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Long Island

Urgent call to increase conservation funds

The Nature Conservancy of Long Island said government leaders at all levels must increase funding for land preservation and strengthen groundwater standards to protect the region's natural resources.

The annual "Long Island's Last Stand" report details conservation efforts, but for the first time also focuses on protecting groundwater and saltwater harbors, bays and marine areas.

The group pointed to rising nitrogen levels and increasing algal blooms as evidence for the need to change how water quality is managed.

"Residents have to be made aware of the problem and that the cause of the problem is manageable," said Kevin McDonald, director of public policy and public funding for the Nature Conservancy.

Started in 2006, the "last stand" initiative brought together 100 organizations, business, and government entities to pledge to protect 25,000 acres of open space and 10,000 acres of farmland before 2020, the estimated year when available portions of land were likely to be designated for development or preservation. The recession has pushed that date to 2025.

Since 2006, 9,300 acres have been preserved.

The report calls on the state to fund land preservation efforts by $50 million annually, and place a ballot initiative before voters to raise $3 billion for land protection. The group also said the counties need to pass land preservation bonds ($40 million for Nassau and $60 million for Suffolk).

"Suffolk County is engaging in a strategic assessment of all parcels previously identified through our master list," said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. "We'll make an assessment as to the need and prioritize acquisitions."

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