Community Wildlife Habitat of Colchester receives GreenCircle Award

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Jan. 3, 2012
Community Wildlife Habitat of Colchester Co-Chair Katherine Kosiba receives a GreenCircle award from state DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty. Photo contributed.
Community Wildlife Habitat of Colchester Co-Chair Katherine Kosiba receives a GreenCircle award from state DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty. Photo contributed.

Two years ago, the town of Colchester was certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, the first certified municipality in Connecticut, and only the 36th in the country. This certification recognizes an ongoing community-wide effort from individual backyards to public buildings and private businesses to protect and encourage an appreciation for wildlife. It represented the culmination of several years of hard work by a group of volunteers, led by Ellen Falbowski and Katherine Kosiba, that helped achieve this distinction.

Last month, the efforts of Community Wildlife Habitat of Colchester were recognized by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection with a GreenCircle award in a ceremony held on Friday, Dec 9. Launched in 1998, the GreenCircle Award program recognizes “environmental achievements of individuals, civic organizations, businesses and schools for their impact on the quality of life… making Connecticut a better place for all of us to live and work in every day,” said DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, when he announced the awards.

“I have been very thankful to be part of the team and will always cherish the work we did together to achieve this,” said Cathy Pompei, one of the volunteers who certified her home in 2002 and has worked to help the town reach community certification, a process that she said came from “our love and passion for our gardening, our love of nature walks, and the inspiration that nature gives you – for free – each day.”

Linda Hodge was first selectman when the Community Wildlife Habitat effort began and was a strong supporter from the beginning. “I believe that it was one way of balancing economic development that was proposed at the time with caring for our environment,” she said. Hodge and her husband were one of the first families in Colchester to submit their property for certification, which helped show that even relatively small plots of land in the middle of town could be certified, and promoted the idea that, “if every individual, homeowner and business did a little as a community, it makes a big difference,” she said.

Achieving Community Wildlife Habitat certification for Colchester was originally the vision of Ellen Falbowski and was born out of a quote – “It is now within the power of individual[s]… to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference,” by Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy, the author of “Bringing Nature Home,” a book outlining how gardeners can help preserve local ecosystems by growing native plants.

“For me, the bottom line is for people to appreciate the roles that wildlife – from the tiniest insect to the largest mammal – play, often unseen, in our communities, and to be aware of the often simple things we can do, or refrain from doing, in our own yards to enhance or maintain habitats for these critters,” said Falbowski.

To achieve Community Wildlife Habitat certification, more than 130 properties, including homes, schools, farms and businesses, were individually certified throughout town. But the effort does not end there. To maintain certified status, the town must accumulate a certain number of “points” every year, which are reported to the National Wildlife Federation.

Points come from the various programs provided by the Cragin Library, the Colchester Garden Club, the schools and Parks and Rec., the Colchester Land Trust and the Green Team intergenerational gardening program. Attendance at the programs provides a way for all town residents to contribute to the effort. Points are also earned with each individual property that is certified.  Information on this process can be found at or in brochures located at the library and Town Hall.

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