Report on Long Island's Environment Identifies Future Water Quality Needs, Conservation Successes, Shortcomings in 2011
While Successful Conservation Occurred, Increased Effort Needed for Water Quality Protection in Future
East Hampton, New York | July 18, 2012
East Hampton, New York July 18, 2012–More than 1,000 acres of open space and natural areas, and 360 acres of working farms on Long Island were protected in 2011, according to a report issued today by The Nature Conservancy. The 2011 report on Long Island’s Last Stand observes that despite a slow economy, land preservation and stewardship of lands and waters remains an important local priority. However, the report cautioned that a more aggressive stance must be taken to address degraded water quality throughout Long Island.
Long Island’s Last Stand is an action plan led by The Nature Conservancy with 100 other organizations, businesses, individuals and government officials, to protect 25,000 acres of open space and natural areas, preserve 10,000 acres of farmland and to restore thousands of acres of lands and waters – including our drinking water. In the six years since the creation of Long Island’s Last Stand (January, 2006), nearly 9,300 acres have been protected (about 1,390 in 2011) and efforts are underway to ensure the quality of our waters.
“There is a clear vision for success for a healthy environment on Long Island,” said Kevin McDonald, conservation finance and policy director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Enhancement and protection of Long Island’s harbors and bays, and drinking water quality must become a top priority from a two pronged approach: new funding sources for land conservation need to be established as well as a new groundwater purity standard for Long Island’s sole source aquifer.”
A standard of two parts per million nitrate in our aquifer (instead of current standard of 10 PPM) would be a vital step towards the restoration and protection of groundwater quality and the quality of water in our harbors, bays, rivers and creeks. Septic system discharge into our sole source aquifer and resulting polluted groundwater and sewer outflows into bays and harbors present the largest challenge to preserving and restoring the coastal and marine environment around Long Island.
“We are polluting our drinking water,” explains Dr. Marci Bortman, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Everything we put on the ground winds up in our groundwater and in turn in our bays and estuaries. A significant source of pollutants –from wastewater – must be addressed. We must reduce the amount of nitrogen in our groundwater so that drinking water is safe and our bays and harbors are clean now and in the future.”
“Preserving land and open space allows for ongoing natural benefits free of charge, like filtering and purifying our water. In fact, our waters are cleanest in places where we have actively protected natural landscapes,” said Nancy Kelley, executive director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Our wetlands provide a natural buffer against storms and keep the water in our bays and harbors clean. And, naturally-occurring seagrass meadows are nurseries for seafood like striped bass, flounder and shellfish. But more needs to be done in both land preservation and water quality protection if Long Island’s environment is to remain healthy and thriving.”
LAND PROTECTION WRAP-UP:
• Suffolk County: protected nearly 740 acres in 2011
• Long Island Towns: : Land protection numbers in the five East End towns and Brookhaven are up significantly as compared to the previous two years
• New York State: was unable to buy land on Long Island but a 2.4 acre donation was added to Cold Spring Harbor Park
• Nassau County and Towns: no land protection occurred by either Nassau County or any of its towns
To download the 2011 Long Island Last Stand report, visit www.nature.org/longisland
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Long Island’s Last Stand is an action plan to save Long Island’s most significant remaining open spaces and farmland and to restore and protect our harbors, bays, and public parkland. Long Island’s Last Stand is supported by a coalition of concerned citizens, farmers, business leaders and conservation groups who are taking a stand to protect remaining natural areas and to restore Long Island’s lands, waters and way of life.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.