Strategic advocacy together with an unwavering commitment by legislative champions, a strong partnership with the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and targeted outreach by land trusts to key legislators, were the ingredients to a successful 2023 legislative session for CLCC’s top land conservation priorities, including the following wins:
- $10 million in bond funding for the Open Space & Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSWA), for matching grants to municipalities, land trusts, and water companies to support land conservation projects. OSWA includes the Urban Green and Community Garden Program for community garden and green space projects.
- $3 million in bond funding for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program for DEEP’s land conservation acquisitions for state parks, forests and wildlife management areas
- Dedicated funding for OSWA and State Parks from the Community Investment Act and Passport to Parks, respectively, remained intact.
- $10 million in bond funding for the Recreational Trails Program to support land trust and community trail projects to enhance accessibility and acquire land or easements for trails and trail coordinators.
The bipartisan Biennial Budget also includes funding for a significant bump in staffing to support our state parks and to advance environmental equity and justice. It also sets a new state goal of increasing urban tree canopy by 5% by 2040 and a dedication of federal funds for urban tree planting.
Key legislative victories included:
- A critical technical fix to the OSWA statute to provide clarity on how a land trust may combine state grants with federal, municipal, and/or private match funding. CLCC’s top legislative priority, this amendment will add efficiencies to the OSWA program and allow applicants to leverage multiple funding sources for their land conservation projects. (SB 1146 Sections 10 and 11)
- A new optional municipal tax abatement program for landowners who grant a permanent conservation easement to land trusts or municipalities to protect the corridor of a state-designated greenway. (SB 998 Sections 1 and 2)
- An amendment that raises the revenue threshold from $500,000 to $1MM, above which a registered charitable organization must submit to a formal audit, while allowing smaller organizations to instead submit to a CPA’s financial “review report”. (SB 1068 Section 16)
We thank the members of the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Lamont for their support of these important initiatives that impact land conservation and land trusts.
However, while we celebrate these key victories for land conservation, the 2023 session was not without its disappointments.
Many of the climate bills that CLCC supported, including one which would have accounted for the benefits of land conservation and other nature-based climate solutions and another proposal that would have put a plan in place to reach our state’s ambitious targets, did not make it across the finish line. With years, not decades, to act, this was a major setback to the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and address the escalating adverse impacts of the changing climate.
Planning for the 2024 legislative session is already underway and your continued advocacy and engagement with legislators is key to our continued success. At every opportunity – whether to your annual meeting or a community hike – please invite your legislators and thank them for their support.
There is no better way to advocate for the lands you love than to showcase them for all to enjoy.
Thank you again for all you do to protect, create, and enhance special places in your community for all to enjoy.
P.S. CLCC submitted testimony and comments on over thirty (30) bills and policy initiatives. Find them here »
P.P.S. After a three-year break, CLCC is thrilled to resume our Conservation Conversations this summer. These informal walks provide legislators with an opportunity to exchange thoughts about land conservation priorities while enjoying the company of members of their community and region. Watch for the schedule, coming soon. If your land trust is interested in hosting a conversation, please contact me anytime at email@example.com