New York

Protecting Wetlands and Marshes

Both people and wildlife depend on tidal wetlands. Before 1974, some 10,000 acres of salt marshes on Long Island were destroyed. Now, laws exist to protect them from draining and filling.

But, in some cases, New York's remaining marshes are slowly being degraded and destroyed by other, more insidious forces: sea level rise, invasive species, shoreline hardening like bulkheads, cleared vegetation, and polluted groundwater or runoff.

Why Wetlands Matter
  • Capture pollutants before they enter our beaches and bays
  • Prevent shoreline erosion and flooding
  • Buffer the force of storms
  • Provide nursery and nesting habitat and feeding areas for fish, birds, crabs and turtles
  • Provide a critical link in the food chain of bay and ocean wildlife
What We're Doing

Monitoring marshes - The Conservancy has been working with NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to install monitoring stations in New York City, adding to its network of monitoring stations throughout Long Island. By measuring elevation changes at marshes from New York City to Montauk, we are able to evaluate whether those marshes are keeping pace with climate change. In cases where they’re not, we can begin to identify why and come up with a scientific strategy to solve the problem.

Strengthening wetland protection - By working with the legislators in the state and local townships, we are helping to strengthen and enforce wetland protection laws.

Creating wetland buffers - One threat to wetlands is coastal development. We are working to establish coastal buffers and effective wetland protection regulations at the local and state levels, including protecting wetlands from modification for purposes of development and mosquito-control.

Restoring wetlands -  In a federally funded project, we are working to rehabilitate approximately 400 acres of degraded marshes on the south shore of Suffolk County using techniques strategically selected to increase resiliency. The restorations will reverse degradation of salt marsh areas impacted by waterlogging, extensive mudflat and panne formation, and shoreline erosion. A very important component of this proposal is a Regional Technical Workgroup to be led by The Nature Conservancy that will be composed of restoration practitioners from across the Sandy-imacted region (Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island).

How You Can Help

Control invasive species. Keep existing native vegetation along the shoreline, and plant native trees and shrubs.

Stop pollution. Limiting your use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides helps reduce runoff that can harm wetlands and marshes.

Support wetland-friendly policies. Call your New York State Assembly member and express support for Long Island Assemblyman Bob Sweeny’s bill that would require a State groundwater standard limiting Nitrogen concentration, a threat to marshes. Calling public officials and asking for clean air and water also will help reduce nitrogen pollution.

Get to know your wetlands. Nearly two dozen New York City public parks in all five boroughs have wetlands. Here are a few to consider:



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