Photos of the Long Island Sound

Our Plan

LIS Stewardship Initiative:
In Depth


Each year Long Island Sound draws millions of people to its shores to swim, boat, fish, or simply to enjoy the view. Its lure is long established—19th century statesman-Senator Daniel Webster, for example, once described the Sound as the “American Mediterranean.” But today the Sound faces a variety of threats, ranging from a legacy of over-development within sensitive resource areas to issues such as sea level rise. These threats require a response that focuses on protecting these special coastal areas so they may flourish to the benefit of both people and wildlife.


Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed rowing on a St. Lawrence skiff in Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor. Photo courtesy of National Park Service/Sagamore Hill National Historic Site



In 2006, Congress created the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative to help protect the diverse plants and animals that live in or near the estuary. In addition to protection, another goal of the Stewardship Initiative is to ensure that local people have access to the important natural areas that make the Sound a great place to live. As part of the initial work of the initiative (see Stewardship Initiative: In-depth) , a bi-state work group identified 33 inaugural areas around the Sound with significant ecological value and recreational importance. Today this work group continues to lead and direct stewardship efforts around the Sound.

The inspiration for a Stewardship Initiative can be traced to the legacy left behind by conservation pioneers of the 19th and early 20th centuries who saw the need to protect scenic wilderness areas for the public’s enjoyment and to protect wildlife. In this regard, the Sound could have no greater inspiration than Theodore Roosevelt. TR was a native New Yorker who spent a good deal of his life in Oyster Bay exploring its natural wonders. As president, Roosevelt recognized that America’s pristine wilderness areas and signature species such as elk, bison, and egrets, were under threat, so he protected an astonishing 230 million acres of parkland, forests, bird refuges, and game preserves. In a similar vein the Stewardship Initiative works to protect the beauty and ecological diversity of the Sound for present and future generations to enjoy.

Success Stories

The stories below highlight some of the notable stewardship projects around the Sound.

Hempstead Harbor Shellfish Beds

New York has reopened 2,500 acres of shellfish beds that have been closed for more than 35 years.

Long Beach West Dune and Beach

Removal of abandoned structures and 35 acres of beach and dune habitat successfully restored along Long Beach West.

Barn Island’s Legacy of Conservation

Over 60 years of research at Barn Island make it a model for tidal marsh restoration planning.


Stewardship Videos

In summer and fall 2014 Jack Silky, an intern at the EPA Long Island Sound Office, produced a series of videos highlight Stewardship Areas. The videos can be viewed in the Online Stewardship Atlas and LISS’s YouTube channel.
The Stewardship Initiative is a partnership formed by the Long Island Sound Study to identify places with significant ecological or recreational value throughout the Sound and develop a strategy to protect and enhance these special places.

The goals of the Stewardship Initiative are to conserve natural areas, increase access to the Sound, protect important habitats, and plan for multiple uses.

As a culmination of over 3 years of effort, the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative work group has identified areas around the Sound with significant recreational and ecological values. Stewardship Act of 2006 provides maps of these 33 areas, which have been selected as the inaugural stewardship areas, and describes the major ecological and recreational values of each area.


The Stewardship Initiative follows through on recommendations made in the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and the 2003 Long Island Sound Agreement, which call for the conservation of natural resources and increased public access around the Sound. The Long Island Sound Study formed a Stewardship work group to coordinate efforts to identify sites with ecological and/or recreational resources and to develop a strategy to protect and enhance these important areas. The work group is a collaborative effort among agencies and organizations interested in protecting the Sound.

Enlarge Map

Public Participation

Public involvement has been critical to the development of the Stewardship Initiative. In February and March 2004, the Long Island Sound Study held a series of public meetings to share information regarding the Stewardship Initiative and to hear from communities around the Sound regarding ways to better protect the Sound’s coastal resources (see meeting summary – Acrobat 1.3mb). Based on input received during these meetings, the Stewardship Work Group outlined a strategy for developing the Stewardship Initiative, which included work in two distinct phases. The first phase was a planning phase to inventory the ecological and recreational resources located throughout the Sound, identify the inaugural stewardship areas, and document the threats and opportunities at these special places. The second phase focused on implementation of on-the-ground stewardship actions.

The Stewardship Initiative work group hosted another round of public forums in June 2005 to solicit public input on the draft list of inaugural stewardship areas. Through the resource inventory, and with the detailed information received at the 2004 public meetings, the work group had identified 32 areas that were recommended as the inaugural stewardship areas. Participants at the 2005 meetings raised specific concerns regarding the exclusion of Hempstead Harbor from the list of inaugural areas. After a review of the letters of support and nomination forms that were submitted, and in response to the overwhelming public support, Hempstead Harbor was added to the list as the 33rd inaugural stewardship area. For detailed information on the process and criteria used to select these areas, please refer to the Public Comment & Response document.

Future Direction

Now that the inaugural stewardship areas have been identified, the Stewardship Initiative work group is focused on initiating projects to develop creative partnerships with local communities and landowners to protect and enhance the values of these special places. Examples include efforts to provide tools or technical assistance to local decision-makers to protect the values of a stewardship area, to promote the principles and implementation of low impact development, or to develop a watershed-based management plan for a stewardship area. By promoting community involvement and using a collaborative approach, the Stewardship work group is striving to address threats and act on opportunities at the stewardship areas.

2006 Stewardship Atlas

Download the 2006 Stewardship Atlas.

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