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"Long Islandís Last Stand" Shows Progress In Protected Farmland

Originally Posted: May 22, 2009

East Hampton - More than 1,640 acres of open space, working farms and natural areas on Long Island were protected in 2008, according to a report recently issued by The Nature Conservancy. The 2008 Annual Report on Long Island's Last Stand observes that land protection on Long Island made considerable progress with 880 acres of open space and 760 acres of farmland protected. This annual total means that 5,800 acres of protected lands have been added since the start of Long Island's Last Stand in 2006. Despite this progress, however, the public is calling for more land protection, according to a poll conducted earlier this year.

Long Island's Last Stand is a 10-year initiative to save the most significant remaining open space and farmland on Long Island and to restore and protect its harbors, bays and public parklands. It is supported by a coalition of 100 local civic, farming, business and environmental leaders. Considerable progress is being made toward achieving this goal, however, New York State, Nassau and Suffolk Counties and Brookhaven Town need to ramp up their land preservation efforts. Figures for land preservation across Long Island are as follows - Suffolk County, 632 acres; eastern Suffolk Towns, 700 acres; Nassau County, 143 acres.

At one-third of the annual total, Suffolk County topped preservation efforts, though experienced a decline from its efforts in 2007. As the key funder in Long Island land protection, the County must increase funds to maintain momentum and help leverage other government resources for land protection.

The towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Brookhaven protected over 700 acres of natural areas, open space and farmland during 2008. Brookhaven preserved 90 acres, despite the 2007 depletion of its bonded funding for open space and farmland preservation and the absence of a replacement for those revenues.

The 2008 Annual Report on Long Island's Last Stand underscores that protection of water quality, open spaces and working farms brings important economic benefits to Long Island residents - benefits that vastly exceed the original cost of protecting land.

The report also outlines recommendations to keep Long Island's environment healthy, including new conservation bonding for New York State, Nassau County and Brookhaven Town, a greater commitment of public funding to manage and restore the lands and waters already protected and recommends that government fund and implement a comprehensive Island-wide initiative to protect our vulnerable shoreline
the creation of a new public authority to help enhance municipalities' and natural systems' resilience in the face of global warming and sea level rise.

"In its third year, we can see meaningful progress towards the goals of Long Island's Last Stand," stated Nancy Kelley, executive director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. "In the midst of an historic economic challenge, government continued to do what it does best: protect the future of all Long Islanders through thoughtful investments of its limited resources. Despite the challenging times, we're still investing in our future because that's exactly what the public wants and is willing to support."

"As this report acknowledges, there is still much to be done to protect the best of what remains on Long Island," commented Bob DeLuca, president and director of the Group for the East End. "But the best way to assure that success is to mark our progress and keep all the participants engaged in the endeavor. This report should both reassure us that work is still happening and keep the bar high so that greater success in land protection and habitat restoration can be ours in a timely way."

"Those who question the value of land protection simply do not understand the relationship between Long Island's economy and the resources that we are working so hard to conserve with our public partners - working farms that provide local food and other regional products, clean drinking water upon which we all depend, and the beaches, parks, trails, and woods that sustain residents and tourists alike," added John Halsey, president and founder of the Peconic Land Trust. "We cannot afford to lose the very assets that support agriculture, local tourism, and our second-home industry."

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