The Danbury News-Times describes the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality's report on conservation trends across the state as "a green thumb down". After years of slow but steady improvement in air and water quality, the Council described the state's open space conservation efforts as "off track", air quality in decline, and most other environmental quality indicators either static or losing ground. This notably downbeat report is all the more remarkable because the Council on Environmental Quality is a state agency that monitors environmental trends and makes recommendations for improving environmental policy. This is not a critique from some outside green group but a poor report card from within.
Readers of Walking the Berkshires have read about these same downward trends here, here, and here and learned of the work of the Litchfield Hills Greenprint to address them in Northwest Connecticut here. The Council on Environmental Quality's full report highlights several key factors contributing to this environmental downturn, among them the following:
Development patterns are out of harmony with the state's natural landscape and the character of its communities. "Clearly, many of the state's environmental challenges require fresh attention, and none is so challenging as the current pattern of development. The solution is not clear, but the consequences of doing nothing are."
Land is the key- The conservation rate has slowed while development accelerates. State funding is for conservation and land protection is both inadequate and reduced.
We are losing forest land faster than it regenerates and farmland at an alarming rate.
This state report is a wake up call to public officials and state leaders that Connecticut is falling behind on improving environmental quality, and without redoubled its efforts, risks losing clean air, fresh water, rural landscapes and livable communities. Not one red cent was allocated from last year's over $900,000 million budget surplus to conserving open space. That is one trend that cannot continue. The state's goal of 21% protected open space across Connecticut by 2023 is not only off track, it is derailed (and if you think the transportation metaphor misplaced, recall that transportation infrastructure was the big winner in carving up the latest budget surplus). Better planning and better conservation action go hand in hand, and it is high time for the state of Connecticut to step up and join with those forward thinking localities, planners and non-profits who are bearing the brunt of maintaining what is most significant about our landscapes and communities.