Connecticut and Massachusetts have purchased 450 acres of farm land that straddles both states. The purchase is meant to mitigate the loss of endangered bird habitat.
The two states paid $4.4 million dollars for the former tobacco land, once owned by General Cigar. 195 of the acres are in Suffield Connecticut. The rest is in Southwick, Massachusetts. The goal for Connecticut is to make up for the development of bird habitat at Rentschler Field, a former Pratt And Whitney airfield. That property was one of the last remaining areas to support endangered grassland bird species in the state, including the Upland Sandpiper which needs at least 200 acres to nest and the Grasshopper Sparrow which needs about 50 acres. Ed Parker of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection says the land, located in the Connecticut River Valley, is on the migratory flyway for these birds. And it has what he calls a big attraction area.
“If the area is not large enough from a bird’s eye view at about a couple thousand feet the birds will not come down to the site. The attraction area in this case, of approximately than 450 acres, is more than adequate.”
Parker says the land will probably support the same number of pairs of birds that nested at Rentschler Field. Patrick Comins of Audubon Connecticut agrees. He says the soil at the former tobacco farm is perfect for growing the types of grass these birds prefer.
“Of all the parcels in Connecticut this has the best chance of becoming a viable and successful grassland bird community because of its size, because of the soil conditions and because there are already some grassland birds there.”
Next year Connecticut will begin planting the types of grasses that these birds need to nest and forage