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For Release: Friday, April 28, 2017

Volunteers Join DEC to Plant over One Hundred Trees and Shrubs on Conscience Bay Property to Celebrate Arbor Day

Vegetation planted to help preserve Long Island Sound water quality

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced a tree planting ceremony with volunteers from the Peconic Land Trust and local children and residents who gathered today as part of the state's celebration of Arbor Day at DEC's Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland.

The tree planting ceremony is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to increase coastal resiliency by removing buildings from areas that may potentially be impacted by coastal storms and by adding natural defenses that will help withstand storms.

"Today marks a great day for Conscious Bay Watershed and Long Island Sound," DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher said. "Only two years ago a condemned house sat on this site, offering no protection to the public. Today we have planted over 150 shrubs and trees at this site that will filter water and make Conscious Bay and Long Island Sound healthier and better able to regrow tidal marshes that will act as a buffer against future storms."

Among the trees and shrubs planted at the site are scarlet oak, red chokeberry, groundsel bush, inkberry, northern bayberry, beach plum, and highbush blueberry.

"The plantings today build on the efforts of so many to ensure that this parcel serves as the pristine place it should be and grows on the efforts of the Peconic Land Trust to protect our vital and fragile waterfront. It also builds on the environmentally strong budget we recently passed which included a $2.5 billion investment in the water infrastructure and our continuing efforts to protect our environment. This is the only planet we have and we must work together to protect our collective future. To that end, I applaud the efforts of all the volunteers and the leadership of the organizations that are dedicating themselves to protecting our environment," stated Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright said, "It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, or today. So it is wonderful that today on Arbor Day we are planting native trees on coastal land that is being returned to its natural state. As these trees grow and mature, they will stabilize the landscape, create habitat for wildlife, and help protect the water quality of Conscience Bay, the greater Port Jefferson Harbor Complex, and the Long Island Sound. In twenty years' time, people will hopefully say that today was the best time to plant these trees."

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said, "Planting trees along Conscience Bay is a big step in improving the quality of our North Shore waterways and protecting our residents against future storms. This is a great example of how different levels of government can work together to make a positive impact on the local environment and the community."

"The intrinsic value of treed open space, particularly in a place as dense and environmentally complex as Suffolk County cannot be overstated," said Fifth District Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman the Suffolk County Legislature's Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee and its Parks and Recreation Committee. "These pockets of tranquility serve not only to calm the soul, but also cleanse the natural elements that feed all life on the lands, air and in the waters of Long Island."

"Collaborations between the community, conservation organizations and public partners are crucial to conserving land on Long Island. These efforts are key if we are to protect and restore the sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitats that are too often disappearing. This property on Dyke Road, from which a single-family residence has been removed, is now restored to its natural state by the NYS DEC - to the benefit of the broader community here in East Setauket. We were very pleased to have assisted the State in its acquisition and look forward to future collaborations in support of conservation," said Peconic Land Trust President John v.H. Halsey.

Property Background:

In 2015, DEC and the Peconic Land Trust completed a real estate transaction intended to provide greater protection for the Long Island Sound by establishing a vegetated upland buffer at DEC's Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland.

The 1.12-acre parcel includes the first upland area added to the already existing 52-acre Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland.

The funding used in 2015 for the acquisition was provided by the Long Island Sound Study through its Stewardship Initiative, which provided $750,000 for the acquisition and nearly $200,000 to remediate the site.

DEC first became interested in this property in 2008 but it was not until September 2014 that the Peconic Land Trust, a non-profit conservation organization working on DEC's behalf, was able to purchase the property from an out of state investor. On Earth Day April 22, 2015 the Trust conveyed the property to New York State.

The already existing Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland was acquired by DEC in the late 1970s from multiple property owners. Most of the land in the area consists of underwater lands and are a popular hunting location for local water fowlers as well as being popular with kayakers. The Conscience Bay Watershed Area has been identified as key land conservation priority in the State's Open Space Conservation Plan.

Upon receiving title to the property, DEC contracted for the demolition of a condemned home on the property and began restoration plans geared towards restoring the property to its natural state to enhance wetland function for water quality protection, habitat and coastal resiliency.

About the Peconic Land Trust:

Established in 1983 to conserve Long Island's working farms, natural lands, and heritage, the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit, tax-exempt conservation organization, has worked conscientiously with landowners, communities, municipalities, partner organizations, and donors, to conserve over 11,000 acres of land on Long Island. The Trust's professional staff carries out the necessary research and planning to identify and implement alternatives development alternatives that will conserve the productive farms, watersheds, woodlands, shorelines, and historic resources of Long Island.

About the Long Island Sound Study:

The Long Island Sound Study is one of 28 National Estuary Programs funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It is a partnership of stakeholders representing citizens, environmental groups, businesses and industries, academic institutions and state, local and federal government agencies. It was established in 1985 to protect the Long Island Sound through education, planning, restoration and stewardship in accordance with the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Management Plan.