DEEP: 1997 - State Open Space Goal to Preserve 21 percent of Connecticut Lands

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State Open Space Goal to Preserve 21% of Connecticut's Land


In 1997 the General Assembly set a state goal of acquiring or permanently protecting 21 percent of Connecticut’s land as open space by the year 2023.

The 1997 goal specified that 673,210 acres of Connecticut’s 3,205,760 acres should be preserved. The legislature also directed that ten percent, or 320,576 acres of open space, to be state owned as additions to the State’s system of parks, forests, wildlife, fisheries and natural resource management areas. The remaining eleven percent or 352,634 acres, is to be protected by municipalities, private nonprofit land conservation organizations, water companies and the federal government.

Connecticut is now 72 percent of the way toward achieving the goal, with 485,817 acres having been designated as open space.

The DEP has two programs available to assist in realizing the vision and achieving the goals:

  • Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program: DEP’s primary program for acquiring land to expand the state’s system of parks, forests, wildlife, and other natural open spaces and other natural open spaces. Established by the Legislature in 1986 to help preserve Connecticut’s natural heritage, it has made it possible for the DEP to manage the acquisition of land of statewide significance that represents the ecological and cultural diversity of Connecticut, with a focus on unique features such as rivers, mountains, rare natural communities, scenic qualities, historic significance, connections to other protected land, and access to water.
  • Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program: provides financial assistance to municipalities and nonprofit land conservation organizations to acquire land that will add to a community’s open space, enhance recreational opportunities, protect unique geographical features or conserve habitat for living creatures. Since the grant program began in 1998, the state has provided more than $93,707,161 in grants to assist with the purchase of about 21,596 acres across the state. Funds for this program are provided through state bonding, if available, and those raised through the state’s Community Investment Act.

Beginning in 2007, a new grant category was created that provided for "Urban Green & Community Garden" grants to broaden the definition of Open Space. Urban communities were now given the opportunity to participate in this expanded open space acquisition.

The preservation of open space lands is critical to preserving natural resources, wildlife habitats, to providing outdoor recreational opportunities for citizens and to protect the beauty and charm that makes Connecticut such a special place to live. In 2007, DEP adopted a "Green Plan" to guide future open space purchase and grants. The plan established criteria to ensure that state action to protect open space focuses on lands with the greatest conservation value.

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Become active with your local and regional land trusts to help preserve significant properties that contribute towards the state goal of preservation

"These acquisitions not only enrich our lives by providing an enjoyable place to be outdoors, but protect natural habitats for wildlife and bird species as well as preserving our local agricultural heritage."
DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella, January, 2010