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naromi wimisink overlook

SHERMAN – It’s fair to say that Shermanites—if that’s what the residents of Fairfield County’s northernmost town can be called—value their land and open space. Despite consisting of nearly 22 square miles of land, there are less than 4000 people living in Sherman. (Per the last census, taken in 2016.) That being the case, many Sherman residents are well-acquainted with the maple and oak-laden woodland, rocky outcrops, and grassy fields and meadows so characteristic of small-town Connecticut. In fact, Sherman contains numerous hiking trails and nature preserves, not to mention several parks, so anyone living in or near the town has abundant options when it comes to enjoying the nature around them.

We almost completely owe the stewardship of this local, beautiful New England forest, as well as grassland and farms, to one group, the Naromi Land Trust, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as the guardian of Sherman’s environment: Nearly coinciding with Naromi’s half-century of age, the land trust, which is managed by a board of directors and an executive director, includes an office administrator, and is kept engaged with its lands by a number of dedicated volunteers, was granted national accreditation and extended the reach of its conservation between December 2017 and February 2018.

You could almost call it a birthday present.

“Accreditation is a big stamp (of approval) in the land trust world,” said Amanda Branson, Executive Director of the Trust.

When an environmental land trust, any non-profit organization which engages in land conservation and stewardship, receives accreditation in the United States, it means that the Land Trust Alliance, perhaps one of the most extensive environmental organizations in the country, has recognized that the trust in question meets certain standards—high standards—for land conservation, and has vested in it the responsibility to effectively maintain the lands entrusted to it forever.

“Accreditation is a rigorous program and Naromi is stronger for having gone through it,” stated Branson in a press release. “We are overjoyed to celebrate this achievement in 2018, our 50th year.”

By becoming accredited, Naromi, one of 1,363 other land trusts in the country, joined a network of 398 other land trusts accredited by the Alliance located throughout the country.

The process of becoming accredited is certainly not easy: Naromi faced a comprehensive review and had to provide extremely detailed documentation of its work over the past five decades to the Land Trust Accreditation Commision, an independent program run by the Alliance.

“It is exciting to recognize Naromi Land Trust with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission, according to a press release. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes Naromi Land Trust has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

By gaining the ability to extend the reach of the conserved lands covered by Herrick Preserve, one of its many properties, Naromi only seems to better indicate that its land conservation mission is met with strong approval, as well. By way of two separate projects, one a state government grant and the other a private donation, as well as through the support of a separate grant, Herrick Preserve has been extended greatly in the past year: In one case, with the culmination of donations of land by Sherman’s Herrick family to Naromi—beginning with a donation by Amy Herrick in 1975—local resident Caroline Herrick donated just over seven acres to extend the preserve in December of last year; in the other case, Connecticut governor Malloy announced this past January that Naromi had been awarded a grant from the state of $76,500 to support the purchase of around 38 acres of land from an estate; as for the grant, “Naromi plans to cover the remaining cost of the preservation of this parcel through a grant from the Highlands Conservation Coalition and private funding,” as stated in a press release. The recent extension of Herrick Preserve has opened the land parcel to permanent public access, a boon to hikers and nature-lovers in the area, not to mention Naromi’s conservationists themselves.

“We have permanently protected about 1500 acres [of land], equal to 12% of Sherman,” states the trust in a press release. It also claims that “accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not yet accredited,” and that “accredited land trusts also have stronger systems and more resources to steward and defend their conservation lands forever.”

Naromi, founded in 1968 with the mission statement, “to conserve and protect the natural resources of Sherman, including wildlife habitats, water quality, agricultural lands and scenic vistas, for the benefit of, and use by, current and future generations,” manages a great number of open spaces throughout Sherman. It’s portfolio includes 36 preserves, 27 conservation easements—natural lands given a protected status as part of an agreement between a land trust or government element and a landowner—seven hiking trails (including two wetland boardwalks), and one leased farm “with satellite hayfields to a local family farm.”

“All of these places are home to countless species of plants, insects, birds, [and] mammals and help to provide clean air and water, [and] recreational and educational opportunities and maintain Sherman’s rural character,” states the trust in a press release.

In addition to its first priority of land conservation, Naromi is active in educating and engaging the Sherman community on environmental issues. In fact, Naromi has been actively engaged with the Sherman community and surrounding land trusts for quite some time: Naromi hosts an annual picnic, welcomes volunteers and encourages those interested to join as volunteers, plans outings to restore the natural habitats and health of the environments within the lands it manages, and, as part of its outreach program, features monthly hikes in the spring, summer, and fall, many times partnering with nearby land trusts and conservation groups in the process.

It also holds an annual public general meeting, featuring a keynote speaker and focused discussion topics: “Topics in recent years include hiking on the Appalachian Trail (part of the One Book, One Lake Series—a program organized by the libraries of the five towns surrounding Candlewood Lake celebrating A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson), Lyme disease education and prevention, stone walls, biodiversity in Connecticut by herpetologist Hank Gruner, and birds of prey and owls with James Eyring of the Pace University Environmental Center,” states the trust in a press release

If you’d like to learn more about the Naromi Land Trust, or contact them or support their efforts, visit their website at naromi.org, or give them a call at (860) 354-0260. Naromi’s office is located off state Route 37 in Sherman, at 3 Route 37, just near Old Town Hall.

By Ryan V. Stewart, College Intern