Long Island residents overwhelmingly support public investments that protect open space and preserve farmland, according to a poll released today by a coalition of Long Island environmental and conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, the North Shore Land Alliance, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the Peconic Land Trust and the Group for the East End (download a summary of key findings). The poll surveyed 800 Long Island voters to find out how the current recession affected their willingness to protect Long Island from future over-development.
Long Island residents still see the threat of over-development as a serious challenge to their future quality of life. Nearly two out of three Long Island residents believe there is too much development on Long Island. Most understand that more development increases traffic congestion, leads to higher taxes and generally hurts the quality of life on Long Island. And nearly seven out of 10 reject the argument that we’ve saved enough open space and farmland already and so should stop government land protection programs.
Although nearly three quarters of Long Islanders polled expected the economy to get worse in the next twelve months, they support current government land protections programs—8 in ten voters believe local governments on Long Island should maintain or increase spending levels on open space preservation. They also agreed that voter approved and dedicated land preservation funding cannot be used for any other purpose and it is so small (less than one percent of most local government’s annual budgets) that it wouldn’t help the economy anyway.
“Voters believe that Long Island can have both conservation and a strong economy at the same time, and that communities do not have to choose between the two—in fact, voters believe that the protection of our natural lands and working farms will both protect Long Island’s quality of life and strengthen its economy,” said John v. H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust.
“Protection of clean drinking water and protection of the water quality in our harbors and bays stand as important outcomes for Long Island residents. Long Islanders realize that once land, water and wildlife are lost to development, that they are lost forever to future generations,” said Lisa Ott, Executive Director of the North Shore Land Alliance.
“These results show that Long Islanders understand the relationship between their quality of life and protection of our lands and waters. It’s good to know that, even in bad economic times, people here still want us to make substantial investments in our future economic well-being by saving the farms and natural lands that are the permanent basis the region’s quality of life,” said Bob DeLuca, executive director of the Group for the East End.
"It is encouraging to see that Long Island voters understand that now is actually a good time to be preserving land as real-estate prices have fallen," said Leslie Wright, New York state director with The Trust for Public Land. "Maintaining or increasing funding for open space programs, as most voters want to see, will enable communities to seize some tremendous land conservation opportunities and get more bang for their buck."
“There can be no doubt that Long Island residents want to see more protected open space and farmland in their futures. And they remain willing to pay for it. Politicians should note that these results, as well as the results of over a dozen conservation ballot initiatives in the last 20 years, dramatically substantiate a mandate for land protection here,” commented Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.
“In tough times, it is vitally important that we understand what the public wants government to do. These results make it clear that Long Island residents want government to maintain its commitment to protecting our tourist economy, our agricultural economy and our recreational economy through bold and sustained land protection actions. Compared to the annual cost of running Suffolk County, these programs remain a bargain with huge payouts to our children and grandchildren in years to come,” added Kevin McDonald, director of public lands for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island.
 Methodology: From February 19.23, 2009, Fairbank, Maullin, Maslin and Associates completed 800 telephone interviews with Long Island, NY voters who are likely to cast ballots in the November 2009 election. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 3.5%, margins of error for other subgroups within the sample will be higher.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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