State's Acquisition Protects Long Island Sound Coastal Lands
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced a $2 million acquisition of an undeveloped land parcel on Flax Pond in the village of Old Field, Suffolk County. This acquisition will result in greater protection of the Long Island Sound and was paid for with funds from the state's Environmental Protection Fund.
Commissioner Seggos said, "The use of funds from the state's Environmental Protection Fund to purchase this valuable parcel is an example of Governor Cuomo's continued commitment to protect our waterfront resources. While other government organizations are cutting back on funding to protect our environment, New York is maintaining its status as an environmental leader."
The six-acre wooded parcel on Shore Road has 300 feet of frontage along the southeasterly shore of Flax Pond, opposite the pond's outlet to the Long Island Sound. Its protection is cited in the 2016 Open Space Conservation Plan, released by Governor Cuomo last year, as a priority acquisition for protection of the Long Island Sound Watershed.
DEC worked with the New York-based Open Space Institute (OSI) to finalize the land acquisition. OSI purchased the property from a private seller in January 2016, and conveyed it to DEC this year after clearing the title and removing structures and debris, restoring the property to a natural condition.
Kim Elliman, OSI President and CEO, said, "The permanent protection of this Long Island Sound coastal property shows the value of effective public-private partnerships in successful land conservation. This project not only preserves a fragile coastline in a high population area, but will also provide important recreational and learning opportunities for the community. OSI thanks Governor Cuomo and the legislature for their continuing support of the land conservation through the EPF; and the DEC for its partnership in working to protect this critical shoreline property."
The newly acquired acreage will be added to the state's adjacent Flax Pond State Tidal Wetland, acquired by the state in 1966 under the joint jurisdiction of DEC and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The 146-acre facility includes the majority of Flax Pond and wetlands (128.2 acres) and adjacent upland (18 acres) and includes Childs Mansion and Flax Pond Marine Lab. DEC manages the acreage for habitat protection and nature enjoyment by the public while the university manages primarily for research and education.
The Shore Road parcel was at one time slated for development with two large residences. Its preservation will protect coastal water quality by preventing new residential runoff and leachate from entering the pond and sound. Environmental benefits of the acquisition are enhanced by the site restoration undertaken by OSI during its period of ownership, including abatement and demolition of the asbestos- containing residence, and removal and remediation of two underground oil tanks and on-site septic system.
Diverting new home development away from vulnerable coastal areas is part of Governor Cuomo's strategy to bolster New York's ability to withstand future coastal storms and their impacts. DEC has no immediate plans for the newly acquired land but any future use will be limited to low-impact passive recreation.
The property is an example of a mature maritime forest, a rare ecosystem in New York State. It includes several specimen-sized hickory, sassafras, and American holly trees. There is plentiful native wildlife such as deer, red fox, rabbits, and hawks, as well as egrets, herons, fish and shellfish.
New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "The preservation of Long Island's waterways is vital to protecting the way of life in this region and this collaborative effort between OSI and the DEC is a great step forward in those efforts. This year's budget highlights our state's record commitment to the protection of natural resources with $300 million for the EPF, and this land conservation deal clearly shows how important it is that we remain committed to that goal. I thank OSI and the DEC for their efforts in bringing this important project to reality."
New York State Assemblyman and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright said, "This acquisition of six acres of maritime forest fronting on Flax Pond is a strong statement of our state's strong commitment to environmental protection. Added to the significant assemblage of state ownership in the Flax Pond State Tidal Wetland, this parcel will enhance efforts to protect the coastal saltmarsh and uplands for water quality, wildlife habitats, scientific research and education, and nature enjoyment. Special thanks to the Open Space Institute for their assistance with both acquisition and restoration of this property."
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman of the Legislature Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee said, "The acquisition of these six acres is not only an investment in the Flax Pond tidal estuary, but also in the Long Island Sound watershed. I applaud New York State and the Open Space Institute Land Trust for partnering to make this addition to the Flax Pond Tidal Wetland a reality for the protection of this area of Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat's biodiversity, its natural beauty and its connection to the health of the Long Island Sound."
For information on DEC-managed State Tidal Wetlands Areas on Long Island, visit DEC's website.
About the Open Space Institute
Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, the Open Space Institute is a leader in environmental conservation. OSI has partnered in the protection of 2.2 million acres in North America, from Alabama to southeastern Canada. All of OSI's work is directed by a consistent strategy emphasizing permanent protection on a landscape-level scale. OSI protects diverse landscapes including parks, preserves, working farms and forests, and utilizes climate science to identify critical landscapes for protection. OSI administers grant funds to preserve habitat for rare and endangered species, protect water resources, enhance recreational access and support sustainably managed lands.