We commit ourselves… To research options such as land trusts, easements, deed restrictions, and the transfer or selling of development rights in order to determine the best way to preserve the land that we hold in sacred trust.
The gifts of nature, once lost, are often gone forever. In the case of the pristine woodlands on our Brentwood campus, we have come to know that the loss would have far-reaching consequences.
Land Conservation and Water Quality
The gifts of nature, once lost, are often gone forever. In the case of the pristine woodlands on our Brentwood campus, we have come to know that the loss would have far-reaching consequences. Formed by a unique set of geological conditions over the past 15,000 years, our 40 acres of woodlands overlie large quantities of pure drinking water on Long Island and boast a great diversity of trees, plants, and birds. Two hundred years ago, pine tree woodlands blanketed one-fourth of Long Island, assuring a plentiful supply of clean water. Today, much of that land has been developed, and our water supply has been diminished. Virtually all of Long Island’s drinking water is drawn from a single system of underground reservoirs, known as aquifers. This dependence led the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate our aquifer system as the nation’s first “sole source aquifer” requiring special protection. The threat to water quality lies on the land above the aquifers. Any contaminants which the rainwater collects will be carried with it into our drinking supply.
Our Brentwood Campus
The Brentwood property of the Sisters of St. Joseph is a 212-acre parcel that contains significant natural and community resources. Included in this parcel is a 40-acre track of woods that is a high quality Pitch Pine, Oak, and Heath forest type with an understory of sassafras, huckleberry, and blueberry. Important characteristics of the Brentwood woodlands:
- Dominated by the native species and has very few (< 10%) invasive species within its bounds.
- Ground cover species include spotted wintergreen as well as seedlings of the aforementioned tree species.
- The parcels provide suitable habitat for general wildlife species such as small mammals and a limited number of reptiles and amphibians. Species found in the parcels include grey squirrel, eastern cottontail, white-footed mouse, eastern chipmunk, northern redback salamander, and garter snake. The woodlands are located within the range of the federally protected northern long-eared bat.
- The woodlands contain vegetation and multiple generations of trees that do not exist anywhere else on Long Island. Most low-lying vegetation has been consumed by deer in other woodlands. There are no deer on the Brentwood property.
- This large forest is a rarity in a densely populated area of Brentwood, Long Island. Green space/woodlands will have a direct positive effect on the health of our Brentwood neighbors.
- The woodlands overlie the aquifers containing the pure drinking water of Long Island.
The mission to preserve the Brentwood woodlands is a continued response to our land ethic commitment to protect valuable natural area with a vision toward a healthy and sustainable natural environment that supports the viability of our community and neighbors. The campus is located in a community designated by the state as an “environmental justice” area, a low-income and minority community that suffers from disproportionate exposure to potentially hazardous land uses. It is well documented that some of the most polluted environments in America are where people of color live, work, play, and pray. Supporting land preservation and protecting Long Island’s purest source of drinking water and most important habitat can become one of the many important legacies of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
We will make our decisions only after serious discernment and research. As a congregation, we will consider the following questions prior to making any decisions:
What are the moral and ethical implications of this decision?
Are there other ecologically viable alternatives to this decision?
How does this decision respect the present and future integrity of the land?
How does this decision preserve the soil, water, air and species of the land and the larger bioregion?
Have we collaborated with other persons whom this decision will affect?
Sisters of St. Joseph Land Ethic