2020 Land Acquisitions

In addition to the permanent protection of Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, NCLC completed four additional conservation projects.  Land conservation is about the relationships and connections that we have with the land. NCLC is grateful to the people who made these projects possible.

Nickoll Preserve, Salisbury, 108 acres

Longtime NCLC supporters Chrissy Armstrong and Ben Nickoll donated 108 acres of forested land that expands the protected area in the Moore Brook corridor of Salisbury. This new preserve lies adjacent to 233 acres of land previously protected by The Nature Conservancy. Moore Brook is a class A stream and a State-designated Critical Habitat Area, home to rare species of plants and animals. The underlying geology creates rich soils and a diverse and unique community of plants and animals thrive in these calcium-rich (“calcareous”) groundwater seeps and soils. NCLC thanks Chrissy and Ben for protecting this special place for future generations.

Peterson Easement, New Milford, 16 Acres
Guy Peterson’s donation of this conservation easement is in honor of his late wife Mary Jane. Guy is a former board president of NCLC and this easement is adjacent to other lands that he was instrumental in protecting. This parcel expands the vast protected land around Bear Hill, New Milford’s highest point. This parcel expands the protected land around Bear Hill, New Milford’s highest point and the location of CT DEEP’s bobcat population study. His gift improves the connectivity of Northern New Milford’s conserved lands and protects a long stretch of Denman Brook, a tributary to the West Aspetuck River, a class AA waterway. Guy is a true conservation leader in Northwest Connecticut. We are grateful for the legacy of conservation that he has made possible.
Osborn Conservation Easement, Salisbury, 54 acres
Brothers Nic and Eliot Osborn will protect about 54 acres of sensitive wetlands, uplands, and roadside farm fields on their property. This easement will connect to conserved land, including extensive lands protected by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for endangered reptile habitat north of the Osborn lands in Massachusetts. The TNC land is one of the most important sites for endangered reptiles in the Northeast. The Osborn easement expands the wildlife corridor that animals rely on for migration across state lines. Thank you Nic and Eliot for creating connections between critical habitats.
Stoney Batter Pond, West Cornwall, 125 acres
Hamilton South IV and Manuel Bellod’s Stony Batter Farm conservation easement is an important addition to a swath of protected lands in the Housatonic River corridor. Protecting forested lands limits soil erosion and runoff that can carry pollution to water. This easement also enhances a wildlife corridor connection between state lands, including Wyantenock State Forest, NCLC protected lands, and conservation easements held by Warren Land Trust and Cornwall Conservation Trust. We are grateful to Hamilton and Manuel for their long-term commitment to conservation.

Get Outside This Weekend: Four Winter Hikes to Try

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing!  The following preserve parking lots have been cleared so that you can get outside this weekend and enjoy the winter wonderland.

Hauser Preserve – 100 Fern Ave, Litchfield, 06759: Open field for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Trails are not groomed.  Trail for snowshoeing.

Birch Rocks Pratt Glen –   40A Obtuse Road North, Brookfield, 06804: Woodland snowshoeing to Lake Lillinonah.

Mallory Preserve — 9 CT-39, Sherman, CT 06784.  Woodland snowshoeing along the trails.

Smyrski Farm* – 237 Merryall Road, New Milford, 06776, Park on the North side of the red barn.  Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Trails are not groomed.

*Smyrski Farm is a working farm and only open for public recreation under special conditions.  Don’t miss this change to explore this beautiful farm!

As always, practice safe hiking by dressing warmly, packing water and a snack, and telling someone where you’re going.

Please send us photos of your trip at info@ctland.org or tag us on social media @nwctconservancy!

Thank you to Nick Pouder of Mayapple Hill Farm for clearing a parking at Smyrski, Rick Plumb for plowing Hauser, and Brookfield Parks and Recreation for plowing at Birch Rocks Pratt Glen!

Americorps Comes to Northwest Connecticut

Earlier this month Americorps Team River 4 joined NCLC staff for two days of work at our Kahn Preserve in New Milford and our Cobble Brook Vista Preserve in Kent. At the Kahn Preserve, the Americorps team and NCLC carried in lumber and tools about a mile into the preserve to build bog bridges, cleared brush on the trail, repaired erosion damage, and improved a culvert. These new bog bridges will help keep hikers’ feet dry and reduce trail erosion and “braiding” from hikers trying to find alternate routes around streams and low spots. At Cobble Brook Vista, the team cleared trees that fell during the summer and fall storms on the Orange trail to the Outlook.

Tree, Baylee, and Sophia are from California, Oklahoma and Washington DC, respectively. This was their first visit to New England, and although working during the greatest public health crisis of our time has been challenging, they have been enjoying seeing a new part of the country and working in service of organizations like NCLC and our partner land trusts.

We are truly thankful for these extraordinary young people who signed up for service in such a difficult year, and to the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative for bringing them to Northwest CT!

Bat Monitoring at Tory’s Cave Preserve in New Milford

Why is Tory’s Cave closed?

Tory’s Cave is closed to protect the rare and endangered bats that depend on its habitat for survival. In 2017, NCLC installed a protective gate across the cave’s opening to prevent the unintentional introduction of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease that causes hibernating bats to burn through their stores of body fat, killing them, or causing them to wake from hibernation in the winter. If awoken in the winter, the bats often succumb to the cold while trying to find food that is not present at that time of year. Click here to watch a video about WNS.

How do you determine the presence of bats?

NCLC partners with biologists at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protect (CT DEEP) to record audio of bat vocalizations. This is called acoustic monitoring.  The biologists analyze the recordings and identify the species and approximate number of bats. The monitoring is conducted in the spring, as bats are emerging from hibernation, and in the fall as bats move into hibernation.

What did the recordings find?

This year the recordings confirmed the presence of a Little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus.  State biologist Brian Hess reports, “This is a notable recording of a rare species. Little brown bats used to be quite common, but they are now rare and on our endangered list.  They have lost between 90-95% of their population by our best guess, and we only have a couple remaining known maternity colonies in the state.”  That devastating population decline began in  2008 when the fungus and White-nose Syndrome arrived in Connecticut.

Why did the acoustic monitoring find fewer bats this year?

CT DEEP has conducted acoustic monitoring at Tory’s Cave since 2016. Prior year surveys have documented the presence of big brown bats, little brown bats, red bats, and hoary bats. The 2020 fall acoustic monitoring recorded one little brown bat. It is possible the unusual weather in 2020 affected the number of bats present.

This fall was unusually warm and dry. Weather plays an important role in the fall movement of bats into their winter shelters, called hibernacula.  DEEP biologist Brian Hess speculated the warm fall may explain why only one bat was recorded stating, “Bats may not have settled into their winter spots yet. Late September and early October is usually the right time for some species, but it is highly variable.”  It will be interesting to see if the spring acoustic monitoring captures other species of bats who moved into the cave later.

Why protect bats and their habitat?

Bats are amazing animals. For farmers they perform the equivalent of $1 billion dollars of pest control every year by eating insects.  Some species of bats feed on nectar and pollen and are important pollinators.  For example, bats are the most important pollinator for the agave plant, a common sweetener and key ingredient in tequila. In rainforests, fruit eating bats disperse seeds.

Bats are also wild animals that may carry diseases harmful to humans. That is why you should never touch a bat. As habitat for bats is lost, bats and humans come into contact more regularly. Protecting sufficient land for habitat helps to keep these amazing animals, and the humans that depend on them, safe.

With WNS decimating bat populations across the United States, every bat is precious and many species that used to number in the millions are in danger of extinction. Can you imagine a summer night without the graceful dips and dives of bats eating mosquitos? A world without bats would be a difficult place for farmers, forests, and night-blooming plants to thrive.

Video: NCLC’s 2020 Annual Meeting

On November 14, 2020 we held our Annual Meeting over Zoom. The annual meeting was an opportunity to come together to celebrate the good work accomplished in 2020 and the partnerships that make land conservation possible and to answer your questions about regional land conservation. In case you missed it, we’ve posted the recording here.

Virtual Land Tours: Explore NCLC’s Public Preserves

NCLC has 21 public preserves. This fall we had a two-part, virtual tour of these preserves. Part 1 introduces the eight NCLC preserves in the Town of Sherman. Part 2 introduces the preserves outside of the town of Sherman.

Part 1: Introducing NCLC’s Sherman Preserves

Part 2: NCLC’s Public Preserves Beyond Sherman

 

October e-newsletter

Click here to read our October e-newsletter for information on virtual land tours, local farms, and a live reptile show.

 

Milkweed in a field in Sherman, Connecticut. Upland Pastures Preserve. Photo by Jerry Monkman

Hunt Hill Farm’s Barn Quilt

The New Milford Barn Quilt Trail is growing from eight to nineteen barns! NCLC’s Hunt Hill barn was one of eleven barns added to the trail this year. The New Milford Barn Quilt Trail, the only barn quilt trail in Connecticut, was created by the New Milford Forest and Farmland Preservation Committee to honor the agricultural history of New Milford, the American folk art tradition of quilt-making, and encourage the growing interest in local farms and local food.

For the Hunt Hill Farm barn (60 Upland Road in New Milford), NCLC chose a barn quilt pattern that symbolizes the forage grass grown in the surrounding pastures and hay fields. Hunt Hill Farm was a successful dairy from 1850 to 1964, and this field barn, built around 1900 was likely used to store hay for cows during the winter months. Since 2008, NCLC has permanently protected nearly 77 acres of Hunt Hill Farm from development thanks to former owners, Ruth and Skitch Henderson, and their dedication to preserving the property. NCLC owns 43 acres of Hunt Hill Farm and has a conservation easement on another 34 acres owned by the Town of New Milford. Today Hunt Hill Farm is used for pasture, hay, and Christmas trees.

Hunt Hill is the second NCLC farm to be included on the New Milford Barn Quilt Trail.  In 2017, Smyrski Farm’s White Barn was one of the original eight barns on the trail. The maple leaf-inspired design honors the history of sugaring on the property that is continued by Linda and Nick Pouder of Mayapple Hill Farm who lease the land and raise lamb, vegetables, and produce maple syrup.

Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury — Eighth Generation Family Farm Protected Forever

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CT DoAg), with assistance from Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy (NCLC), has permanently protected the Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, owned by Cathleen and Howard Bronson. The conservation easement on over 50 acres of the eighth-generation farm was purchased using a combination of State and Federal funds.  This ensures the farm is protected as an agricultural property forever and cannot be sold for development.

“How lucky Howie and I have been to work this wonderful land, to grow vegetables and fruit and to have pastures filled with sheep, cows, and pigs over the years,” said Cathleen.  “Cultivating crops to provide to the welcoming community has been a joy. You all probably know farming includes being out in all kinds of weather, but best is the appreciation customers share with us about fresh greens for salad or the crisp bite into an apple just picked. Maple Bank Farm has a lot of history!”

Cathleen is the eighth generation of Hurlbuts to farm here since Joseph Hurlbut set foot on the land in 1730. Over the centuries, the original Kings Grant of six acres grew in size and diversity of crops, changing with the needs of the family and community. Cathleen grew up on this land with her father Lewis Hurlbut and uncle Alden Hurlbut operating the farm in partnership. The two families grew the farm to raise poultry, vegetables, and apples which were sold on delivery routes in Waterbury, Naugatuck, and Danbury. Howard and Cathleen have farmed here since 1980 and today, Maple Bank Farm produce is all marketed at the popular farm stand in Roxbury and the Bethel Farmer’s Market.

NCLC supported Cathleen and Howard in the conservation process, from completing the initial application to aiding in the State and Federal acquisition process, and commissioning surveys and soil reports.  Maple Bank Farm is the fourth farm that NCLC has helped to permanently protect through its partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the 35th farm NCLC has protected since its founding in 1965.  “Farmland conservation is vital to our quality of life and local economies here in Connecticut. NCLC, with the support of its members, is proud to work with our local farmers to protect these essential lands for our communities today and the generations to come,” said NCLC’s Executive Director, Catherine Rawson.

“Through our partnerships with local land trusts, such as NCLC, we are able to identify projects important to local communities,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, agriculture commissioner. “Permanently protecting properties such as Maple Bank Farm ensures that agriculture remains an integral part of the town while providing critical access to Connecticut Grown food and products.”

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program was established in 1978 to protect the prime and important farmland soils in the state to maintain and preserve agricultural land for the future. To date the program has permanently protected more than 382 farms encompassing over 45,900 acres.

Maple Bank Farm is central to community life in Roxbury. “Through the foresight of Cathy and Howie Bronson, Roxbury is the beneficiary of a conservation easement placed on over half of Maple Bank Farm,” said Roxbury’s First Selectman Barbara Henry.  “Knowing we will always have the beloved farm and farmstand in the heart of Roxbury is truly a joyous occasion.”

The Bronsons remain owners of Maple Bank Farm and continue to live in the family farmhouse. For the 2020 growing season, they have leased the farmstand and a portion of the property to Dakota Rudolf-Eastman and Matt Went.  Cathy and Howie plan to remain actively involved with the farm and continue to tend the lands for foreseeable future. “The air is crisp and I am heading to the orchard to pick Cortland apples. What a joy to bring these all the way to harvest after caring for the trees and fruit since last winter,” said Howie.

Due to COVID-19, a town-wide commemoration of the conservation of Maple Bank Farm was not possible.  In lieu of an in-person gathering, NCLC is organizing a virtual celebration.  The public is invited to share their thanks and special memories from the farm as video messages to be shared with Cathy and Howie and the community at large. To record your message, visit https://www.tribute.co/cathy-and-howard-bronson/.

Photos: Jerry Monkman, EcoPhotography, LLC