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For Release: Tuesday, November 20, 2018

DEC Announces Acquisition of 6.8-Acre Conscience Bay Watershed Property

Property expands Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland, will help preserve water quality in Long Island Sound

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced an acquisition of open space that will provide greater protection to the Long Island Sound by establishing an additional buffer area that will filter out contaminants, provide wildlife habitat, and increase the region's resilience to coastal storms. The 6.8-acre parcel, located at the corner of North and Dyke Roads in Setauket, will be added to the Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland, effectively doubling the size of the marsh and upland portion of the State property. The acquisition was announced at an event today to unveil a plaque at the head of the trail in appreciation of the Besunder family's contribution to Long Island's environment.

"DEC and the greater environmental community of Long Island are excited to expand the Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland and thankful for the grant from the Long Island Sound Study that makes this purchase possible," DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher said. "Protecting this property from development will increase the resiliency of the Setauket area by protecting its salt marsh and mud flats from development pressures that would compromise their ability to help buffer the area from future storm events."

The property was purchased by Arline and Harvey Besunder in 1991 with the intent to develop the land. Along with his children, Alison and Eric, and in memory of his wife Arline, the Besunder Family honored a long-standing family value of land preservation and conservation by selling this unique parcel to the State for conservation in order to preserve its natural beauty.

The 52-acre Conscience Bay-Little Bay State Tidal Wetland property was purchased by DEC in the late 1970s from multiple property owners. State land in the area consists of underwater lands popular both with kayakers and local waterfowl hunters. Acquisition of key parcels in the Conscience Bay Watershed is a conservation priority in several State and Local Open Space Plans.

The new acquisition includes extensive waterfront along Conscience Bay, a walking trail, a unique freshwater wetland, a red cedar forest, an osprey nest, and nearly pristine mudflats and shellfish beds.

DEC's purchase of this property follows a 2015 purchase of a 1.12-acre parcel, which added the first upland area to the existing 52-acre Tidal Wetlands property.

New York State Assemblyman Steven Englebright said, "The goal of protecting the chemistry and ecological integrity of the Setauket Harbor is greatly advanced by this land purchase at the core of this complex estuary. Governor Cuomo deserves our appreciation for enabling the DEC to make such wise use of Environmental Protection Fund resources that were placed into the State budget. Additional congratulations and thanks go to the Besunder Family and the Stewardship Initiative of the Long Island Sound Study."

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said, "The Conscience Bay Watershed is one of the most environmentally significant wildlife habitats in Brookhaven Town, and with this acquisition more of it will be protected for future generations. I commend the DEC for taking action to conserve this sensitive wetland and thank the Besunder family for their dedication to land preservation."

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright said, "The Town of Brookhaven strongly advocates for preservation of land especially when such efforts help to support coastal resilience and prevent development of sensitive ecological wetland sites within the Town. Thank you to the Besunder family for their role in allowing this parcel to be conserved."

Additional DEC Purchases in Conscience Bay Watershed Area - Patriots Hollow

A nearby parcel of 28.3 acres along Route 25A in East Setauket, was purchased in 2010. At the time, the property was the largest privately owned undeveloped lot in the Conscience Bay Watershed Area, and later became Patriots Hollow State Forest. In March 2017, an additional 17 acres was added to this property. Patriots Hollow provides protection to Conscience Bay by preventing runoff from roads and related contaminants from entering the bay, which has one of the most restricted tidal flows of any of the North Shore's major bays.

Funding for the Patriots Hollow purchase was also provided by a Long Island Sound Study Grant and through a settlement with Northville Industries over a spill at the company's East Setauket terminal in the late 1980s.

The Long Island Sound Study initiated the Long Island Sound Futures Fund in 2005 through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Long Island Sound Office and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Through 2014, the program has invested $13 million in 306 projects in communities surrounding the Sound. The Long Island Sound Study was created in 1985 by the EPA and the states of New York and Connecticut. This bi-state partnership includes federal and state agencies, user groups, concerned organizations and individuals dedicated to restoring and protecting the Sound.

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