Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Preserved But Not Protected

Preserved, but not protected. That's the title of a new report from the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality (warning, it's a big file). The report outlines the problem of keeping preserved land in its intended state. There's a press release here, as well as a good synopsis in New Times Live. Among the problems...
"The report contains some blatant examples of abuse. One man cut 131 trees down in a state park to improve the view from his nearby home. In Redding, the problem was the opposite, said Mary Ann Guitar, president of the Redding Land Trust, which owns about 1,500 acres.
"We had someone going onto our land planting trees because they didn't like the view they had," she said.
A survey of 78 land trusts in the state showed that the majority of them have seen their lands abused in some way. That often puts the trust land managers, whether volunteers or paid staff, in a tough position.
"We're often trying to protect a piece of property in a town, where maintaining good relationships with people is important," said Hunter Brawley, the manager of the Naromi Land Trust in Sherman, which owns about 800 acres and has conservation easements on another 300 acres. "So you can't take a confrontational approach."
Not every trust has seen such abuse. Bill Montgomery, president of the Swampfield Land Trust in Danbury said it's not had serious problems on its 131 acres.

Another recurring theme is abuse by some ATV riders.
The damage done by people driving all-terrain vehicles takes up a major part of the report.
"Use of ATVs on public and private preserved land is commonplace and it is virtually all illegal," the report says.
"ATVs are catastrophic," said White.
Both White and Brawley said one of the main problems for land trusts is that they often own property that abuts utility line rights-of-way. ATV riders start out on the utility roads, then veer off into the woods.
At the 654-acre Tarrywile Park in Danbury, there's been severe damage to some park trails by ATV riders, said Sandra Moy, the park's director. That forced the city to pass an ordinance banning them on city land she said.
"In the last couple of years, we've had much less ATV damage here," she said. "It may simply be the kids who were coming over here grew up and stopped riding ATVs."

The report also makes several recommendations to help toughen enforcement of existing laws.
"including changing state laws to penalize violators the true cost of the damage they cause. It urges the state Attorney General's office to pursue these cases with much more vigor, and also urges the state to establish a strict "No Encroachment" policy and then enforce it.
The report also urged the General Assembly to increase funding to the state DEP so that it can hire more conservation officers.
DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the agency now has 24 non-marine conservation officers to patrol all state-owned land. When the boating season ends, Schain said, the 31 marine officers can help out with the patrols.
But the council said that in 1992, the DEP had 32 non-marine officers, which, even then, was considered inadequate to the job. At the very least, Wagener said the General Assembly should aim to getting back to that 1992 level.
"In the short run, that's probably not going to happen," he said. "But it should be the state's goal to get there within the next two or three years."

It should be noted the report deals with problems both on land owned by trusts and the state. Hiring more conservation officers won't help much with the problems on land owned by trusts.
This is a reminder to all in the land trust movement that just accumulating property doesn't do much good, if the money for monitoring and maintaining it isn't there as well.


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