Imagine that you bought a house — and paid a premium — because the property adjoined a state park or forest. You would probably think the serene and exhilarating woodland would always be there.
You might well be wrong. Though some open land is permanently protected, the majority is subject to transfer or exchange by the Connecticut General Assembly or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Both get requests for state land with some regularity, and the way these requests are handled "reveals procedural deficiencies that routinely put state conservation lands in jeopardy of being 'unpreserved'."
That's from a recent report by the state Council on Environmental Quality titled "Preserved But Maybe Not: The Impermanence of State Conservation Lands." It argues for better protection for land that is supposed to be protected already.
The state is being built out. In another generation or so, most of the land will be spoken for. Parks, forests and wildlife management areas are essential to the environment and quality of life, and must be protected.
While many requests for state land are turned down, some make their way through the legislature. One of the most controversial was the infamous Haddam land swap in 2011, when the legislature agreed to transfer 17 acres of state-owned land on the Connecticut River in Haddam to private developers in exchange for 87 acres of upland woods they owned. The deal fell through when appraisals showed the state land was worth much more than the private land.
Much angst could have been spared if information had been available at the beginning of the process.
The council argues for a clear, standard, transparent process, with information available at the outset. The state's open lands are precious, and should only be given up when there is a very compelling reason to do so.
Legislators might even consider a constitutional amendment, as New York has, which requires a vote of two sessions of the legislature to transfer conservation lands.Copyright © 2015, CT Now