Long Island Sound Gets Nearly $1 M for Environmental Health

Gathering near the shores of the Long Island Sound in Westchester County, federal and state environmental officials on Sept. 26 announced 35 grants to state and local government and community groups under the Long Island Sound Futures Fund.

The $912,994 in grants will be leveraged by $1.4 million raised by the recipients themselves, providing a total of nearly $2.3 million toward on-the-ground conservation in Connecticut and New York.

??"The Long Island Sound Futures Fund grew out of a partnership that achieves environmental protection through collaboration and shared resources," said Alan J. Steinberg, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2, which includes New York. "These grants help local experts achieve results that will benefit the Sound and its inhabitants for generations."

??"EPA's actions continue to show our lasting commitment to a healthy Long Island Sound," said Robert Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England region, which includes Connecticut. "EPA's funding for these important projects, along with the support from other organizations, substantially boosts our efforts to target environmental concerns and take action to protect the Sound."

??The Sound Futures Fund was initiated in 2005 by the Long Island Sound Study through EPA's Long Island Sound Office and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

??This year's grant program funded 17 grants in New York and 18 grants in Connecticut. Four grants were awarded for habitat restoration; five grants for planning and stewardship; five for education; three for improving water quality, and three for conservation of native fish and bird species. Thirteen small grants totaling $68,000 were awarded to increase understanding and appreciation of the Long Island Sound through community events and activities.

??Using the funding, groups will restore 17.45 acres of grassland for birds, beaches, and aquatic eelgrass, which benefits fish and water quality. A project at Sunken Meadow Park will open 111 acres of salt marsh and underwater areas, which currently have restricted natural tidal flow. The award for Barn Island Wildlife Management Area will be used to help acquire 48 acres of tidal wetlands. Nassau County will seed 2 million shellfish to repopulate Hempstead Harbor, once an abundant fishery. Approximately 300,000 gallons of stormwater will be treated by a green roof at Randall's Island Park in New York City. Seventy communities and more than 100 municipal officials and community leaders will develop a range of tools to deal with water pollution and to prepare watershed plans for their communities. More than 13,000 citizens will help create awareness of and a commitment to high-value natural resources, and some 2,700 volunteers will be involved in cleaning up 233 miles of beaches.

??Since 2005, the Sound Futures Fund has provided $3.6 million to 117 projects in communities surrounding the Sound. With a grantee match of more than $10 million, over $14 million in locally based conservation has been, in part, galvanized by the grant program. The projects will open up 33 river miles for fish passage and restore 193 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat, including lakes, underwater grasses, woodlands, meadows, tidal wetlands, and park frontage.

??The grant program pools funds from EPA, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Shell Marine Habitat Program for projects to restore the health and living resources of Long Island Sound. Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people, while also providing natural habitats to more than 1,200 invertebrate species, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds.

??"One of the greatest environmental challenges facing our communities is the protection and restoration of estuaries," said Michael Slattery, regional director, Eastern Partnership Office, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. "This funding represents the foundation's continuing commitment, as well as the commitment of our federal and state partners, to further restoration efforts aimed at improving the overall health of the Long Island Sound."

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