While land protection remains an important tool, we have realized we also must protect the “whole systems” in which species grow, feed, migrate and interact.
In many ways, a healthy ecosystem is like a healthy human body, with many small processes working in tandem to support life. A disruption in any one of these processes — from clean water circulation to the movement of migratory species — impacts the whole.
As The Nature Conservancy has grown, so, too, has our approach to conservation. While land protection remains an important tool, we have realized we also must protect the “whole systems” in which species grow, feed, migrate and interact.
Because of our state’s location at the center of two vital whole systems — the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound — The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut has pioneered these new methods of conservation, which promise results across the region.
To address whole system challenges, we are helping guide government policy, integrating processes and places, focusing on people’s needs, connecting natural spaces and more. It’s a natural evolution for us that offers our supporters the chance for a more meaningful and lasting impact on the lands and waters we call home.
Long Island Sound
More than 21 million people live within 50 miles of Long Island Sound, and this thin strip of water adds an estimated $8.91 billion per year to the local economy. As a result, any conservation solutions must consider people as well as habitats and water quality.
While the Sound has made visible progress in the last decades, it also faces a new set of challenges. The Conservancy’s Connecticut and New York chapters collaborate to address these issues:
- Preparing coasts: Hurricane Sandy was a devastating reminder of the dangers of coastal living, but a slower threat also looms: sea-level rise. Homes, roads, sewage plants and habitats are at risk. We have led nine Connecticut towns through preparedness workshops and helped craft recommendations issued in early 2013 by the state’s Shoreline Preservation Task Force.
- Protecting sea grass: Eelgrass beds dampen waves and create vital habitat for juvenile fish, but more than 90 percent of these underwater meadows have disappeared since 1930. We’ve sponsored groundbreaking research into this important species to help guide protection and restoration work.
- Planning for use: Shipping, underwater tunnels and wind turbines are just some of the current and proposed uses of the Sound. How will states decide where to allow development, and which areas to leave untouched? We completed the first ecological assessment of the Sound in early 2013 to help balance human uses and natural protection in this important estuary.
- Conserve coastal lands to allow shoreline habitats to move inland and reduce flooding from storms and sea-level rise.
- Complete green infrastructure projects that reduce runoff and support eelgrass recovery.
- Bring stakeholders together to create sensible use guidelines for the Sound.