Habitat improvements in store at the Coastal Center thanks to a new Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant
December 7, 2020 — Federal and state environmental officials today announced 24 grants totaling $2.8 million to local governments, nongovernmental organizations and community groups in New England to improve Long Island Sound. Included in this year’s grants is more than $44,000 for the Connecticut Audubon Society to restore coastal beach, dune and forest habitat at the Milford Point Coastal Center.
Connecticut Audubon will carry out the work and will provide about $45,000 in matching funds.
These Long Island Sound Futures Fund/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants are being matched by $2.3 million from the grantees, resulting in $5.1 million in funding for conservation around the Long Island Sound watershed.
Work funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has shown how projects led by local groups and communities make a difference in improving water quality and restoring habitat around the Long Island Sound watershed. The grant program combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“Long Island Sound is vital to local communities, economies and ecosystems, and these grants will greatly benefit the Sound for years to come,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. “Protecting and restoring Long Island Sound requires a watershed-wide approach and EPA is proud to again support diverse and innovative projects in five of the states that comprise the Sound’s watershed.”
The Coastal Center and the Smith Hubbell Wildlife Sanctuary that surrounds it is already a regionally important area for birds and other wildlife. It has a thriving Purple Martin colony, and populations of federally-threatened Piping Plovers and state-threatened American Oystercatchers. A recirculating fountain-waterfall, installed several years ago, has provided a source of fresh water that attracts numerous birds.
“The habitat work funded by the grant will build on what is already a great wildlife sanctuary in the middle of the ecologically-rich Housatonic River Estuary,” said Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive director. “The birds and pollinators that the improved habitat attracts will surely benefit, but so will the thousands of people who visit each year specifically to enjoy those things.
“We are extremely grateful to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for this grant. It will help transform the Coastal Center into something even better.”
Connecticut Audubon has gotten a head start and is documenting and mapping plant species at the grounds surrounding the Coastal Center (the Smith-HubbellWildlife Sanctuary).
During the grant project period, Connecticut Audubon staff will remove invasive plants such as mugwort, autumn olive, clammy locust, black locust, Japanese honeysuckle, shrub honeysuckle, and Japanese knotweed; and replace them with native species.
The work will improve the area’s wildlife habitat and protect its soils. Public education programs are also part of the project.
The Long Island Sound Futures Fund/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 2020 grants will reach more than 670,000 residents through environmental education programs and conservation projects. Water quality improvement projects will treat 5.4 million gallons of stormwater, install 23,000-square-feet of green infrastructure and prevent 3,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering Long Island Sound.
The projects will also open 3.7 river miles and restore 108 acres of coastal habitat for fish and wildlife.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus, added: “The Long Island Sound is one of our most treasured natural resources, and it is vital that we continue to support programs and services that maintain its health and vitality. Having grown up on its shores, the Sound has always held a special place with me, and I am so proud to have the opportunity to work to ensure that its beaches and waters remain places for children and families to enjoy. We have made extraordinary strides, but issues with sewer overflows, stormwater runoff, and other climate change issues challenge us to do more – and so we will. As one of the Long Island Sound Caucus leaders, and the incoming Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which is the committee that has jurisdiction over all discretionary funding, I am thrilled to have helped provide this funding for a revitalized Long Island Sound. I remain committed to working with NFWF and EPA and with my Congressional colleagues, and the many Long Island Sound advocates here today doing this critical conservation work.”
“Estuaries and their surrounding lands and waters represent some of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “Through 15 years of grant-making, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund has supported projects to improve the Sound by fostering environmental stewardship and public awareness and education, restoring habitat for fish and wildlife, preventing pollution, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities.”
The Long Island Sound Study initiated the Futures Fund in 2005 through the EPA’s Long Island Sound Office and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Before this year’s grants, the Futures Fund has invested $23 million in 450 projects. The program has generated an additional $40 million in grantee match, for a total conservation impact of $63 million for regional and local projects.
The projects have added 105 river miles for fish passage, restored 773 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat, treated 200 million gallons of pollution, and educated and engaged 3 million people in protection and restoration of the Sound. For more information about LISFF accomplishments follow the link to Long Island Sound 15 Years of Conservation Success.
“Investing in our coastal marshes pays off — they protect property and infrastructure from flooding, provide clean water, and support fishery, recreation and tourism industries,” said Sharon Marino, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North Atlantic-Appalachian assistant regional director. “We’re pleased to contribute funding to projects this year that will also help the saltmarsh sparrow, a bird whose drastic declines demand urgent efforts to save our salt marshes. Together, we can begin to turn the tide for this species and others.”
“Connecticut DEEP is committed to preserving and protecting Long Island Sound and the rivers that flow to it for the benefit of all who live, work, and recreate in its watershed,” said Katie Dykes, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “This year, we are honored to celebrate the awarding of over $1.8 million in grants to 16 recipients in Connecticut, which also leverage over $1.45 million in local funding. These projects will protect and improve the health of Long Island Sound by promoting habitat restoration, equitable access to the outdoors, sustainable resilient communities, and water quality improvements.”
Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people while also providing habitat for more than 1,200 invertebrates, 170 species of fish and dozens of species of migratory birds.
The grant projects contribute to a healthier Long Island Sound for everyone, from nearby area residents to those at the furthest reaches of the Sound. All 9 million people who live, work and play in the watershed impacting the Sound can benefit from and help build on the progress that has already been made.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the Long Island Sound Study
The Long Island Sound Study, developed under the EPA’s National Estuary Program, is a cooperative effort between the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York to protect and restore the Sound and its ecosystem. To learn more about the Long Island Sound Study, visit www.longislandsoundstudy.net.