Local Land Battles

Oswegatchie Hills property along the Niantic River. Photo credit Eileen Opasek.

Most threats to landscapes and habitats are local, and proceedings before municipal land use commissions are often the first stage in large environmental disputes. Although Connecticut Fund for the Environment focuses on issues of statewide or regional significance, we routinely offer support and advice to citizens and grassroots groups in challenging local land use decisions—especially when local disputes over land use, wetlands, and zoning have implications for local or statewide natural resources or environmental quality.

When possible, CFE testifies in public hearings before municipal commissions in matters that touch on broad policy concerns. In recent years, we’ve submitted comments advocating against wetland development in Wilton, proposing more stringent development buffers in Groton and Mansfield to protect rivers and streams, and arguing in favor of reasonable limits on development on drinking water watershed lands in Easton—among other things.

A local land use dispute will occasionally evolve into a significant, statewide battle. The ongoing effort to conserve the Oswegatchie Hills is one such battle. The litigation has its origins in municipal zoning and water pollution control commission applications that posed serious risk to a local parcel of land with regional environmental import. Likewise, CFE’s opposition to the Connecticut Airport Authority’s plans to remove numerous trees alongside the Connecticut River in Hartford and within Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve in Groton began when we identified statewide repercussions—including damage to bald eagle nesting areas and bad precedent for protecting state-owned lands—of these ostensibly local proposals.

Although CFE can’t become directly involved in most local disputes, we seek to provide support and guidance to citizens involved on the ground when possible. To contact us about a land use issue in your community, please visit our Contact Us page.

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