As my time in the Senate comes to a close, I often reflect on the great experiences and occasional achievements I have enjoyed while representing the great State of Connecticut. When so much of our work in Congress is based on questions that are urgent, it is especially meaningful to have contributed to preserving something for future generations.
This is why one of my proudest accomplishments has been my work to help clean up, restore, and ensure the long-term protection of the Long Island Sound. The Sound is a vital resource to the citizens and businesses of Connecticut and, indeed, to all six states that comprise its watershed. More than 28 million people live within 50 miles of the Sound; and the area contributes more than $9 billion to the regional economy from boating, fishing, swimming, and tourism activities. It is truly a national treasure; however, by the time I had arrived in the Senate in 1989, decades of overdevelopment, pollution, and haphazard dredging had taken their toll.
One of my first initiatives in the Senate was to introduce legislation creating a Long Island Sound Office within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ever since, I have fought to protect the Sound’s fragile ecosystems for generations to come. These efforts have included programs to monitor water quality in the Sound; to revitalize vegetation, diverse wildlife, and other coastal wetland habitats; and to acquire land and easements that protect the Sound’s important ecological and public recreational sites. We have made progress; but much more must be done to restore the beauty, health, vitality, and rich, abundant habitats that are unique to the Sound.
Today, the entire Connecticut delegation is working with Save the Sound and other partner organizations, as well as state and local governments, to better protect the Sound and its tributaries. For these efforts to succeed, though, Nutmeggers and our neighbors throughout the watershed will have to make an impact on the Sound in their everyday lives – whether it is joining a beach cleanup, reducing their fertilizer use, or even heading to the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy and introduce future generations to this great resource.
So as we celebrate Long Island Sound Day, I will repeat what I have said many times before: the mark of greatness in a generation lies not just in what it builds for itself, but also in what it preserves for the generations to come. Let’s make sure that Long Island Sound remains a natural treasure for generations to come.
Senator Joe Lieberman is the senior senator from the State of Connecticut.