Reviewing Norfolk’s natural resources

A small audience, including a very friendly golden retriever, reviewed Norfolk's natural resource inventory April 25.

Mike Cobb

Reviewing Norfolk’s natural resources

NORFOLK — On Thursday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m., The Norfolk Conservation Commission held its natural resource inventory discussion at the Norfolk Library to a small audience, including a very friendly golden retriever.

Appointed by the Board of Selectmen, the Norfolk Conservation Commission keeps an index of all open publicly or privately owned areas to obtain information on their proper use; conducts research into the use, and possible use, of land in Norfolk; administers gifts, and approves state grants for the use of open space land for conservation or recreation purpose.

Led by John Anderson, the discussion provided updates to the 2023 Natural Resource Inventory, outlined the chapters, including the “recommendations” section, and answered questions from the public.

When Anderson presented information on Norfolk’s wetlands, library director Ann Havemeyer asked, “what defines a bog?”

“It’s a highly acidic body of water with particular plants and animals that live there. For example, Sphagnum moss floats on top of water which allows plants to grow on top of that. Beckley Bog is a prime example in Norfolk,” Anderson answered.

He further described different types of wetlands in Norfolk and how they interact.

“Holleran swamp is attached to Wood Creek Pond, which extends into a swampy area. There’s enough soil that trees like Spruce and Fir can grow there.”

While viewing images of a beaver pond on the big screen, an audience member asked how beavers affect the landscape.

“Beavers make dams because they don’t like to spend a lot of time out of the water, though they will harvest wood from shrubs and trees. They’re trying to create more water for their food supply of aquatic plants,” Anderson said.

Anderson rated Norfolk’s groundwater as very good because of the filtering effect of heavy forest cover. However, the November 2022 Gas spill and the use of salt to defrost roads are concerning.

“We’re testing salinity in local freshwater supplies. We’ll test and decide what to do, for example to use less salt and alternatives,” he said.

Anderson also described how water is connected in Norfolk.

“Norfolk participated in a region wide study of how streams are connected. There’s a database evaluating stream road crossing and how it might affect wildlife. Recent storms have been more intense than in years past. Many culverts and bridges are not built for this. Climate change certainly plays a role,” he said.

Anderson moved swiftly through the massive amount of information and covered plantscape, with a focus on the trees and wildflowers of Norfolk including pictures of northern species that aren’t typically found elsewhere in Connecticut.

The inventory focused on large rather than old trees. “Great Mountain Forest had the largest red spruce in the state, but it was struck by lightning and died. It’s been made into the mantle at the Curling Club,” Anderson said.

Regarding wildlife, he said, “Norfolk is unusual in many ways. We have a really good bear, bobcat, and moose population and a lot of species that have been extricated and are now here such as wild turkeys and fisher cats. The bird population is strong with a few new species including Sand Hill cranes. Thanks to our forests we have Rough grouse. We’ve added sections on butterflies and moths with an extensive appendices of 650 species of moths.”

“We’re cold, northern and deserve the name of the Icebox. We have really good clean wetlands and forests,” he added.

Anderson also described how The Norfolk Land Trust and the historic work of private individuals such as Ted Childs have helped preserve large areas of land. The report contains maps showing the intersection of private and public protected land including trails for recreational activities.

Other topics included the importance of rural roads, dark night skies, the use of proper lighting, the effect of lighting in some animals’ ability to forage food, historic buildings and roads, and more. The appendix section provides detailed tables on all aspects of the inventory. Each section has a bibliography with information about the contributors.

“We’re fortunate to have had so many people do so much good work. It is exceptional,” Anderson said.

The report also made recommendations, such as education on climate change and ways the public can get involved. “We’re going to do a sale of native plants. There’s a movement to encourage more of that and grow plants that are natural to the area,” Anderson added.

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