLC’s interests throughout Connecticut for generations to enjoy”

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!

November in CT: The Link Between Acorns and Foraging Bears

As bears prepare for hibernation, they increase their food intake to 20,000 calories a day to build up energy reserves for winter. Acorns are a fatty, calorie-dense source that many animals, especially bears, rely on ahead of winter. This year, the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station reports widespread failure of the acorn crop. DEEP officials report that the lack of acorns could cause bears to seek out human-associated food like garbage. Avoid attracting bears to your yard by following some simple practices

What causes the fluctuations in the acorn crop? Oak trees, like many nut-bearing trees, are known for synchronizing seed production. The fluctuation is an evolutionary strategy called predator satiation. When the oaks in an area have a bumper crop of acorns, called a mast year, predators (chipmunks, squirrels, turkeys, blue jays, deer, bear, etc.) can’t eat all the acorns. This allows more nuts to grow into trees. The years of lean acorn production keep predator populations low, so there are fewer animals to eat all the seeds in a mast year.

Want to hear more about the interactions between oak trees and animals? Watch the Doug Tallamy presentation, The Nature of Oaks, and learn more about these amazing trees.