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CT's Estuarine Research Reserve to Focus on Preserving Long Island Sound

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022   

Connecticut has secured its first National Estuarine Research Reserve along part of the state's Long Island Sound.

Conservationists applaud the news as key toward finding solutions to address habitats threatened by climate change. The reserve is a state-federal partnership, providing annual funding for research on climate resiliency, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitats.

Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, who has been a strong advocate for the reserve, said scientists have learned a lot about species of Long Island Sound over the last decade, and the funding presents a chance to uncover more.

"We didn't even know that cownose rays were found in Long Island Sound, let alone that they are a globally vulnerable species, and we have particularly good numbers of them here in Long Island Sound," Comins explained. "What we learn here helps us to be more effective, spending the funding that we have for the related ecosystems."

The Connecticut reserve, the nation's 30th, includes more than 50,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state, where the Connecticut and Thames rivers meet Long Island Sound. Nearly 50 species listed under the Connecticut Endangered Species Act can be found within the reserve.

Funding for the reserve also supports local educational programs, particularly opportunities for underserved communities facing environmental injustice.

Kevin O'Brien, supervising environmental analyst for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said as a living laboratory, the reserve can help inspire the next generation of scientists.

"Humans use these areas for recreation, to make their living, and all of them need to work cooperatively, and hand in hand," O'Brien asserted. "The more folks we can get interested in environmental issues now, the better chance we have to be better environmental stewards down the road."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversees the entire National Estuarine Research Reserve system.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the University of Connecticut and Connecticut Sea Grant are the primary state partners.

O'Brien added a ceremony celebrating the creation of the reserve is anticipated for this spring at Avery Point.


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