Two articles appear under my byline in this week's edition of the Lakeville Journal (readable on-line with free registration). The first is my biweekly story under the Nature Notes column that greets readers on page 1 below the fold.
Old Stories, Written in Stone: (Excerpt)
"...Many cemeteries are among the most significant green spaces in our urban regions. Mt. Auburn Cemetery outside Boston is renowned as a major stopover for neo-tropical migrants on the Atlantic flyway as well as for being the premier example of the America’s rural cemetery movement and the design ethic that arose after 1830. In the spring at Mt. Auburn, when the cherry and dogwood blossoms perfume the air, one may encounter dozens of warbler species in a single hour.
Because old burial grounds were managed differently than surrounding agricultural land, they often preserve rare plant species and natural community types that have all but vanished elsewhere. One such graveyard in southeast Massachusetts preserves one of only a handful of known populations of sandplain gerardia, a globally rare plant that thrives only when its competitors are kept at bay through frequent mowing or fire.
Some of the only unplowed land in what was once Tallgrass Prairie is found in old Illinois pioneer cemeteries like the fictional one in Spoon River. Untilled land retains the soil complexity and seed reserves required to sustain remnants of this once-pervasive habitat type, and even where prairie restoration efforts seek to reclaim old farmland, the resulting habitat is significantly less diverse than was the unplowed prairie.
For these reasons, as well as their recreational value and the low odds that they will convert to other uses, the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Program (which I direct) treats rural cemeteries as permanently protected open space...."
The other was intended as a press release but got tagged with my byline. I stand by what is written, but in the interest of full disclosure it relates directly to my professional work and to the CT State Committee of the Highlands Coalition of which I am co-chair. It is all good conservation news, and recognizes the first use of federal highlands act funds to protect important places in Connecticut, but just so we are clear on the source ;-)
(Excerpted quotes from the article)
"...Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, “The acquisition of the DeLuca property was an especially important addition to the state’s open space holdings. This property expands on existing protected land in the area and aids our efforts to enhance the quality of the Housatonic River. The purchase was possible only with the financial support DEP received from the Cornwall Conservation Trust and the Federal Highlands Fund. This is a perfect example of the types of partnerships we need to build to succeed in meeting this state’s open space goals..."
“...The closing on this property represents the culmination of focused efforts at every level of government to achieve a gigantic victory for conservation” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30). “The cooperation that led to this success should be emulated at every opportunity as we continue working to keep Litchfield County the special place that it is.”
“Timing is everything” said Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgway. “We were just lucky to have a motivated seller and that the state had the resources to put toward protecting this unique property.”
Falls Village First Selectman Pat Mechare said, “This acquisition by the state continues a conservation trend for the town of Canaan [Falls Village] of having one of the highest rates of land protection in the state.”
“CCT and its donors are delighted to have brought some local, private funds to this important project in the Housatonic watershed and are glad to be a part of a ‘first’ for the Highlands,” said Hector Prud’Homme, president of the (Cornwall Conservation) trust. “Whenever another opportunity arises, we will again join forces with public funding sources to protect precious open space for the benefit of future generations.”
I though Pat Mechare's statement managed to recognize the conservation achievement while also acknowledging its impact on a community that is 46% permanently protected open space, has only a handful of children in its kindergarten class, and the lowest grand list of any town in the County. There was a time not long ago when one heard conservation land called in Falls Village "The Green Noose." Now the town is a leader in a regional planning collaborative and looking for ways to protect what is special about the community while being fiscally responsible and looking especially to the need for more affordable housing.