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A Sound Plan for the Future

As a child, Chantal Collier spent her summers snorkeling through sea grass meadows just off the Connecticut coast. Now, as the director of the Conservancy’s Long Island Sound Program, Chantal shares with us her hopes and vision for the Sound’s next 20 years.
“The Conservancy is unique because we operate with a long-term view. We’re investing in strategic planning now that will yield outcomes for the next 10 to 25 years.”
- Chantal Collier
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nature.org:

What are the goals of the Long Island Sound Program?

Chantal Collier:

Two of our main priorities are ecosystems and people.

To benefit ecosystems, we’re researching things like how to help sea grasses grow. These plants feed and shelter important wildlife, such as scallops, but are disappearing rapidly in some areas.

The connection to people is that local communities also benefit from healthy coastal habitats. Eelgrass meadows filter pollution and help reduce wave energy, which can erode beaches and contribute to flooding during storms.

nature.org:

Millions of people live, work and play on the Sound. How do we support both people and nature?

Chantal Collier:

Currently, we’re mapping the location of crucial habitats and organisms throughout Long Island Sound. Once completed, this assessment will help pinpoint compatible locations for transportation, fishing, energy development and other human uses in the Sound.

The Conservancy is unique because we operate with a long-term view. We’re investing in strategic planning now that will yield outcomes for the next 10 to 25 years.

nature.org:

What do you hope the Sound will look like in 20 years?

Chantal Collier:

I think the effects of climate change—sea level rise, more frequent storms and flooding—will make the connection between natural resources and people’s quality of life more evident. For example, salt marshes and eelgrass can reduce storm impacts and support local fisheries.

We’ve hardened our coasts with sea walls and breakwaters that diminish these resources. Twenty years from now, I hope to see that reversed.

nature.org:

You grew up on the Sound. How has it changed?

Chantal Collier:

I’ve been back to our old summer house as an adult, and the beach is much smaller and the water less clear than I remember. There’s also a tremendous amount of new coastal development.

nature.org:

What one thing should each member do to help the Sound?

Chantal Collier:

Be engaged in your community, in expressing environmental concerns to state and local officials—and, of course, please give to the Long Island Sound program. This great estuary affects all of us, and we need to work together to protect it.


Cara Chancellor writes for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

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