Last week, we attended the Northeast Utilities Land Trust’s Incorporation Reception at the King’s Island Wildlife Management Area in Enfield. The location of the reception was across the Connecticut River from King’s Island, one of the four parcels of land that NU is donating into the newly-formed Northeast Utilities Land Trust.
This land trust is the nation’s first non-profit conservation land trust owned and operated by a regulated utility. The land that NU donates into the trust, like King’s Island, will be open for public use. To encourage public use of the lands, NU created a highly interactive website detailing not only the land in the trust, but also other land NU owns in the area that is open for public use.
Along with the 188 acres at King’s Island in Enfield, NU is also donating 723 acres at Skiff Mountain in Sharon; 57 acres at Hanover Road in Newtown; and 13 acres at Barlett Cove in Quaker Hill. These parcels have a high value for public recreation and natural resource conservation and preservation, serving as important habitat for species like the bald eagle.
About 40-50 people attended last week’s event, including NU employees and conservation leaders in the non-profit and government sectors. David McHale, NU executive vice president and chief administrative officer, introduced the land trust and the event speakers as the master of ceremonies. Thomas May, NU president and chief executive officer, discussed the significance of the properties in the land trust. CT Attorney General George Jepsen noted the importance of protecting the quality of life in our state, through efforts like this conservation land trust, to ensure we remain competitive in the national economy. Lastly, DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty emphasized the importance of partnerships to ensure lands are preserved.
Earlier this year, we intervened in the merger between Northeast Utilities and NSTAR to ensure that the 9,500 acres of valuable open space owned by NU in approximately 90 municipalities would be protected. An agreement was reached between the state and the two utility companies, in which NU agreed to transfer the 1,000 acres of open space mentioned above into a preservation land trust. The agreement also extends the existing Memorandum of Understanding until 2024 concerning the other 8,500 acres of land. This gives the local towns where the land is located or a local land trust the option to buy the land if and when the company wishes to sell.
In 2000, we successfully intervened in the proposed merger of NU and Con Edison. As a result, NU and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to protect the landholdings. Nearly 375 parcels of land were identified as having high value for public recreation or natural resource conservation or preservation and were placed on a Conservation List as part of the MOU.
This is a great opportunity to protect and preserve ecologically important lands throughout the state. We are excited to continue working with NU staff to ensure these conservation lands are protected in perpetuity.
Posted by Lauren Savidge, legal fellow for CFE/Save the Sound