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Stone Bridge Preserve: Conservation Project Creates New England Cottontail Habitat

Published: September 15, 2017 at 12:00 am

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After loggers cut trees at the town's Stone Bridge Preserve open space area, they left hundreds of tree trunks in piles in the area to deter deer from walking through the site. 	  (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
After loggers cut trees at the town's Stone Bridge Preserve open space area, they left hundreds of tree trunks in piles in the area to deter deer from walking through the site. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
The tall trees that remain standing in the area that was cut to create a new habitat will provide the seeds from which a new forest will start.   (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
The tall trees that remain standing in the area that was cut to create a new habitat will provide the seeds from which a new forest will start. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
Forester Jeremy Clark explained the forest management plan that led to the Conservation Commission having many mature trees removed from the Stone Bridge Preserve open space area to create a new habitat.  (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
Forester Jeremy Clark explained the forest management plan that led to the Conservation Commission having many mature trees removed from the Stone Bridge Preserve open space area to create a new habitat. (Bee Photo, Gorosko)
In light of its goal to provide diversity in natural habitats, the Conservation Commission on September 8 provided the public with a view of the markedly changed landscape at sections of the town's Stone Bridge Preserve, where extensive recent tree cutting has created habitat suitable for the New England cottontail rabbit to thrive.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), the New England cottontail is Connecticut's only native rabbit, and differs from the Eastern cottontail, which is "now the predominant species." Also, "New England cottontails require large patches of shrubland or young forest, often called thickets, with dense, tangled vegetation." The New England cottontail has been designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as "a candidate for threatened or endangered status," since 2006.

The open space land where the tree cutting occurred lies along Stone Bridge Trail, a narrow dirt road that extends northward from Berkshire Road (Route 34), just south of Nighthawk Lane. The area is adjacent to the Iroquois Gas Transmission System's cross-country pipeline.

The tree cutting in the heavily canopied forest created a young forest and shrublands known as "early successional habitat."

As people toured the rolling terrain where hundreds of mature trees have been cut, they remarked that the tree trunks that lay chockablock across the ground reminded them of the damage that is done by hurricanes.
Actually, after loggers cut the trees last winter, they left the tree trunks in piles scattered across the site to deter deer from walking there. The presence of deer damages the new shrubland habitat for the New England cottontail. The habitat that was created also is expected to benefit more than 50 other species.

Forester Jeremy Clark, who served as the project manager for the Conservation Commission, provided a tour of the area. Iroquois provided grant funds for a forest management plan that preceded the habitat project.

Mr Clark said that some "seed trees" were left standing after the cutting to provide seed for new trees to grow in the area.

Lisa Wahle, a biologist who worked on the habitat project, said that the area will be scientifically monitored to gauge the extent to which New England cottontail rabbits have populated the area.

Of the habitat project, the Conservation Commission states on its website, "Newtown is committed to providing diverse habitat on appropriate open space properties that will provide, shelter, food, and protection for threatened wildlife that, without intervention, may become extinct."

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
0% (0 votes)
The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
50% (1 vote)
“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
50% (1 vote)
“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
0% (0 votes)
“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
0% (0 votes)
Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
0% (0 votes)
“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Day, October 6
0% (0 votes)
The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
0% (0 votes)
Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
0% (0 votes)
“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
0% (0 votes)
Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
0% (0 votes)
The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
0% (0 votes)
Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
0% (0 votes)
Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
0% (0 votes)
“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
0% (0 votes)
Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 2