NFA To Promote ‘Leading By Example’ At Annual Seminar

Enhance wildlife habitat and share the land are both part of Newtown Forest Association (NFA) President Bob Eckenrode’s message that he will share at an upcoming seminar.

He will be presenting “Leading By Example: The NFA Working Across Town Borders” at the Connecticut Land Conservation Council Seminars Saturday, March 15, at Wesleyan University in Middletown featuring conservation officials and land trust representatives from across the state.

“I personally value the phrase ‘leading by example,’” he wrote in comments he has prepared for the seminar. “In the past 12 years, the NFA has become a leader in actively managing and stewarding the meadows, forests, and water courses we oversee along with maintaining the rural character of our town.

“[Eighteen] years ago cooperative natural resource planning on a regional scale was just a dream concept for planning conservation and preservation. Today it is a reality.” The work was accomplished “with the guidance and leadership of the Fairfield County Regional Conservation Partnership (FCRCP) of which we are active member,” he wrote. The NFA joined the FCRCP, a 22-town organization, which is part of a larger New England Partnership, roughly seven years ago.

Parts of his discussion will focus on regional open space and “sharing valuable information among our land trusts.” As part of the FCRCP, “The NFA has focused on working with peer land trusts and conservation officials in adjoining towns to investigate land conservation and stewardship opportunities along town boundaries.”

Mr Eckenrode’s speech this weekend will conclude: “Working together within this 22-town FCRCP partnership has given us new insights into the value of connecting and preserving larger blocks of open space within Fairfield and Westchester counties. The results of this cooperation of local land trusts and conservation officials has been amazing and we the NFA are proud to be contributing to the regional future of open space, wildlife habitat, clean drinking water and passive recreation.”

During an interview this week, he spoke of potential for the town and the region.

“What’s interesting is we at the NFA have focused on managing our larger parcels for natural resources and recreation and as part of the 22-town effort, we have spoken with others doing the same thing.” He feels they can “work together representing the open space in the region, in Fairfield County, and portions of Westchester county.”

The regional coordination is important because “never before has there been an opportunity to look at the region as one big block and assess what open space is available and where we can find more connectivity between towns.” There are also growing efforts to “possibly generate a plan to connect lands from the Hudson to the Housatonic Rivers, combining effort to preserve and protect resources and habitats found there.”

“We are trying to come up with a comprehensive plan for the entire area,” he said.

Thinking of his own home and property in Newtown, Mr Eckenrode said, “What’s wild is, I started this process in my backyard.” And through NFA, he said, “We oversee 1,100 acres plus [in Newtown].”

When he started his own preservation-minded work 18 years ago, a regional effort was just a concept, he said, and now, through this regional partnership, “the conservation is becoming a reality.”

Mr Eckenrode said, “To me it’s amazing — raising the profile of how important it is to manage and preserve the habitats and natural resources found here and in Fairfield County.”

This weekend's upcoming conference is an opportunity for the NFA to “share our knowledge with conservation officials throughout the state,” he said.


Good Neighbors

During the conference in Middletown, Mr Eckendrode plans to address both local and regional open space opportunities, and Newtown’s connection to neighboring towns.

The NFA is already working with border towns to share connecting open space preserves such as the Brunot Preserve in Newtown and the Franc Property in Bethel near the intersection of Old Hawleyville and Plumtrees Roads.

“We are now working together to connect trails and share management techniques for wildlife enhancement and passive recreation,” he said.

The properties of more than 70 acres each lie on Newtown’s western edge.

A flyer regarding these adjoining properties says the intent is “to increase unbroken wildlife habitat and passive recreation connectivity on a regional basis. The natural resources found on these two properties are a diversity of plants and wildlife habitat in the form of fields, brushy edge, forests, and a stream water course. Our efforts will double the wildlife habitat and passive recreation potential these special places have to offer.”

The flyer also explains, “We recognized the value of our unfragmented abutting open space properties. We plan to share our knowledge and resources to manage and maintain these two abutting properties.”

Another property sharing town borders is the Bloom Preserve accessed from the corner of Tower Road and Obtuse Road South, which borders Brookfield’s Loeb property. The two parcels are a combined 34.4 acres. An NFA flyer offers a glimpse of plans for the connecting properties: Trails on the Bloom property “will be developed and enhanced …” Guests there have noted “an abundance of wildlife” during visits. Among animals spotted are deer, turkey, bobcat, and coyote.

Trail networks will connect the abutting lands.

The flyer states, “Cooperative stewardship techniques with Brookfield will double the wildlife habit and recreational trail system values on both properties.”

Regarding management, the NFA flyer describes briefly the efforts taking place at the Bloom Preserve: “The main plan for the future of this property is to remove and control the invasive species currently on the property and maintain open pocket meadow areas.

“Many plant species, including multi-flora rose, Russian olive, bittersweet, and barberry bushes are invasive and have been removed in specified areas to allow the property to return to a natural meadow state. The property will be managed to preserve native plant and tree species and enhance wildlife habitats while still allowing for passive recreation with seasonal mowing.”

Learn more about the seminar at CTconservation.org. Find more information about the NFA at NewtownForestAssociation.org.

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