“It’s important for people to know that the land is going be safeguarded.”

May 6, 2016

Support for land protection bill falls short, will return next year
May 5, 2016
By Judy Benson

The Day of New London

A measure that would have put a state constitutional amendment to protect state parks and forests to voters passed both houses of the General Assembly, but fell just short of winning a sufficient majority to be put on the November ballot.

The resolution would ask voters whether the state Constitution should be amended to prohibit any state conservation land or easement from being sold or traded except by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly after a public hearing.

Since the bill did not get approval of the necessary three-quarters majority of the legislators, it will have to be brought back again next year for another vote before it can advance, said Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, one of the many conservation groups supporting the measure.

If it wins approval next year, it could be brought to voters in a 2018 ballot.

Hammerling said that despite not winning approval this year, he is pleased with the level of support.

“We succeeded beyond our wildest expectations,” he said. “We’re going to continue to move this toward a constitutional amendment.”
The Connecticut Fund for the Environment, another group supporting the measure, also said it considered the effort a success this year.
“The success of the initiative on only the first attempt to get it on the ballot highlights the strong coalitions and grassroots support for protecting Connecticut’s open spaces,” the group said in a news release.

“If the measure passes in a future ballot measure, it will help protect forests and fields from unnecessary development and increase the public’s confidence that lands transferred to the state will in fact be conserved for future generations,” the group said.

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, co-sponsored the measure. He said he is hopeful about prospects for passage in the 2017 session.

“It’s gotten a lot of support in a short time,” he said. “It’s important for people to know that the land is going be safeguarded. We should let the people decide on this and get it on a ballot vote.”