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 May 25, 2023
Sackett v EPA Supreme Court Ruling

In the Sackett v EPA ruling, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act by ruling that the CWA only applies to wetlands that are “indistinguishable from Waters of the United States.” This excludes millions of acres of wetlands from CWA oversight and places our communities, public health, and local ecosystems in danger – particularly as climate disasters intensify.

This is unconscionable and sets the US back decades in protecting OUR water.

Fortunately, Connecticut has strong protections for our wetlands and watercourses. But we can still lose wetlands through federal projects that fall under Army Corps jurisdiction.

Congress must act fast to right this wrong! We’ll let you know what you can do to help.

Posted Oct 18, 2017
Aquatic Pesticides: Who’s in Charge?

Every few years, problems or at least questions arise about the state’s permitting program for aquatic pesticides. When a person, or association, or town applies to the state for a permit to put pesticides into water, what rights, if any, do towns have to oppose, or alter, or oversee, or enforce permits?

Typically, an applicant wishes to eliminate troublesome plants or sometimes animals in a pond or lake. (Note that the term pesticide includes herbicides.) CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has primary authority, but towns must be notified. Some towns believe they have broad authority through their Inland-Wetlands and Water Courses commissions to put conditions on permits for aquatic pesticide use and to oversee the implementation. Other towns feel that if an applicant has a DEEP permit, there is nothing significant they can do. Meanwhile, due to staff cuts, DEEP is rarely able to check the accuracy of applications (for example, whether or not there is a downstream outlet from the water body to be treated), or to verify that conditions in the permit are being met.

The issue of noncompliance with environmental permits extends well beyond the aquatic pesticides the program, and, in 2017, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has been doing research into the problem, preparatory to issuing a report. Permits for aquatic pesticides stand out as particularly troubling. This is a matter of considerable public concern because of the growing evidence that pesticides in general are more harmful than advertised.

Attorney Janet Brooks, a member of CEQ and former, longtime member of the Attorney General’s staff, addressed the issue of authorities in a column in Habitat in the summer of 2017 (Habitat is the newsletter of the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions). In “Pesticides and the Wetlands Act” she emphasized the broad authorities of municipalities. A brief discussion among experts at the Rivers Alliance October network conference, clarified that the state and municipalities have “concurrent” or “parallel” authority over applications of aquatic pesticides. This isn’t much help to town officials who aren’t sure exactly what they can or cannot do.

Eventually, the issue may end up in the Attorney General’s office. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep you posted.

Posted May 03, 2016
US Sen. Chris Murphy Releases Long Island Sound Investment Plan

At a May 2 press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy announced the release of his Long Island Sound Investment Plan to ensure that the Sound is protected and “remains the ecological landmark and economic driver it is today.”

“From the thousands of species of wildlife the Sound support, to the fishing and aquaculture industries, to submarine manufacturing, and simple family afternoons on the beach, our state fundamentally depends on a healthy Long Island Sound,” Sen. Murphy said. The plan outlines the federal programs that support the Sound and the funding they require. It advocates for increased investments in programs that support job growth, like aquaculture research at Milford Lab (one of only two federal aquaculture research labs in the country) and programs that protect habitats. It also discusses ways to address water-quality challenges.

The plan calls for a total of $860 million in funding for the following federal programs:

Promoting Stewardship and Fostering Healthy Coastal Habitats

  • $10 million for the EPA’s Long Island Sound Geographic Program to support implementation of the Long Island Sound Study
  • $600,000 for the National Estuary Program to develop and implement the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP)
  • $68.4 million for NOAA’s Habitat Conservation and Restoration programs to protect marine life and strengthen natural ecosystems, including $21 million for the Community-based Restoration Program

Growing and Supporting Connecticut’s Fishing Industry

  • $20 million for aquaculture research at NOAA labs
  • $80 million for the National Sea Grant Colleges System, which provides $1.1 million in funding for education, research, and stakeholder collaboration at Connecticut Sea Grant at UConn Avery Point
  • $9 million to support aquaculture research in salt waters through the Marine Aquaculture program
  • $121.8 million to help restore fish habitats, manage the catch share program, and combat illegal fishing through the Fisheries Management Programs and Services
  • $150 million to improve aquatic habitat science and implement protected species management through the Fisheries and Ecosystem Science Programs and Services
  • Maintaining adequate resources and staffing at Milford Lab

Preparing for the Next Storm and Investing in Coastal Resilience

  • $53.8 million for Coastal Zone Management and Services to provide data and tools to coastal states on resiliency efforts
  • $10 million for Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grants to implement habitat friendly coastal resiliency projects
  • Continued implementation of Connecticut’s $54 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant to prepare our coastline for the impact of rising sea levels and severe storms
  • $10 million for the newly created National Oceanic and Coastal Security Fund to help Americans respond to the threats of rising sea levels and warming oceans

Read a press release with a link to the full plan.