Recent report highlights Sound’s annual $17-36 billion economic contribution to region
April 29, 2015
Sarah Ganong, Save the Sound: (203) 787 0646 ext. 128
New Haven, Conn.—This week, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) of the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) is visiting the region’s Congressional delegation to seek additional resources for the protection and restoration of Long Island Sound. This investment is money well spent, as demonstrated by a recent Earth Economics report on the value of Long Island Sound and its basin, estimated at $17-$36 billion annually. The report also found that over $5.2 billion in direct wages and at least 190,000 jobs depend on the natural capital of the Sound and its basin.
“How many of us can imagine our region without a clean and healthy Long Island Sound?” asked Curt Johnson, CAC co-chair and executive director of Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Whether it’s small-scale fishers operating on their grandfather’s boats or children returning each summer to swim on the Sound’s beaches, Long Island Sound is a crucial part of our cultural and economic heritage—one that we must continue to protect and fund in order to achieve its full potential. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the Sound become cleaner, fish return to our waters, and small-scale industry thrive again. But now is not the time to become complacent. As the Sound continues to face threats from nitrogen pollution and climate change, the federal government must continue to fund the restoration of Long Island Sound and its environment. As we give to the Sound, the Sound will return to us in great measure.”
During their Hill visits, CAC members will ask for the reauthorization of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Acts, and increased program funding, as well as for the National Estuary Program funds for Long Island Sound. They will also request federal investments to reduce nitrogen inputs into the Sound, and permanent preservation of Plum Island.
The Earth Economics report, “The Trillion Dollar Asset: the Economic Value of Long Island Sound Basin” shows the direct connection between what we do on the land and the health and productivity of the Long Island Sound estuary. It puts a value on the local industries that depend on a healthy Sound and the 190,000 jobs it supports.
“This study proves once again the Long Island Sound is priceless,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Even working hard to quantify the Long Island Sound’s value provided an amazing range of tremendous and valuable services that make coastal communities vibrant. Investing in Long Island Sound is like winning the lotto. A small investment of funds has a prosperous pay off.”
“We are excited the Citizen’s Advisory Committee can use this study to help with their important work in restoring and protecting Long Island Sound,” said David Batker, executive director of Earth Economics.
“Hempstead Harbor is a good example of how investing in water quality pays off,” said Eric Swenson, Executive Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee. “In 2011, after years of water quality improvements, thousands of acres in the harbor were reopened to shellfishing after being closed for 45 years. In 2014, the harbor became the second largest producer of hard clams in the New York State with nearly $1.36 million in value being contributed to the local economy.”
The annual value of Long Island Sound comes from ecosystem services, or the benefits that people and the economy derive from nature. Examples include providing clean water, recreational opportunities, coastal resiliency, waste treatment, wildlife habitat, and a stable climate.
“Long Island Sound is a globally significant ecosystem which provides critical habitat for birds and other wildlife and, as the Earth Economics report points out, is the backbone of region’s quality of life and economy,” said Sean Mahar, Director of Government Relations of Audubon New York. “New York and Connecticut have made significant investments to keep the Sound on the road to recovery, and we need Congress to do the same and capitalize on the great environmental and economic benefits the Sound provides.”
“Coastal and marine habitats such as salt marshes and seagrass meadows buffer coastal communities from storm surges, provide nurseries that sustain our fisheries, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Chantal Collier, Long Island Sound Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. “The Earth Economics report underscores the urgency of restoring water quality and protecting coastal habitats to safeguard the environmental services and economic benefits Long Island Sound provides, and that people and nature depend upon.”
Earth Economics found that over $5.2 billion in direct benefits are created annually by Long Island Sound. Industries in the analysis include shellfish farming, wind power, and recreational areas. These watershed health dependent jobs are in industries that would be significantly impaired by ecosystem degradation, that depend on natural resources, or that work to protect or manage natural resources, according to the report.
“One of the most tangible effects of Long Island Sound pollution on residents of communities around the Sound is the many lost beach days each summer,” said Nancy Seligson, co-chair of the CAC and the Town Supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck. “High levels of bacteria from sewage overflows make the waters unsafe for citizens to swim in, cutting into local enjoyment of our waters and harming the tourism backbone of many local economies. Knowing the value that Long Island Sound provides each summer provides just one more reason in a long line of arguments for increased funding to protect and enhance the Sound for the ten percent of the U.S. population living within fifty miles of its shores.”
“With more than 450 species of birds alone observed in or around Long Island Sound, there’s no question that the estuary is an ecological engine supporting natural diversity,” said Stewart Hudson, Executive Director of Audubon Connecticut. “The Earth Economics report drives home that fact that the Sound is also an economic engine and its long-term health is central to the people and wildlife of our densely populated state where 1.4 million individuals engage in wildlife-related recreation, generating $1.7 billion in economic activity each year and supporting thousands of jobs. With impacts from rising temperature and sea level already affecting the Sound’s waters and habitats, we need strong federal support to help us safeguard the health of this resource. It’s an investment in our ecological and economic future. * ”
Determining the value of Long Island Sound is particularly important in light of the many threats facing it: runoff from increased impervious surfaces and developed lands increase its nitrogen load and lower its oxygen content. Loss of coastal habitat due to development and sea level rise threaten the plants and animals that depend on the Sound. These threats, as noted in the report, can adversely affect the jobs that are dependent on a clean and healthy Sound. This report helps to illustrate the high cost and unintended economic consequences of not investing in the preservation of Long Island Sound.
The Long Island Sound Study (LISS) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is a volunteer organization that provides ongoing counsel to the federal, state, and local government Management Conference partners working on implementing the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for the restoration and protection of Long Island Sound.
Membership on the CAC is open to individuals representing environmental organizations, businesses, industries, local governments, and other public and private organizations in Connecticut and New York with a demonstrable interest in the restoration and protection of the Sound and its ecosystems. The CAC believes that #LISoundMatters.
* Reference for wildlife recreation stats: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau, 2011. National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation—Connecticut