Monday, June 13, 2011

Legislative Session Closes with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Here is a message from our Senior Director of Science and Conservation and Conservation Advocate, Milan Bull:

Legislative Session Closes with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good:

At the eleventh hour, the Legislature passed three very good bills:

Recreational Liability Reform for Municipalities (H.B. 6557): will afford municipalities and municipal entities like water companies, etc. with protection almost as strong as the protection enjoyed by private landowners (individuals, land trusts, corporations, etc.) on recreational lands;

10 Mill Forest Conservation (H.B. 6263): will keep property taxes low (equivalent to the rate enjoyed by property owners in the P.A. 490 program) for landowners of 14,000 acres of forest who made a 100 year commitment to protect their lands as forest; and

Act Concerning Forestry (H.B. 6157): creates a revolving fund mechanism for DEP to recoup revenues from timber harvests on state lands that will be invested into better forest management planning and implementation.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, SB 829 An Act Establishing an Open Space Registry failed. This would have moved forward one of the key recommendations in our Connecticut State of the Birds, 2010 report. We remain undaunted however, and will take it up again in the next session.

Also failing this session was SB 832, An Act Concerning the Protection of Certain Natural Vegetation Near Rivers. We felt this bill was important, as it would have provided a much-needed buffer for migratory birds and other wildlife associated with rivers and streams. It was heavily lobbied in opposition by the homebuilder's industry.

The Ugly:

SB 1196, An Act Concerning the Conveyance of Certain Parcels of State Land (the controversial land swap bill) was passed by both the House and Senate by a considerable margin despite strong objections by environmental groups. This bill gives private developers possession of 17 state-owned acres of open space in Haddam overlooking the Connecticut River in trade for 87 wooded acres the developer owns in the Higganum section of town, away from the river next to Cockaponset State Forest, possibly setting a precedent whereby the state may trade property reserved for the public. This bill could reasonably make it more difficult to obtain private land for public use if the land can be subsequently traded away for private development. It was a bad bill that CAS opposed.

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