Westport Conservation Director Colin Kelly issued the following statement today:
March 2023 represents the month with the most violations issued by the Conservation Department in the last two years, concluding by having seven (7) Notices of Violation issued for clear-cutting, illegal fill, or dumping in or near Westport wetlands and watercourses. This is a slight increase from the five (5) Notices of Violation issued in May of 2022.
The Conservation Department staff would obviously prefer to change this trend, but needs help from Town residents. After centuries of using wetlands as landfills and watercourses as sewers, the importance of these valuable natural resources and the vital role they play in our ecosystem has come to light in recent decades. Although wetlands and watercourses are now afforded the much needed protection they deserve, it is easy to leave them underappreciated and undervalued, and sometimes, overlooked.
Wetlands are valuable to us, but like any system, they can be overwhelmed. Our wetlands and watercourses provide a range of valuable functions to everyday life, including flood control, pollution filtration, and wildlife habitat. This is the reason we establish buffers around our wetlands and watercourses. Buffers are vegetated zones located between natural resources and adjacent areas subject to human alteration. The Conservation Department reminds the public that there is a 20’ protected buffer around wetlands and watercourses that limits the unpermitted cutting of vegetation or dumping of debris.
If there are wetlands or watercourses on your property, please be respectful of these common resources. A permit must be obtained through the Westport Conservation Department if you want to remove any trees in a wetland. However, it is encouraged and advisable to add, rather than remove, vegetation. If you are able, add to the vegetated buffer between your home, driveway or lawn and the wetland or watercourse. The best mix of buffer vegetation includes a mix of native trees, shrubs, and ground cover. The Department has a “Planting Guide” available on its webpage: https://www.westportct.gov/government/departments-a-z/conservation-department. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Westport Conservation Department at 203-341-1170, and we can even schedule to have someone meet with you in your yard.
Even if there is no wetland or watercourse on or adjacent to your property, you can still help improve the quality of Westport’s environment through your landscaping. It is advisable to leave mature trees standing and plant additional trees in your yard. Some of the benefits trees provide to Westport include supplying oxygen, increasing property values, muffling noise, hiding unsightly views, providing food and shelter for wildlife, preventing erosion, and filtering pollutants thereby improving air and water quality.
Together, I am confident we can reverse the trend and afford our wetlands and watercourses the protection they deserve for generations to come.