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Long Island

Conservation plan notes areas in need of conservation

A couple canoes along the Nissequogue River near

A couple canoes along the Nissequogue River near Short Beach Park on Oct. 1, 2012. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

New York State needs to act quickly to preserve open space on Long Island before it is developed, according to recommendations in a draft of a conservation plan issued by three state agencies.

The plan, prepared by the state Department of Environmental Conservation; the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and the Department of State was released this month. It's designed to help determine how state Environmental Protection Funds are spent and details seven broad areas on Long Island that are deemed critical for conservation.

The areas were chosen with the help of a regional open space advisory committee, and largely mirror an earlier report.

"In some respects, you could call it the environmentalists of Long Island saying, 'This is our wish list,' " said Kevin Neal, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College and a member of the committee.

The list includes areas on the Atlantic Coast and Long Island Sound, the Pine Barrens, the South Shore Estuary and Peconic Pinelands Maritime reserves, in addition to special groundwater protection areas and trails and greenways in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Several projects are proposed for each of these areas.

The report said open space is critical for keeping Long Island's underground aquifer system, the sole source of the region's drinking water, free of contaminants.

In addition, effects of climate change can be reduced by increasing open space along Long Island's coasts, which allows the coastal areas to absorb the impact of sea-level rise and severe storms, according to the report.

The report requests that the state allocate at least $15 million a year for 10 years in Environmental Protection Fund money to Long Island for the acquisition of open space. The state has spent only $5 million in EPF money on Long Island since 2009 -- on 100 acres in the Central Pine Barrens, according to the report.

"In many respects, compared to other parts of the state, Long Island has contributed its portion, but we don't seem to get that portion back from Albany," Neal said. "Long Island isn't getting its fair share of preservation funds."

An earlier version of the report was issued in 2009, with most of the same projects listed as priorities for the state to fund.

"We need to act on this list, which has been sitting largely unacted upon for the last five years," said Neal, who also sat on the committee that issued the 2009 report.

A public hearing on the draft plan will be held Oct. 22 at the DEC offices in Stony Brook. Written comments on the plan will be accepted until Dec. 17.

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