Michael White raised some very good points in his Dec. 2 letter regarding the Aspetuck Land Trust's new dog policy [Trout Brook Valley should stay leash free"]. I would like to respond.

Through our participation in the Fairfield County Regional Conservation Partnership, we have learned about the importance of a bigger-picture approach in how we manage our lands. For example, Trout Brook Valley is part of the Centennial forest chain and offers 10 square miles of contiguous forested lands for wildlife to traverse.

It is important to understand that because of the size of the Trout Brook Valley conservation area (1,009 acres) and the fact that it is part of a much larger open space area, including one of the last great open fields in the Northeast coast in the orchard which provides important hawk habitat, we have an obligation to manage this preserve properly.

Our smaller preserves do provide habitat for animals and insects, but when it comes to conservation, size matters. Trout Brook Valley is big and it provides important habitat for wildlife because of its large size. Therefore, in the fall of 2010, we applied for a grant to implement a flora and fauna assessment of TBV. The grant to do this assessment was received in August 2011 and was immediately put into action. In order to accurately do this assessment, the only animals that may traverse this land off trail are the animals who are dependent upon this area for their lives.

It is important to note that we don't ban dogs on most of our preserves, and in fact, we allow dogs "off leash" on the vast majority of our nature preserves, which is very uncommon among Land Trusts and conservation groups. After the survey in Trout Brook Valley is conducted, we hope to allow dogs back off leash in those areas that are less ecologically sensitive.

But first we need to conduct the wildlife study to determine just where the sensitive and less sensitive areas exist. We are not angling to permanently restrict dogs to leashes under the guise of the study. Doing the study is simply good practice on behalf of our organization. So, for this upcoming year and until the study is completed, you cannot walk your dog off leash in Trout Brook Valley.

Mr. White, being in the field of science, I think you can appreciate all of the efforts being put forth so that this incredibly lovely and richly diverse preserve will be cared for intelligently in order to insure it will be around for many, many years to come. Now that you have an accurate picture of the sequence of events, I hope you understand that we are caring for the land in the best possible way.

Aspetuck Land Trust is a non-profit membership organization established in 1966 with over 1,000 local members. For more information, visit www.aspetucklandtrust.org

Lisa Brodlie, Chairwoman

Aspetuck Land Trust

Land Management Committee

Westport