DEEP: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Acquires 449-acre Open Space Property in Vernon

June 22, 2012
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Acquires 449-acre Open Space Property in Vernon
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) today announced the acquisition of a 449-acre parcel of land that preserves an ecologically intact and environmentally sensitive watershed in Vernon, and expands the range of protected lands in the area.
The 449-acre property, now known as Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Area (WMA), was purchased by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection from Tancanhoosen, LLC, at a purchase price of $2,965,000. Tancanhoosen, LLC is comprised of 18 family members of the extended Mason family, originally from Vernon, CT.  Family members now live throughout the United States,  although Tom and Susan Mason still reside in Vernon.  The Mason Family owned the land for more than a century.
The Tankerhoosen (WMA) is located adjacent and upstream of the 282-acre Belding WMA that was donated to the State of Connecticut by Max Belding in 1981. The new Tankerhoosen WMA ensures protection of much of the watershed and the entire riparian zone for over 2.5 miles of the Tankerhoosen River downstream of Walker Reservoir and is an important acquisition for Connecticut’s goal to restore and protect wildlife.
“The land we are protecting today is one of the largest and most significant open space preservations in Connecticut history, funded, in its entirety, by the state’s Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program,” said Dan Esty, Commissioner of the CT DEEP.  “The Tankerhoosen WMA supports high densities of catchable size brown and brook trout in the Tankerhoosen River and many species of birds, invertebrates, and reptiles in need of protection.”
“This acquisition doubles the size of the Wild Trout Management Area and adds to the total protected corridor in the area,” Esty said.  “This corridor includes Belding WMA and also Valley Falls Park in Vernon, Bolton Notch State Park and Northern Connecticut Land Trust property.”
The WMA contains a large number of species and habitats considered of Greatest Conservation Need.  Purchase of the property as open space will address many of the Priority Conservation Actions set forth in Connecticut’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.
Important species that will now be protected include the eastern box turtle, cerulean warbler, and brook trout. A section of the property that was a former gravel pit will now provide protection for the brown thrasher, field sparrow and prairie warbler.  This site will also provide habitat for rare invertebrates.
Environmental Importance
  • The Tankerhoosen River supports abundant wild brown trout and brook trout populations.  This is the most plentiful wild trout population in Central Connecticut. Wild trout are environmentally sensitive indicator species that require cool water temperatures, high water quality, functioning wetlands and intact riparian areas.
  • The Tankerhoosen River supports a population of eastern pearlshell mussel.  Statewide, the eastern pearlshell is declining, and it is listed as a species of special concern in Connecticut.
  • The Tankerhoosen WMA contains unique habitats, and species whose populations are declining due to loss of habitat.  This is an important acquisition for restoring and protecting native species.
Recreational and Educational Importance
  • Provides living classroom/laboratory for students within the greater Hartford area.
  • Provides passive recreation for bird watchers, photographers, hikers, and others who enjoy being outdoors.
  • Sustains an important catch & release wild trout fishery.
Connecticut’s Open Space Program
Connecticut’s open space includes land purchased by the State and land purchased by municipalities and conservation organizations, often with state financial assistance.  These purchases are helping Connecticut meet its open space goal of protecting 21 percent of Connecticut’s land – or 673,210 acres – by the year 2023.  Through state and local open space purchases, Connecticut is now 73 percent (493,452 acres) toward achieving this goal.
The two programs designed to help achieve this open space goal are:
Recreational and Natural Heritage Trust Program
To date, Connecticut has purchased 254,674 acres for approximately $375,000,000 under this program.
Open Space and Watershed Grants – provides grants to support open space land purchases by municipalities and conservation organizations.
Since the Open Space and Watershed Grant program began in 1998, the State has provided $102,517,477 in grants to assist with the purchase of about 380 properties, preserving 67,000 acres in 125 communities. These acres are part of the estimated 238,778 acres of protected land owned by municipalities, conservation organizations and water companies.