Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan – 2015

 

By Mark Tedesco

Long Island Sound has a long history, intertwined with that of our nation. In the 400 years since Adriaen Block’s exploration of its shores, the lands and communities around Long Island Sound have changed from forest to field, from agriculture to town and city, and from a manufacturing-based to service-dominated economy. The waters also changed with development, but too often the story was of loss and degradation. No longer. Long Island Sound, called the “American Mediterranean” by statesman Daniel Webster in the 1800s, and more recently nicknamed the “Urban Sea,” has proved resilient. Active efforts to protect and restore the Sound are succeeding. Over the past 20 years, using a 1994 plan as a template, federal, state, and local partners have worked together to reduce nitrogen pollution by 40 million pounds, restore 1,625 acres of habitat, reopen 317 miles of fish passage, and involve hundreds of thousands of people in education and volunteer projects to help bring Long Island Sound back to health and abundance.

Now, EPA has joined with the states of Connecticut and New York, along with many other partners, to release a new Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound. The plan sets ambitious, but achievable, targets for restoring the ecosystem over the next 20 years. It includes 139 actions to support clean water, healthy and diverse habitats, and sustainable and resilient communities through strong science and partnerships. Throughout, the plan integrates the principles of climate change resiliency, long-term sustainability, and environmental justice.

The health of the Sound and the waters that drain into it is inextricably tied to the health of an economy that directly supports the people living in the watershed. A healthy Long Island Sound along with its coastal habitats provide a variety of goods and services such as flood and storm protection, water filtration, recreation, commercially and recreationally-important fish and bird populations, carbon sequestration, and other functions. Investing in Long Island Sound can bring real returns—beaches open for summer fun, increased opportunities for recreational boating and fishing, increased areas for shellfish harvesting, rivers open for ocean-going fish to return to spawn, and wetlands and eelgrass that nurse living resources and protect coastal communities from storms. What’s needed is not just a sustained and cooperative effort by government, but the will and support of the people of the region.

About the Author: Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.

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