Tucked squarely in the midst of some of the densest populations on the East Coast, the Fenton, Mount Hope and Natchaug Rivers remain clean and healthy due in large part to the 175 square-mile expanse of green that surrounds them.
Lush fields and forests protect the rivers and streams that provide drinking water for 60,000 people. In fact, the Natchaug River is so clean that the State Department of Environmental Protection uses it as the goal or “quality benchmark” for measuring healthy streams in Connecticut.
Now, eight communities have come together to ensure that this pristine corner of Connecticut stays that way.
Friday morning, representatives from Ashford, Chaplin, Eastford, Mansfield, Union, Willington, Windham and Woodstock signed the Natchaug River Basin Conservation Compact, an agreement to tackle conservation challenges regionally.
“These natural systems all extend across town lines,” said Holly Drinkuth, Quinebaug Highlands Project director for the Green Valley Institute, a partnership of The Nature Conservancy and the University of Connecticut Extension System.
Through regional cooperation, the area was designated a Connecticut Greenway in 2006, and municipal leaders have shared expertise as they plan for watershed protection and sound land use decisions. The compact formalizes these communities’ shared mission to ensure the health and safety of the watershed while supporting the economic vitality of the Natchaug River Basin towns.
The biggest threats to this watershed include residential and commercial development, road construction and maintenance – land-use decisions that usually occur at the municipal level. Communities can direct development and management activities toward more sustainable methods and locations, said Adam Whelchel, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.
”Watersheds are not limited by municipal boundaries,” said Greg Padick, Mansfield Director of Planning. “There’s a growing recognition that we have to work together to protect these natural resources that we all share.”
The communities also share an ambition to preserve the rural character of Eastern Connecticut, while allowing for responsible development that will keep local economies vibrant.
“There are opportunities for all of us to learn from each other. We all have the same goal,” Padick said.
These natural lands, located just an afternoon’s drive from millions of people, are crucial for
wildlife and for the agriculture, recreation and ecotourism that serve Connecticut’s economy.
“If the water is healthy for fish and other animals, it will be healthy for us too,” Drinkuth said.
“The land and water here are amazingly high-quality, and people are very proud of that. This Compact will help the towns work together to keep it that way,” she said
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.
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut