Posted Apr 11, 2024
Nature for a Resilient Connecticut – harnessing nature’s power to combat climate change

We stand at a critical juncture where the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss demand immediate and urgent attention. Scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the changing climate wreaks havoc on habitats and ecosystems, while the erosion of biodiversity further amplifies the impacts of climate change. We cannot address one crisis without confronting the other.

Intact natural systems – our soils, forests, wetlands, watercourses and diverse ecosystems that Connecticut is so fortunate to have in abundance – offer nature’s own solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Nature itself is a formidable ally in the fight against climate change. Natural systems not only sequester and store carbon, but they also provide essential ecosystem services such as nutritious food, clean water, clean air, flood control, and drought resilience. However, their efficacy relies on their richness as both a carbon pool and for species diversity.

Protecting biodiversity encompasses safeguarding a plethora of life forms, from soil microbes and pollinators to myriad plant and animal species. These organisms are the backbone of our natural systems, ensuring their resilience and our ability to adapt to a changing climate.

The science is clear – Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed by 2030 to stabilize warming below 2°C. Alongside aggressive reductions in fossil fuel emissions, NCS offer Connecticut a powerful arsenal of strategies for fulfilling its obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act while simultaneously enhancing soil productivity, improving air and water quality, and safeguarding biodiversity.

We must protect nature and biodiversity in order to protect our well-being, our communities, and our economy.


Riparian Buffers

Riparian buffers protect and improve water quality, attenuate flooding, and provide a myriad of additional ecosystem services. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s current regulatory framework provides no specific protections for riparian buffers along wetlands and watercourses. Indeed, we have the least protective buffer standards of all the New England states. There must be a comprehensive review of Inland Wetlands and Watercourses and Planning and Zoning statutes and regulations to incorporate protections specifically for riparian buffers. Redundancy should be provided
to reduce risk. We must address weaknesses in our inland wetlands and watercourses protection that result in loss of wetlands and cold-water habitat.

There are several areas that need to be addressed in our IWWC statutes and within DEEP:

  • Update the required number of members of an Inland Wetlands Agency that must be trained from a minimum of one member to all members being required to obtain training. Utilize conservation districts to assist DEEP with training.
  • Expressly prohibit the merging of Inland Wetlands Commissions with Planning, Zoning, and Planning and Zoning Commissions within a municipality.
  • DEEP’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program is severely under-resourced, providing little support for local commissions. Dedicated staff at
    DEEP in the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program must be increased.

Update State and Municipal Plans of Conservation and Development

Land use planning in Connecticut is implemented at the local level and starts with municipal Plans of Conservation and Development (POCD). All municipalities should be considering the threats of climate change and loss of biodiversity in their planning efforts and incorporate protection of our natural systems into the POCD. Existing state statutes should be updated to require cities and towns to consider the role of nature and natural systems in the POCD as part of resiliency planning.

Open Space & Forests

Despite the essential role that nature plays in addressing the dual environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as a myriad of other benefits to communities, Connecticut has not met its land conservation goal (protecting 21% of its land base by 2023), and the state’s natural and working lands are being lost at an alarming rate. For
example, of the 59%of the state that is forested, ~53% is core forest—large blocks fundamental for wildlife habitat, drinking water supply protection, and ecological resilience.

Core Forests of 500+ acres are declining rapidly—losing ~120,000 acres from 1985-2015 to fragmentation and development.

Connecticut should enact legislation that prioritizes the support and maintenance of an ecologically functional landscape that sustains biodiversity, conserves landscape connectivity, supports watershed and airshed health, promotes climate resilience, supports farms and forests, provides opportunities for recreation and appreciation of the natural world, and offers resilience while supporting sustainable development patterns.

Such legislation should authorize and incent the use of nature-based solutions as the preferred alternative, where appropriate, across all agencies and appoint an interdisciplinary scientific advisory council consisting of experts in climate science, ecology, forest science, soil science, wildlife biology, environmental economics, and other appropriate disciplines to help establish and inform the use ofnature-based solutions, including:

  • Reenacting comprehensive forest conservation policy to keep forests as forests, protect healthy, intact forests, offset planned or permitted forest losses, protect urban forests.
  • Add more parks, and evaluate and revise the state’s land conservation goal as set forth in Section 23-8 et seq. of the general statutes.
  • Revising existing or promulgating new rules and regulations, establishing systems for NBS and ecosystem service data collection.

Global Climate Solutions Act (Negative Emissions)

Connecticut should amend the Global Warming Solutions Act to incorporate “negative emissions.” According to Commissioner Katie Dykes written testimony date March 10, 2023 to the Environment
Committee on Senate Bill No. 11452 (2023): “Negative emission practices and technologies include but are not limited to reforestation and management, wetland management, soil management, and direct air capture.” These techniques not only provide climate change mitigation benefits but can also support critical ecosystem services such as air pollution reduction, biodiversity protection, and water filtration.

Often referred to as carbon capture and storage, these approaches – both bio-based and technology-based – are critical components in most IPCC pathways that keep global warming to below 1.5°C.

Incorporating negative emissions into Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act while also adding a net zero emissions target for 2050 will realign Connecticut with the latest science and will support Connecticut’s ability to identify the most cost-effective path to a decarbonized economy.

Natural and working lands provide tremendous negative emissions benefits to Connecticut as our climate changes. Numerous scientific reports through various models have documented carbon and other greenhouse gas pollutants sequestered or absorbed and stored underground in soil, roots, and above ground in tree trunks and branches. Avoiding the deforestation or development of natural and working lands is the most effective means of maintaining and enhancing the “negative emission” benefits of this landscape type.

Posted Oct 02, 2020
Drought Update, The Five Stages of Drought, and What You Can Do to Help

Drought Update, The Five Stages of Drought, and What You Can Do to Help

While every little bit of rain helps, unfortunately, the rain we received this week was not enough to make much of a difference. On Thursday, the Interagency Drought Workgroup (IDW), the entity responsible for actively monitoring water conditions and recommending drought declarations and mitigation actions, voted to recommend to the Governor that Hartford, Tolland, Windham, and New London Counties be elevated to Stage 3: Moderate Drought. Middlesex and Litchfield Counties are at Stage 2, while Fairfield and New Haven remain at Stage 1. According to the NOAA and US National Weather Service, we are not likely to see a major rain event for the next 3-4 weeks, a prediction which ultimately played a big part in making this recommendation. NOTE: The governor has the final say on declarations and reserves the right to override the IDW’s decisions.

What does each stage mean?

The current Drought Preparedness and Response (adopted in 2018) provides criteria and recommended actions for response for five stages of drought. Here is a synopsis of the steps taken at each stage in our own words. You can find details on the criteria and actions by clicking here and scrolling down to page 21.

  • Stage 1: Below Normal Conditions – This stage can be thought of as a “head’s up” phase. It is a time for state agencies to lay the path for response, ramp up internal communications, and begin to collect data they need to make decisions going forward. This was a new addition to the most recent plan and has proved to be an extremely beneficial “pre” step in ensuring that Connecticut is ready to respond to drought.
  • Stage 2 – Incipient Drought – At this initial stage, there is more outward public communication asking citizens to reduce outdoor water use and pay close attention to communications from their water provider. Internal activity ramps up between the various entities that manage water.
  • Stage 3 – Moderate Drought – Things are beginning to get serious. The Governor may convene the Unified Command (heads of state agencies that are brought together for emergency response purposes.) Conservation measures are maximized and municipal officials are asked to request of their residents that outdoor watering be curtailed. All communication channels are utilized to urge residents and businesses to conserve water.
  • Stage 4 – Severe Drought – All unnecessary water usage is banned with a complete prohibition on outdoor watering. The degree of public outreach and education increases. Alternative sources of water are sought and drought-related diversion permits are expedited.
  • Stage 5 – Extreme Drought – Declaration of emergency and application for federal aid. Mandatory restrictions are more strictly enforced and a high hazard rationing plan is initiated.

Why might the stages be different from county to county?

While this may seem like a confusing way to evaluate drought in a state as small as Connecticut, conditions can be very different from county to county. There are many factors involved in how a region and community will experience drought conditions: the number of residents on private wells; the amount of storage and access to water sources that their water provider has access; types of aquifers and soils in the area impacting groundwater recharge, just to name a few.

It is extremely important to remember that interconnections exist between various utilities and in the more serious stages of drought, these interconnections will be utilized and larger stores of water may be called upon to provide water for tanker trucks for communities in need where private wells have run dry and local utility supplies have been depleted. This is why it’s important to encourage voluntary conservation before we reach an emergency situation. Robust drought preparedness reduces the need for further drought response.

What can you do now?

If you are on a public or community water system – You may have already heard from you water provider as to their status. If you have not, check their website for more information or give them a call and ask. Do you feel that your provider has done a great job? Please let us know. Have you not heard from your provider and feel that you should have? We’d like to know about that as well. Send an email to (or reply to this email) or call us at (860) 361-9349.

If you have a private well – Please conserve water and consider curtailing any fall planting of grass or plants that will require a significant amount of water.

Help us document the impact to our rivers and streams – Please send photos of your rivers and streams. Email them to (or reply to this email). Please include the name of the water body, the date the photo was taken, and the exact location where the photo was taken (or make sure the location is turned on for your camera.) These photos will help us better understand the impact in different areas.

hat is the IDW and what does it do?

The Interagency Drought Workgroup (IDW) is the entity responsible for actively monitoring water conditions and recommending drought declarations and mitigation actions to the Office of the Governor and state agency commissioners, under the authority of the WPC in accordance with the Connecticut Drought Preparedness and Response Plan. It consists of representatives from the Office of Policy and Management, Department of Public Health, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Department of Agriculture. The IDW receives data from the US Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the US National Weather Services. The IDW looks at Precipitation, Groundwater, Streamflow, Reservoir Levels, Palmer Drought Severity Index, Crop Moisture Index, Vegetation Drought Response Index, Fire Danger, and US Drought Monitor to determine each stage. The IDW has done a great job of monitoring the conditions very closely thus far. Very detailed information can be found on the Connecticut Drought Information Website.

Also, Rivers Alliance of CT has an analysis of recent streamflow status on our Know Your Flow! page that includes counts of the number of USGS streamflow gages reporting low, very-low and record setting low flows between storms.