WESTON — Eight elected officials joined the Aspetuck Land Trust and the Connecticut Land Conservation Council on July 11 at the Belknap estate to celebrate land conservation success stories.

Among those stories is the 38-acre Belknap acquisition, which increased Aspetuck Land Trust’s Honey Hill Preserve in Weston/Wilton to 119-acres. Aspetuck Land Trust purchased the parcel for $380,000 in 2017 with help from a $165,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Program (OSWLA)) - funded by the state Community Investment Act - and other local investments.

The 38-acre Belknap property is a key parcel in Aspetuck Land Trust’s efforts to protect more than 700 acres of forest on the Weston/Wilton border. Known as the “Weston-Wilton Forest Block,” the goal for this forest area is to preserve 289 acres in the block of unprotected land in central Fairfield County.

Attending the event were State Sen. Will Haskell (D-26 District - Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, Wilton), State Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134 District, Fairfield), State Rep. Joseph Gresko (D-121 District - Stratford) , State Rep. Ann Hughes (D-135 District Easton, Redding Weston), State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-133 District - Fairfield), State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-136 District - Westport) and First Selectman Christopher Spaulding (D-Weston). Also attending but not pictured, was Senator George Logan (R-17 District - Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, Naugatuck, Woodbridge.). Mr. Logan was attending on behalf of Aquarion Water Company where he is Director of Environmental Management and Governmental Affairs.

“It was great to see these officials supporting the importance of conserving open spaces for public use and for protection of our natural environment,” said David Brant, executive director of the Aspetuck Land Trust. “Their leadership in land conservation demonstrates a strong visionary commitment to current and future generations. In fact, we currently have a grant pending with the OSWLA Program for an 85-acre adjacent parcel to the Belknap property. It's an exciting initiative to protect this large undeveloped forest block, the last frontier of open space in our area.”

Joining the conservation conversation was Amy Patterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council in Middletown, Conn. http://www.ctconservation.org/about-us. Ms. Patterson spoke about the collaborative efforts of land trusts that her organization supports throughout the state. “Connecticut is one of the leaders across the nation with many community-based land trusts such as Aspetuck Land Trust working together to conserve land in its natural state.”

During the event Daria Reid of Weston-based Wildlife in Crisis http://wildlifeincrisis.org/contact/ released two barred owls in a meadow on the Belknap estate. Her organization nursed the owls back to health after they had been injured in car accident several months ago. After a brief flight both birds settled in a Norway spruce that the family planted on the grounds 90 years ago following its use as a living Christmas tree at the estate.

The Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT) is a local non-profit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton. ALT preserves provide passive recreation and educational opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy nature, while preserving the flora and fauna and rural characteristics of local communities. ALT maintains 44 trailed nature preserves and other conservation-only properties on over 1,800 acres of land. More than 1,000 area individuals support the organization through annual membership contributions. For more information visit www.aspetucklandtrust.org