Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
This election day, Connecticut voters will scratch away at the checkboxes for their preferred gubernatorial, Senate and State Senate candidates. But this year’s ballot offers more than a list of names. It will feature a proposed amendment that could decide the fate of Connecticut’s environment. To maintain protections on parks, forests and other state lands, it is imperative that voters check “yes” to this measure this Nov. 6.
Connecticut Amendment 2 will ask whether or not the legislature should require a period of public comment and a vote before the state transfers public property––including state-protected environmental areas––to private buyers. A “yes” vote favors delaying this transfer, allowing greater deliberation and re-consideration before land loses vital protections.
Every year, the state legislature considers a conveyance bill to give away various public areas. In the past, they have sold marshes along the Connecticut River, forests in Fairfield and parks in New Haven to commercial developers. These decisions were often the products of last-minute amendments at frantic legislative sessions, according to the Hartford Courant. The proposed amendment will require a 2/3 vote in both houses before the legislature strikes any deals, ensuring proper deliberation.
These hasty transfers are also detrimental to the health of those environments, including the diverse species who called them home. The Audubon Society has identified over 20,000 acres as “Important Bird Areas” in Connecticut alone that may be up for grabs by private developers at any time. Sherwood Island State Park and Hammonasset State Park––home to hundreds of avian species––are both on the list.
If these parks lose state protections, habitats for animals, flora and fauna could become construction sites and apartment complexes. Commercial development––a feeble and useless attempt to save Connecticut’s economy––could encroach upon the rich diversity of nature.
Voting in favor of the amendment will also increase citizen representation in the state legislature. Connecticut voters have no say in these decisions; therefore, many land transfers occur right under the noses of environmental activists.
If the amendment passes, all land transfers will undergo a public hearing. Citizens may submit testimony, deliver speeches or even debate directly with state senators before public property loses protection. Activists can take advantage of this period to argue in favor of protecting the environment. State senators can hear directly from the people they are supposed to represent.
Critics contend that including both a 2/3 vote and a public comment period will over-complicate the legislative process. Representative Rick Lopes of New Britain said any land transfer “is going to become a political football… It’s going to seriously, seriously damage your ability to get things done.”
However, the government must not treat environmental policy with haste. A healthy environment means a healthy future for generations to come; it means thousands of species of plants and animals can enjoy their homes without interference. It is unjust for politicians to prioritize legislative efficiency over nature and the future of their constituents.
If you can vote on Nov. 6, support Amendment 2––vote yes. If not, spread the word, educate eligible voters and ensure protection for Connecticut’s wildlife.