Dear Audubon Member,
On a balmy summer evening in 1987, a man fishing in Long Island Sound at New Rochelle, New York, reported an amazing sight. All along the shoreline lobsters were clambering out of the water onto the rocks. As it turned out, they were desperately searching for oxygen. Unfortunately, they soon died, as did scores of fish and other marine creatures throughout the estuary. Long Island Sound had just issued a distress call.
Audubon answered that call, mobilizing citizens to contribute to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Long Island Sound Study. We convened a two-state Listen to the Sound Campaign that galvanized public opinion and led the way for a nationally approved Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan that would set the course for restoring this magnificent estuary. The goal is to return the Sound to its former glory.
Nearly 400 years ago, when Adrian Block first sailed into the Sound, he found its waters full of fish, its beaches covered with shorebirds, and its forests rich with black bears, coyotes, and bobcats. The European settlers soon joined the native population in enjoying the Sound’s bounty. Today more than 10 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the Sound, a recreational and economic powerhouse that pumps $5.5 billion into the regional economy each year.
But the Sound has paid a steep price for progress. Overdevelopment has destroyed and degraded critical habitat, and interfered with public access. Municipalities along the coast, and throughout the Sound’s six-state, 16,280-square-mile watershed, operate sewage and storm-water treatment facilities that are incapable of adequately treating the nitrogen-laden waste they ultimately pump into the Sound. Excess nitrogen from these facilities and from lawns and gardens rob the water of life-giving oxygen, rendering large parts of the Sound an ecological “dead zone” each summer.
To tackle this problem, Audubon took a unique approach, forming the Clean Water Jobs Coalition—an alliance of conservation organizations, labor unions, and construction leaders. This alliance led the charge for the passage and reauthorization this year of the federal Long Island Sound Restoration Act, directing up to $40 million annually to water pollution projects in New York and Connecticut that will create jobs and improve water quality. Audubon played a pivotal role in the historic agreement between New York City and New York State, and in efforts to restore Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund, both of which will build on the 25 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution achieved since 1991.
Our newest effort is the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act now pending in Congress. It would authorize $25 million annually through 2013 to protect wetlands and open space along the coast. These areas help filter polluted runoff, protect critical wildlife habitat, and expand public access to this magnificent resource.
Long Island Sound will never again be the pristine wilderness encountered by Adrian Block, but we can make it cleaner and safer for people and wildlife. You can help the Sound—and water bodies nationwide—by signing Audubon’s Healthy Yard pledge to reduce pesticides and fertilizers in your backyard (http://web1.audubon.org/at_home/pledge). To find out more about Audubon’s Long Island Sound Campaign, go to www.audubon.org/campaign/lis.html.
© 2006 National Audubon Society
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