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Did you know that a national wildlife refuge is being planned close to your backyard?

January 21, 2016

Over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared from much of the landscape, the populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators, and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced a proposal to establish the Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge dedicated to managing shrubland habitat for wildlife and connecting existing conservation areas (including GOSA properties) in southeastern New London and western Litchfield. The agency has also identified nine areas in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. In this crucially important preliminary-planning stage, the Service is inviting your feedback on the draft land protection plan and environmental assessment. The deadline to submit comments is March 4. GOSA has written a letter in support of this wonderful proposal and we hope you will too. To read the full release, including links to additional information and instructions on submitting comments, click HERE.




AFclosing1Good news! GOSA closed on the Avery Farm on December 29th! This beautiful 305-acre property will now be protected forever thanks to our many individual donors, foundations, and local, state and federal grants. Members of the Weber family, as well as GOSA’s President, V.P., Treasurer, and Chair of Stewardship, and lawyers representing both sides attended the closing. It was a great day for open space and for the people of Groton and Ledyard and who can look forward to visiting Avery Farm as soon as the trails are ready. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, Judy Weber’s delightful story about “Life Growing Up on Avery Farm” as told to Liz Raisbeck, GOSA News writer, is a must-read!

Why has GOSA been cutting down trees at Candlewood Ridge and the newly-acquired Avery Farm? Please click here to find out.

If you have not already seen and responded to our 2015 Annual Appeal, CaptureAnnualAppeal15please click here or on the Appeal image at left to take a look. This year’s Appeal offers compelling reasons why a donation to GOSA to protect land, water and wildlife is so vitally important. We know you will enjoy reading it. You may even see a picture of yourself at work on the land! Hopefully you will be inspired to click on the Donate Now button at right.

January 13 More good news!  Responding to many attempts over the years to hand over public land to developers, municipalities and others who had no intention of protecting it, Canton State Senator Kevin Witkos has called for a constitutional amendment to protect open space in Connecticut. People who want to save their favorite picnic spots, hiking trails, fishing holes, wildlife watching areas, and recreational space for the future should get behind the proposed amendment. At a press conference called to publicize this initiative, David Leff, the former deputy commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Protection, reminded us our our “sacred duty to be good stewards” of public lands. He added that “no generation has the right to damage them or give them away.” Three states in our region — New York, Maine, and Massachusetts — have long had constitutional provisions to protect valuable open space from lawmakers tempted to peddle public properties. It’s time that Connecticut joined them. Click here to read more. Click here to see a video of the press conference.

January 20 Even More Good News! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned that over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared from much of the landscape, the populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators, and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.The Service is proposing to establish Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge, a system of public lands that would be dedicated to managing shrubland habitat for wildlife and enjoyed by visitors whenever possible. Click here to read more and see what you can do to help Great Thicket come into being.

Not So Good News

A conservation goal set more more than a decade ago points to an “ambitious” target: preserving 21 percent of Connecticut’s land as open space by 2023. Since the first Green Plan conservation goal was proposed in 2001, and an update came out in 2007, 73% of that goal has been reached over 15 years. That is outstanding news! However, open space funding has now lagged, the state said, and it won’t reach that goal. Read more

November 15 As the saying goes, many hands make light work!  UCONN Ecohuskies, 26 strong from both the Avery Point and Storrs campuses, were joined by GOSA members Jim, Sidney, Syma, Mike, Joan, and newcomer Joel Strauss who together took advantage of a beautiful day to attack invasive plants at the Avery Farm. Most AF UCONN 11 15 15volunteers worked the entire 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. event. 
A large field of Japanese knotweed was first cut back as a warm-up. Next came liberating cedars and other trees from tangles of bittersweet, honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Black swallowwort was bagged for removal from the site, autumn olive cut down, and low-growing vines mowed. Found and removed from the underbrush were trash, glass artifacts, mattress springs, PVC pipes, radios, lamps, and rusty buckets. The site had been an orchard and pasture before being abandoned and overgrown by invasive plants.
GOSA was awarded a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant to improve habitat for the New England cottontail (NEC), until recently a candidate endangered species at both the Candlewood Ridge and Avery Farm sites. The endangered rabbit has been positively identified by DEEP officials by wintertime DNA sampling of pellets. Because of successful efforts by CT DEEP, GOSA, and other land trusts to improve habitat, the NEC has been delisted as a candidate endangered species.
Thank-you to all our volunteers. Working together, we can preserve this beautiful land.


October 29

Here is our GOSA Fall Newsletter, titled “The Land We Love,” for you to read and enjoy. Included in this issue are: a heart-warming interview of Judy Weber, owner of Avery Farm, about her life growing up on a farm; Syma Ebbin’s thoroughly informative, insightful and folksy history of land use in Connecticut from the 1600s to today; and many other stories that together speak to our love of the land.

October 24 and 28



Two groups of volunteers from the Groton area joined forces with to clear invasive bittersweet vines and multiflora rose from a section of Avery Farm. On the 24th, a group from the Groton-New London International Church of Christ volunteered their help and spent a day lopping down vines. Pfizer “Annual Day of Caring” employees  came in two shifts a few days later andPfizer Day of Caring 2015.2 lopped and sawed too. Altogether 66 intrepid souls waded into some gnarly thickets of vines and liberated quite a few trees. Thank you!Pfizer Day of Caring 2015





AnnualMeetingSalamanderAnnual Meeting, held on October 15, 7 – 9 p.m. 

GOSA’s Annual Meeting and lecture on The Battle of Mistick Fort attracted over 80 members and friends. Refreshments were served, GOSA supporters and board members socialized. Joan Smith launched the business meeting  with her 2015 President Report,  Dave Olivier reported on finance, elections were held, and a Salamander Award was awarded to Barbara Tarbox, at left, for her invaluable help with the records project (described below). The evening concluded with Dr. Kevin McBride’s lecture telling the fascinating story of how archeological evidence demonstrates that at least one Pequot War battle/skirmish was fought on GOSA’s Sheep Farm back in the 1630s.



August 27

Many thanks to Marie, Sidney, Sandy, Whitney, Jim, Tom, Joan, Sue, Scott, Joan, Si and eight volunteers from the Navy Sub base (in yellow shirts) for participating in a marathon staging and planting session.

Two trucks, two vans and three station wagons hauled plants, soil, water, wheelbarrels, tools and people to GOSA’s Sheep Farm and The Merritt Family Forest.

Trees and shrubs have now replaced the trees damaged and/or downed by Superstorm Sandy, thanks to a USDA farmland grant and the efforts of our volunteers. Most of these are fruit bearing and provide good habitat for wildlife while adding to the diversity of our woods and landscapes.  Dogwoods, ironwoods, high-bush cranberries, huckleberries, blueberries, viburnums, inkberries, bayberries, winterberries and a few oaks (the latter donated by GOSA director Whitney Adams) were among the 40+ trees and shrubs planted by these hard-working and enthusiastic volunteers.

Huckleberries, for example, though not as popular with humans as true blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), are important to wildlife. Many songbirds as well as ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, and turkey consume the fruits. Small mammals also eat them, and deer browse the twigs and foliage. Butterflies seek them out as larval host plants, and several types of bees gather nectar and serve as pollinating agents. 

So, a story that started with a terrible storm in 2012 ends fruitfully and happily in the summer of 2015!

moving imageOngoing Records Project 

GOSA is collaborating with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) and the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) to organize and digitally scan our paper records according to Land Trust Alliance standards. We are honored to have been selected for this competitive program.

With the assistance of former Groton Town Clerk Barbara Tarbox, several GOSA members spent two weeks sorting records dating as far back as 1967, pulling boxes from member basements and the shelves, closets, nooks and crannies at the Pratt Wright Gallery. records sweep2015Discarded duplicates, obsolete and non-relevant materials, which filled a pick-up truck, will be taken to the shredder. Critical organizational, historic and property records will be scanned and saved.

Consultant Amanda Branson arrived in Groton to pick up several boxes of key documents on July 21, 2015 from both GOSA and Avalonia Land Conservancy. Amanda will review, organize and make recommendations for a records system that will conform to Land Trust Alliance standards,  can be updated on a  regular basis and that will have multiple back-up systems.  An intern will assist with the scanning project.

The records initiative will help us protect land by protecting the records that document them in perpetuity. There will be back-up systems, both digital and paper, to hopefully last for hundreds of years.


Campers from the Groton Town Parks & Recreation/William Seeley School program visited the Sheep Farm on July 16. Upon alighting from the bus, the 9 to 10 year-old youngsters identified butterflies with guidance from Bea Reynolds. The children scrambled over rocks and a historic house foundation.  They admired large sycamore and oak trees  and enjoyed  a woods walk, the brook, waterfall, and grist mill dam. Joan Smith pointed out caddisfly larvae clinging to the bottom of rocks, a sign of clean stream water. 

Candlewood Ridge Habitat Restoration Site 

Jim Anderson and Marie Olsen have been hauling water (generously supplied by the Groton Fire Station) by pick-up truck and watering ninebark shrubs in the restoration area by hand, one by one. Of the 1,100 shrubs and trees that were planted last year, other species have thrived despite the recent drought and the hard dry soil. Fortunately, they did not require this extra attention.

Whitney Adams dedicated many hours to removing mugwort, an invasive plant species that has cropped up in the restoration area. Jim Anderson and Jack Berlanda, a state forester, will work at eradicating Japanese stiltgrass, another invasive that may have been imported in the soils brought in by a former developer.

The coppicing project to expand New England cottontail habitat will begin mid-September with the cutting of overgrown mountain laurel. Trees will be cut after October 1 to accommodate the possibility that the protected long-eared bat may be nesting at the site until then. Due to the presence of heavy equipment, and for safety reasons, the northern sections of Candlewood Ridge will be closed to the public.

The Sheep Farm and The Merritt Family Forest

Dick Raymond, the state forester working with the UDSA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) visited the areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy* on the Sheep Farm and on The Merritt Family Forest. He noted the areas where GOSA had constructed habitat brush piles from downed and broken trees, and the areas where Whitney Adams had recently eradicated Japanese barberry growing in the newly sunlit openings on the Merritt. 

Dick recommended planting hardwood and dogwood trees and multiple shrubs such as cranberry viburnum, maple leaf viburnum, blueberries, and other food-bearing native species. Bear Oak will be suitable for the dry ledge at the Sheep Farm. GOSA will plan to begin the planting project in mid-August. 

Garrett Timmons from USDA NRCS also visited the Sheep Farm to review the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) work completed by GOSA members over the past year. In year four of the five year program, GOSA removed a thick tangle of bittersweet, multiflora rose and other invasive plant species on several acres in the area below the yellow trail on the west side of the property. Native plants will be encouraged to grow in, providing better food and cover for wildlife.

* Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. 

pine_beetle2_hBeetle Invasion   Another issue of concern to Connecticut is the latest beetle invasion, threatening three varieties of our pine trees: the red pine, Scots pine and pitch pine. Of these, pitch pine — the only native species of the four — is at the greatest risk. Click here to learn more.

where.we.live_logoLearn all about land conservation on WNPR’s Where We Live program titled This Land (Trust) Was Made for You and Me.

CLCCdoc.ProtectingtheLandYou LoveProtecting the Land You Love   This booklet was written by the Connecticut Land Conservation Council for landowners who love their land and want to learn more about options for permanent protection and what to expect during the conservation process. Click on the icon to discover that there is no “one-size-fits all” approach to land protection, and that you can choose the option that best meets your family’s needs. Throughout the booklet, you can read real stories and advice from landowners who have conserved their own special places. 

TMFFCowslipbridgeMay 22   New Bridge Built Over Cowslip Brook at the Merritt Family Forest Improves X-Town Trail

Assisted by 20 young, enthusiastic and strong Naval Submarine Base volunteers, the  bridge was completed in record time: less than 30 minutes! Volunteers carried the frame from the road to the brook, and pushed or carried the wheel barrels filled with pre-cut boards and equipment to the crossing site. With five drills working, we started at both ends and met in the middle. As the last board fell into place, the Cutler Cross-Country team crossed the bridge for its first official use. Thank you U.S. Navy Volunteers! The bridge even came in under budget with donated surplus screws and supplies. 


Keeping Our Properties and Parks Clean and Beautiful

April 28 Joan Smith reporting: “Many thanks to all who volunteered to help with the The Merritt Family Forest Clean-up.The clean-up took about 2.5 hrs. Eighteen large trash bags were filled with an amazing array of strange materials including car parts, pieces of metal, foam, and a traffic signal light. A plastic human skull won first prize for most unusual item. The property looks great now. We picked up on both sides of the road and all around the intersection at Flanders too.”

HFCleanupDad4.25.15April 25 Joan Smith reporting: “GOSA’s Annual Haley Farm State Park Clean-up attracted GOSA members and friends of all sizes (see header image above) including UCONN Alumni, UCONN Eco-Huskies, Cache in-Trash-Out Geocachers and Canine Patrol Cadets (true heroes!). Five acres of invasive plants were lopped and trash bags filled. Large metal pieces, a buoy, a colorful kite and much more were removed from fields, shoreline, roadside and woods. A shout-out to The Last Green Valley for help in sponsoring tools, gloves, bags, water, cider and food. UCONN Alumni provided grinders and water and Eco-Huskies provided bags and water. Thanks everyone.”

April 23 We had a great time at the GOSA Gala! Thanks to the many who organized and attended the event. Pictures and more coming soon.

Outreach to kids
CK Explorer’s Club
here to read an article about this wonderful program for kids.


Sheep Farm Waterfall image2

Sheep Farm waterfall after a summer storm