I have the pleasure of representing Connecticut’s Fifth District in Congress – among the state’s five districts, it’s one of only two that don’t border the Long Island Sound itself. Of course, that doesn’t mean my part of the state isn’t inextricably linked to the Sound in a thousand ways both large and small. Our rivers – like the Shepaug, the Still, the Pomperaug, the Naugatuck, and the Farmington – all wind their way through Western Connecticut before collecting into the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers and then flowing to the Sound. Though it took decades, Connecticut long ago awoke to the reality that the health of the Sound is dependent upon the health of its rivers. The legacy of generations’ worth of pollution and unrestricted run-off into those waterways was felt throughout the Sound, and it’s only in recent years that we’ve begun the hard work of coordinating amongst the entire inland watershed to better protect it.
Regardless of where you live in Connecticut, you can’t help but be aware of some of the value that the Sound generates for the state and the region. And that’s good. In recent decades, there’s been an admirable movement in conservation circles to do a better job of quantifying the value of preserving natural ecosystems – in a world increasingly defined by the cruel arithmetic of costs and benefits, it helps to be able to estimate the economic and health benefits we generate when we do a better job of preserving a drinking water aquifer or a forest system, for example.
But there are some natural wonders whose value is just impossible to capture with numbers alone. Long Island Sound comes to mind. We know a great deal about the billions of dollars that the Sound generates annually for Connecticut as a commercial and sport fishery, a recreational resource, and as a richly-productive wildlife habitat. But the utter poverty of those figures in describing the Sound only becomes apparent when you see it for yourself up close. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the Sound’s beauty and its vastness when it’s in front of you, battering the shoreline on a cold, windy New England day. It’s that – that feeling of awe and wonder – that we’re never gonna be able to hang a number on. And that’s what we need to try and always remember when we’re working to protect the Sound, both in New England and in Washington, and everywhere else where people care about preserving priceless natural treasures.
Congressman Chris Murphy represents Connecticut’s Fifth District.