Wildlife Biologist & Liaison to the EPA Long Island Sound Study, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Coastal Program
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Long Island Sound Study is a cooperative bi-state effort to protect the Sound by focusing on hypoxia, habitat restoration, public involvement and education, and water quality monitoring. I co-chair the habitat restoration and land protection work groups. These groups are often involved in decisions regarding the where, when, and how of habitat restoration and protection around Long Island Sound.
How Connect the Connecticut connects
Connect the Connecticut helps us to be much more strategic in decisions related to habitat restoration and land acquisition. The tool provides a landscape-scale perspective that we did not have before. It can help us prioritize limited dollars in an ecologically important area where it is expensive to do work.
How it will inform work on the ground
We often make decisions about where to focus restoration dollars. We recently completed a habitat quality assessment looking at the health of rivers, grasslands, forests, wetlands, and embayments within the Connecticut portion of the Long Island Sound coastal boundary. One of the biggest challenges these habitats face is urban pressure. Forests, for example, face issues such as fragmentation.
This tool shows quantifiably where the highest quality forests are located. Coupled with what we already know about this region, the tool helps us identify where increasing connectivity could have the greatest impact.
It is highly beneficial to have a tool that operates on a landscape scale and across a region as diverse as the Connecticut River watershed. Tools like this not only help us think about functionality and integrity at an ecosystem scale, but give us the ability to strategically improve these aspects across the landscape.
The Terrestrial Core-Connector Network can be used to identify high-value value corridors. This application can guide acquisition and restoration decisions that will help restore the integrity of habitats at a landscape scale.
We will also direct our partners to the Culvert Upgrade Impacts and Dam Removal Impacts layers. The EPA Long Island Sound Study helps to manage the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Future Fund grant every year. This grant provides approximately $1.2 million for a diversity of projects, including habitat restoration and dam removal work. Connect the Connecticut offers another layer of information that can help the review team select the highest priority projects.
Another asset to the Long Island Sound Study and our partners is the Probability of Development layer. The Long Island Sound Study designates 33 stewardship sites around the Sound — lands of high ecological, recreational, and scientific significance. They include National Wildlife Refuges and other protected areas. Probability of Development helps us more clearly understand how intense the pressures are around these sites, and better allocate resources to protect them in a variety of ways, such as increasing buffers and working with surrounding landowners to minimize negative ecological impacts.
Additional information and resources