The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with The Nature Conservancy to add 66 acres of tidal marsh and coastal lands along Whalebone Cove in Lyme to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
Announced today, this expansion of the refuge includes the purchase of 26 acres from a private landowner, along with a donation of four previously conserved properties totaling 40 acres, from the Conservancy to the Service. Together, these parcels establish the new Whalebone Cove Division of the refuge.
The Nature Conservancy negotiated the new 26-acre property purchase on behalf of the Service and made option payments over 2 ½ years to allow time for the Service to secure funding for the purchase.
The newly protected property contains approximately 2,000 feet of Connecticut River frontage and forms the southern entrance to Whalebone Cove. It features extensive high and low tidal marsh communities; steep, wooded slopes; an upland kettle-hole wetland complex; floodplain forest; upland meadows; and mature forest. Whalebone Cove features exemplary tidal marshes that host one of the largest stands of wild rice in Connecticut. It is an important wintering area for bald eagles and black ducks and a significant feeding area for migratory waterfowl.
Just south of Gillette Castle State Park in Lyme, Whalebone Cove is one of the most undisturbed and biologically significant freshwater tidal marshes on the Connecticut River. The Cove has been a longtime conservation priority of The Nature Conservancy as well as a “special focus area” for the Conte Refuge. The donated acreage was originally conserved by The Nature Conservancy more than a decade ago.
“Today, we celebrate the permanent protection from development of these precious natural areas,” said Nathan Frohling, the Conservancy’s director of Connecticut coastal and marine initiatives.
“The new acquisition, combined with the parcels the Conservancy is now donating, will build on a legacy of conservation here and in the Lower Connecticut River. The Conte Refuge represents an important new and trusted partner in achieving a larger conservation vision for Whalebone Cove. The Service’s role was key to making the purchase possible, and with it 80 percent of this freshwater tidal marsh site is now protected,” Frohling said.
“This acquisition would not have been possible without the Service’s close partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the continued support from the Congressional Delegation and the Administration,” said Andrew French, project leader at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. “Now, we look forward to collaborating with local residents and our partners in being good stewards of this land and good neighbors with those who live in the area.”
Connecticut leaders this week expressed their support for the refuge.
“I commend the Nature Conservancy for their longstanding commitment to preserving vital natural habitats in Connecticut and nationwide. This partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve 26 acres of beautiful and environmentally-precious land deserves to be applauded and replicated,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I will continue to work alongside advocates to ensure that our valuable habitats are protected and treasured for generations to come.”
“This project is a testament to the incredible power of the Land and Water Conservation Fund when it comes to completing high-value conservation acquisitions,” said Senator Chis Murphy. “Unspoiled tidal lands are a rarity in heavily-developed states like ours, and this parcel will be a valuable addition to the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge.”
“The Connecticut River is an ecological treasure, and this project will help to protect it for generations to come,” said Representative Joe Courtney, of Connecticut’s 2nd District, which includes Lyme. “I applaud the Nature Conservancy for their work to secure this parcel of undeveloped land, and their commitment to protecting our state’s natural landscape.”
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve native plants, animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed that stretches across four states. It is the only refuge in the country dedicated to a river’s entire watershed. The refuge works to protect land, form partnerships with citizens to foster conservation efforts, educate the public, and pass on the importance of the watershed to future generations.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.