There are many benefits to land protection, including preserving unique species and natural communities, controlling nitrogen loads to optimize dissolved oxygen in the water for fish and shellfish, and protecting surface water quality and groundwater recharge areas from other adverse effects. In addition, the public has a strong attachment to the natural and amenity resources of the Peconic Estuary region, even if they do not use them directly or frequently.
Ever-increasing development is consuming open space and natural habitat, and stressing watersheds and natural communities. The region’s growing population and the significant increase in the rate of development in the last five years underscores the need for immediate action to protect the estimated 40% of acreage in the Peconic Estuary study area that still could be developed.
Based on 2001 data, over 33% (37,771 acres) of the Peconic Watershed in the five East End Towns is protected. A significant amount of additional open space has been preserved since then.
- Accelerate land protection, including acquisition, in the watershed
- Develop and implement a process whereby lands are identified as priorities for protection, including acquisition
- Estimate funding needed for land protection, quantify benefits, evaluate funding sources, and seek funding
- Help to resolve issues regarding underwater land ownership and management
A wide range of activities is underway by governmental and non-governmental entities and private citizens to address critical lands protection. Many of these efforts are endorsed and supported by the Peconic Estuary Program and are described in the CCMP. Examples include:
- PEP Critical Lands Protection Strategy (CLPS), an effort to prioritize land for protection;
- Community Preservation Fund, a program through which open space is acquired; and
- Efforts to maintain the coastline of the Peconics in its natural state by discouraging shoreline hardening structures through regulatory and non-regulatory means.