Tag Archives: LWCF 50

What land conservation means for us

We’re continuing our series about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which turns 50 on September 3. Hear from one of our many important land conservation partners. 

Kim at eightmile.ct

Today, we hear from Kim Lutz , the director of The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program and also co-chairman of the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.

After I became The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program director in 2003, my first meeting wasn’t in my Northampton, Massachusetts office with one of my Conservancy colleagues. It was about 25 miles up the Connecticut River—at the Turners Falls, Massachusetts office of Andrew French, the project leader of the Service’s Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. I sometimes joke that I should have used a line from film history that day: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

The Conte Refuge was established in 1997 to conserve the abundance and diversity of native plants and animals and their habitats in the 7.2-million-acre Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. As the only national wildlife refuge dedicated to a river’s entire watershed, the Conte Refuge is unique. Its vision of melding values of conservation, recreation, education and economic opportunity in large and healthy working landscape is a crucial vision that resonates deeply with both the Conservancy and the Friends of Conte.

As I alluded to above, in my role as Conservancy Connecticut River Program director, we’ve had no more important partner in the watershed. It’s also hard to overstate the significance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in helping the Conte Refuge achieve its ambitious vision. Since the refuge’s founding, more than 35,700 acres have been protected and brought under Conte’s management. Much of this was made possible with financial support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is just one example of why the Conservancy is a strong supporter of LWCF.

Whalebone Cove

The Nature Conservancy and the Service just recently partnered to expand the Whalebone Cove Division of the Conte Refuge in Lyme, Connecticut. Learn more. Credit: David Gumbart/The Nature Conservancy

What does this sort of land protection achieve? It supports clean drinking water for millions of people; the Quabbin Reservoir—metropolitan Boston’s primary drinking water source—is fed by the Connecticut River watershed. It protects floodplains, which in turn absorb floodwaters and help keep human communities safe. It provides habitat for animals and plants, many of them rare and at-risk. And it helps secure beautiful forests, fields, marshes, mountains and more that give people places to fish, camp, hike, and simply take in the beauty of the natural world. These are just some of the reasons groups like the Friends of Conte and the local Friends’ groups that focus on a single unit of the refuge work so hard to support the Connecticut River watershed.

If you haven’t visited some of the incredible places in the Conte Refuge that were protected with support from LWCF, please do. Check out Conte’s Pondicherry Division in the shadow of New Hampshire’s stunning White Mountains. Catch a glimpse of a moose feeding in the wetlands of the Nulhegan Division in northern Vermont. Enjoy a stroll through grasslands and floodplains on the Massachusetts Fort River Division’s soon-to-be-completed (October 2014) trail that will be accessible for people with disabilities. See the gorgeous lower Connecticut River system at the Salmon River Division in Connecticut.

Regardless of which place—or places!—you pick, consider making the trip. After all, you’re helping protect these places for you, your family, your friends and all of us. Thank you.
Maybe I’ll see you out there.

Visit The Nature Conservancy at www.nature.org. Find out more about the Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program at www.nature.org/CTRiver.

Our land, our water, our heritage

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Today we start a series about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which turns 50 on September 3. Northeast Region Chief of Realty, Joe McCauley, starts off our series with his take on why the fund is so important to our country.

In 1964, the Congress and President Lyndon Johnson performed a great service to the American people when they established the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Land, water, and conservation: simple terms that, when combined, speak directly to who we are as a people.

We have not always been as vigilant as we should be to conserve our nation’s natural resources, as evidenced by the mass clearcutting of eastern forests in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the dust bowl era of the 1930s. But even if we have to play catch-up, time after time we show, through laws like the Land and Water Conservation Act, that we do care about our land and water, and the wild things that depend on them.

My job is to oversee the purchase of lands for national wildlife refuges in the 13 northeast states using the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Reflecting back on the work of our current and former land protection staff, it is gratifying to see the amazing results of our efforts, in partnership with thousands of landowners who have helped leave a lasting legacy for all Americans.

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The iconic Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, home to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes in Virginia. The refuge provides unique fishing and boating on Lake Drummond, annual hunting opportunities and habitat for various species of mammals, birds and butterflies. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has conserved nearly 47,000 acres of this environmentally and biologically important 110,000-acre refuge.

Over 50 national wildlife refuges in our northeast states were established or have grown because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  With these funds, more than 160,000 acres in the densely-populated northeast are now permanently protected as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the fate of these valuable fish and wildlife habitats would be in jeopardy. These lands and waters not only support hundreds of migratory bird species, and many threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife and plants, but are also available for recreation and education, making these purchases a wise investment in our future.

We have many “greats” in our region: Great Swamp, home to the first Wilderness Area designated on Department of the Interior lands; Great Meadows, serving the urban and suburban population of Boston; and Great Dismal Swamp, our region’s largest refuge at over 100,000 acres, once surveyed by George Washington. History plays an important role in many refuges as evidenced by native American names such as Massasoit, Missisquoi, and Rappahannock. We honor conservation heroes like Rachel Carson, Congressman Silvio O. Conte and Senator John H. Chafee, who said if he was reincarnated, he wanted to come back as a Fish and Wildlife Service employee! We would have loved to have had him in the ranks.

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Since 1956, the fund has helped support our wildlife refuges, parks and historic sites; conserved our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitat; and provided access to recreation, hunting and fishing for current and future generations.

If you have visited our 50+ refuges that have lands purchased with the Land and Water Conservation Fund, you know first-hand how important these funds are. You may have watched your child catch his or her first fish, or learned the skill of hunting from your grandfather. You may have gone on a field trip to learn about the fish and wildlife in the place where you live, or seen your first bald eagle diving for a catch. You may have seen tens of thousands of waterfowl take flight at dawn or a lone great blue heron stalking the marshes. If you haven’t, you still can, thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the foresight of our nation’s leaders who made it happen 50 years ago.