Debate Over Newtown Bear Cubs Illustrates Divide on Managing Connecticut Wildlife

The plight of two tiny bear cubs who climbed an 80-foot tree to safety after their mother was killed elevates a question for Connecticut residents. What should be the relationship between humans and wildlife? The orphaned 4-month-old brothers, one 11 pounds, the other 13 pounds, now live at the renowned Kilham Bear Center in New Hampshire, where they will be carefully raised in preparation for a return to the wild. But their fate, at first, was headed in a different direction, said wildlife rehabilitators and members of the state Legislature’s Animal Advocacy Caucus, who tracked the cubs through the woods

More

Horseshoe Crab Protections Died in the Legislature, Now the Dwindling Population Arrives to Mate

The bill, which would have banned fishermen from collecting the venerable, vulnerable horseshoe crab from Connecticut beaches, passed the state House of Representatives in a vote of all yeses, and seemed to have similar support in the state Senate. But in the final hours of the legislative session, the bill failed to come up for a vote, and died. So the disappearing horseshoe crab, which breeds in sandy inlets for a few days during full and new moons this time of year, will take another hit, said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, the Darien advocacy organization that helped

More

Old Saybrook Partners Launch Carbon Capture Startup

/

OLD SAYBROOK – By this fall, a new business plan to open on Research Parkway, turning Old Saybrook’s town brush pile into biochar as a strategy to capture carbon from the dead wood before it’s released into the atmosphere. BluSky co-founder Will Hessert said his long-time friend Jay Henry saw the announcement for the competition – XPrize Carbon Removal competition – where hundreds of different teams attempt to win a share of $100 million in prize money by building projects that can “capture” more than 1,000 tons of carbon emissions a year. Henry called Hessert with an idea – take

More

After Crossing Party Lines, Hwang Talks Up Bipartisan Effort to Address the Environment

Hailed by some for crossing party lines to vote for major Democratic priorities this session, State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, emphasized that the state will need greater bipartisan buy-in to protect the environment in Connecticut. Hwang was the only Republican in either chamber to vote for a package of policies aimed at speeding up the transition to electric cars, trucks and buses in order to reduce emissions – which proponents dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act.” Hwang, who was also the only Republican lawmaker on a League of Conservation Voters post-legislative session panel on Friday, said the environment should not

More

Parties Split As Lawmakers Approve Transportation Emissions Bill

/

HARTFORD – Lawmakers approved a wide-ranging bill aimed at limiting emissions from cars, trucks and buses in an effort accelerate the shift to electric vehicles. The bill, dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act” by proponents, would require transit and school buses to transition to zero emission buses, expands electric vehicle rebates, tightens emissions standards for trucks, and requires some condo and apartment buildings to allow residents to install electric vehicle chargers. The bill passed the House by a vote of 95-52 on Friday, with all Republicans voting against. It passed the Senate earlier in the week on a nearly party-line

More

Transportation and Clean Air Bills Clear Senate as Dems and GOP Differ on Merits and Costs

//

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Senate passed a group of bills aimed at reducing emissions caused by transportation and energy generation on Tuesday night, including an omnibus air quality bill aimed at encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles for a variety of vehicles from passenger cars to buses to heavy-duty trucks, and a bill that speeds up the state’s goals for eliminating carbon emissions from electric generation. During about seven hours of debate on a bill proponents have dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act,” Republicans warned that changes in the bill came too quickly for people to adapt, that the true

More

State Reps Rally to Protect Dwindling Horseshoe Crab Population

The entire Connecticut House of Representatives came out this week for the horseshoe crab – the silent, slow-moving “ancient mariner” that has lived on earth’s shores for 445 million years. In a time when politicians keep to their camps, red vs. blue, and battle over the veracity of election results and other basics of democracy, state representatives voted 144-0 for An Act Concerning the Hand-Harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs. The unanimous vote sent a signal that state lawmakers want to ensure that the dwindling population of horseshoe crabs does not disappear from Connecticut beaches. “The whole chamber agreed that we should

More

Mystery of the Disappearing Alewife Explored at Black Hall Pond 

/

OLD LYME – The deep water of Black Hall Pond this spring has become a laboratory where environmental officials are trying to revive a once-prolific species of bait fish that has suffered a mysterious and precipitous decline across the state in recent decades.  Known as the Alewife, the silvery, foot-long herring is a major draw for fisherman and predators such as striped bass and osprey, and once were so prolific that they choked adjoining streams with their numbers during migrations. One contributor to their decline here was a series of beaver dams that blocked their spawning route between Long Island

More

Ghost Fishing, Nitrogen Pollution, Rubber Debris Targeted in Local Efforts to Clean Up the Sound

Twenty years ago, rising water temperatures, nitrogen pollution and disease wiped out the lobster population in Long Island Sound. Lobstermen picked up and left, in many cases leaving their traps behind. But on the floor of the Sound, tens of thousands of traps are still working, catching the few remaining lobsters along with other species. It’s called ghost fishing. Scott Curatolo-Wagemann, a marine biologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Long Island, N.Y., explained the phenomenon Thursday during a webinar hosted by the Long Island Sound Coastal Watershed Network. His program, which has removed 20,000 abandoned lobster pots on the

More

Connecticut Lawmakers Vote Down Bill Allowing Hunting of Nuisance Black Bears

/

HARTFORD – Lawmakers voted down an effort to loosen restrictions on farmers whose crops, livestock and beehives have been damaged by wildlife – which would have allowed them to get state approval to kill black bears that are killing farm animals or damaging crops, something Connecticut farmers say is a growing issue. ‘Black bears have thrived in Connecticut’s restored woodlands, growing to an estimated population of 1,200. In mid-March, bears were spotted on camera entering a pig pen in New Milford, and those kinds of interactions with bears have increased dramatically in recent years. Black bears have become a part

More

Timbering in The Preserve? DEEP Says It Will Consider Conserving Key Ecological Areas

OLD SAYBROOK — After the 2015 purchase of The Preserve, a 963-acre woodland spanning Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Essex, donors and community members expected the land to be protected in perpetuity, but language included in an easement stated that the land is designated as a state forest — which allows forestry management, including logging.  In a meeting on Wednesday, members of the town’s Ad Hoc Committee, the advisory board to the Conservation Management Committee — which manages The Preserve — expressed dismay and concern about a proposed forestry plan that would include timbering as well as hunting and trapping on the

More

A Mixed Response to Legislation Aiming at Connecticut’s Private Well Water

Legislators and residents in rural parts of Connecticut are calling on the state Department of Public Health to improve the quality of water for people who rely on private wells – but there is no agreement on who should bear the costs. State Rep. Tammy Nuccio, R-Tolland, told the public health committee that over the last decade, the state has seen an uptick in the number of complaints regarding sodium chloride, the same chemical used to salt roads during the winter.  Nuccio said that her town, Tolland, had 68 wells contaminated with sodium chloride, the highest concentration of well contamination

More

Bill Would Protect An Ancient Animal on Connecticut’s Shore

STAMFORD – The horseshoe crab is nothing but helpful. Its eggs feed migrating shorebirds on their long treks to nesting grounds. Its copper-rich blood is used to test vaccines and drugs to ensure they aren’t contaminated by bacteria and will be safe to inject in humans. It has existed for 445 million years – longer than the dinosaur – so scientists study its amazing adaptability to learn how to help ocean life cope with climate change. Its tail is not a stinger and its claws are not muscular, so the horseshoe crab will not hurt curious humans who approach it

More

Putting Aside Carbon Caps, Lamont Presses for California Emissions Standards, EV Subsidies

//

With carbon caps off the table for this year’s short legislative session, at a League of Conservation Voters forum on Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont pressed lawmakers to focus on reduced vehicle emissions by adopting California’s standards, and expanding subsidies for electric vehicles. “One thing I’ve noticed – business, labor, in particular the legislature – everybody’s generally in favor of doing more to protect the environment,” Lamont chided legislators. “But when push comes to shove, when it comes to putting our shoulder to the wheel, sometimes you pull back when it comes time to figure out how we’re going to pay

More

Fishing Debate Centers on Catching a Predator

CLINTON – It’s a carnivorous predator that survives on the ocean floor by using its muscular foot and hard pointed shell to pry open the body of its prey and eat the soft tissue inside with its long, nose-like proboscis.  And whether you call it a conch or a whelk or a winkle, fisherman after fisherman at a Monday night public hearing decried the state’s plan to limit harvesting of the edible oversized snail as another blow to the survival of their industry and livelihood. “Conch has taken over the lobster grounds and are hindering the lobster coming back,” longtime

More

New Regulations for Whelk and Horseshoe Crabs a Challenge for Commercial Fisheries

New state regulations intended to rebuild the whelk and horseshoe crab populations in the Long Island Sound could substantially limit the catches of local fisherman.   The proposed regulations would limit whelk fishing to whelks with shells larger than 5.5 inches in length. Justin Davis, assistant director in the Fisheries Division at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the length minimum came from research from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which showed female whelks in the Sound do not produce eggs until their shells reach this size.  Nancy Balcom, the associate director and extension program leader for the

More

TCI ‘Clearly Can’t Happen’ Without Lamont Taking the Lead, Says Looney

//

In light of Gov. Ned Lamont pulling his support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative on Tuesday, State Senate President Martin Looney told CT Examiner that the legislation would “obviously not” be introduced in the State Senate this session. On Wednesday, Lamont attempted to walk back his comments, saying he would sign the bill if lawmakers passed TCI this session, according to the Hartford Courant. But Looney said Lamont’s change in tune didn’t change the reality of the situation, and said TCI can’t happen without proactive support from the governor. “The operative statement is the one he gave yesterday,” Looney

More

TCI a Needed Source of Matching Dollars for Infrastructure, Says Environmental Watchdog

/

Heading into next year’s state legislative session, Lori Brown, executive director of Connecticut’s League of Conservation Voters, told CT Examiner that far from eclipsing the Transportation Climate Initiative, the billions of dollars of announced federal infrastructure spending for Connecticut means that the proposed fee on fuel wholesalers is more important than ever. “Connecticut will have to apply for competitive funds from Build Back Better, and we tend to do well applying for competitive funds, but a lot of that will be money our state has to match,” Brown explained. “For anyone who says, we’re getting all of this money now,

More

Biden Restores Protections to Marine National Monument off Coast of New England

////

On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden restored protections to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the Atlantic Ocean’s first and only marine national monument. The protections were put in place by President Barack Obama in 2016, but later rolled back by the Trump administration in 2020.  Joining Biden for the proclamation signing on Friday afternoon was Mystic Aquarium President and CEO Stephen Coan, who got the call to travel down to Washington late Thursday night.  “I was so surprised to get the call, and obviously hadn’t made any travel arrangements, so I quickly hurried to do that and

More

A Restoration Effort to Support Shellfishing off Guilford

///

GUILFORD – Shellfisherman Kim Granbery chose winding Hoadley Creek to grow seed oysters because of what he calls its exceptional mix of near-pristine salt and fresh water, flowing over a bed of fertile silt deposited for millennia among the Thimble Islands. “The oysters like brackish water as opposed to higher salinity,” Granbery said on a recent afternoon as he steered his skiff around the rocky islands to check on his underwater crop. “Marine biologists tell me this is one of the cleanest estuaries in the state, and that’s what creates the unique character and taste of these oysters.” Restoring and

More

Storm Prep Pumps Countless Invasive Water Chestnuts Down the Connecticut River

Steve Gebhart has been pulling invasive water chestnuts for years, but said he had never seen anything like the mats of vegetarian he saw floating down the Connecticut River last week. From the mouth of the Salmon River in East Haddam, down to the Middlesex Yacht Club in Chester the mats of water chestnut were so wide, Gebhart said he could hardly maneuver his small motorboat between them. Kelsey Wentling, the Connecticut River Conservancy’s riverkeeper for Connecticut, told CT Examiner that she had heard reports up and down the river of these floating carpets of water chestnut. Wentling said she

More

As Second Whale Falls Ill, Mystic Scientists Offer Impassioned Defense of their Work

/

MYSTIC — After news on Tuesday that a second of five beluga whales recently transferred to Mystic Aquarium had fallen seriously ill — the first died earlier this month — CT Examiner spoke on Wednesday afternoon with Stephen Coan, the president of the aquarium, and two senior staff scientists, about the care and health of the whales, about the facility where the whales lived prior to the move, and about the possible source of the recent health issues. In a lengthy question and answer by conference call, the staff vigorously defended the health and care of marine mammals at Mystic

More

Stephen Coan on Science, Whales and Tourism at the Mystic Aquarium

//

CT Examiner’s Cate Hewitt and Gregory Stroud arrived at Mystic Aquarium on Monday afternoon to interview Stephen Coan, the long-time head of what has become Connecticut’s largest tourist attraction.  The aquarium is a genuine marine biology research institution — with a strong faculty connection to UConn and a significant staff of in-residence and affiliated scientists — that also draws crowds and ticket sales with its crowd-pleasing focus on marine mammals including beluga whales, penguins and sea lions. At a time when climate change and melting glaciers are a concern for much of the public, Mystic Aquarium’s Arctic Coast habitat, with

More

Hammerhead Worm, Spotted Locally, No Cause for Concern, Says Scientist

A number of hammerhead worms found in Old Saybrook are not a cause for concern, and may actually be helpful in managing a damaging invasive earthworm in the area, according to a scientist from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Dr. Gale Ridge, an entomologist in the CAES insect inquiry office, said she was still waiting to see one of the worms captured in Old Saybrook. But from what she has seen, she thinks it’s a species called the wandering broadhead planarian that is found in Pennsylvania, and has been seen in Canada. Hammerhead worms – a term that applies to

More

A 410-Mile, Two-Year Paddle the Length of the Connecticut

From a muddy puddle along the Canadian border, down to the Fenwick lighthouse, it took 31 days of off-and-on paddling spread out over two years for Bill Ballou to traverse the entire 410 mile Connecticut River with his canoe. Beginning the last leg Monday morning at the Baldwin Bridge, Ballou, a semi-retired newspaper reporter from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, his wife, Debby, and fellow paddlers Randy Koopman, Charlie Thompson and Allen Wilson fought the wind to paddle their canoe along the last three mile stretch to the Fenwick lighthouse.  The paddlers said town officials told them they would prefer

More

Bill to Phase Out PFAS Heads for Approval by Unanimous Vote

/

A type of man-made chemicals found in consumer packaging and firefighting foam will likely be phased out in the state of Connecticut because of their suspected negative effects on the environment and public health.  A bill that aims to end the use of firefighting foam and food packaging passed 146-0 in the State House of Representatives on Monday. The Senate is expected to approve the legislation before the end of session. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of 4,700 chemicals that are found in cookware, firefighting foam and food packaging. The US Center for Disease Control has

More

$460,000 Stamp Proceeds Fund 21 Local Projects Battling Aquatic Invasives

A new registration fee on boats is giving groups that work to combat invasive aquatic species a steady source of state funding for the first time, providing some help to the uphill battle of fending off fast-spreading plants like hydrilla and water chestnut. Beginning in 2020, all Connecticut boat owners were required to purchase a $5 invasive species stamp to operate a boat, and out-of-state boaters had to pay $25 for the stamp. As of December 2020, the boaters had purchased $460,000 worth of stamps, of which $360,000 was issued as grants.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection used

More

Spending, Equity, Health Outcomes at Heart of TCI Debate

Dr. Mark Mitchell was taking his daily walk around Hartford – the city where he had lived and worked for over a decade – when he felt a pain in his chest. Mitchell was leading a relatively active and healthy lifestyle, but all four of the main blood vessels of his heart were partially clogged.  Mitchell said he is the first person in his family to have coronary artery disease, and the first to have asthma. He is also the first person in his family to live in Hartford – he grew up in an outer suburb of St. Louis,

More

Turning Attention to PFAS in Connecticut’s Drinking Water

/

The State of Connecticut is making an increased effort to identify so-called “forever chemicals” that may be building up in certain water sources in the state.  PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a group of more than 4,700 chemical compounds that have been used since the 1940s. Found in products like cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam, they are held together by a strong carbon-fluorine bond. As a result, they build up — in soil, in groundwater, and in animals that ingest them, eventually reaching human beings.  According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, PFAS exposure has

More

Compromise Boosts Share of Cap-and-Trade Revenues for Environmental Justice

/

HARTFORD — The state legislature’s Environmental Committee approved a compromise bill that significantly increases the amount of revenues directed toward communities with the highest levels of motor vehicle pollution. Environmental justice advocates had criticized a previous draft of the bill, part of a cap-and-trade proposal for motor fuels, for not doing enough to address the disparate impacts of air pollution. The legislation, which now must be approved in the senate, would set aside 50 percent of revenues from the Transportation Climate Initiative Program for projects in communities with high levels of pollution from vehicles, or that are underserved by transportation

More