This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the US Environmental Protection Agency. It also is the 35th anniversary of the Long Island Sound Study, the partnership of local, state, and federal governments with industry, universities, community groups, and citizens to restore and protect Long Island Sound.
What influenced the first Earth Day celebration 50 years ago? Historians look back to the 1960s when Americans in larger numbers were beginning to become aware of the dangers of pollution and toxic chemicals to their environment. In the beginning of the decade Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring brought attention to the pesticide DDT threatening the extinction of the Bald Eagle. Later on, Americans were expressing their concerns about a range of environmental threats, from oil spills fouling beaches in California to the effects of leaded gasoline on human health, particularly in urban areas. According to Earth Day Network, groups that had been fighting for a better environment on individual issues came together to attend rallies in the first Earth Day celebration. “On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — at the time, 10 percent of the total population of the United States — took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies,” according to the Earth Day website. The bipartisan event – it was co-sponsored by a Democratic U.S. Senator and a Republican Congressman – was attended by Americans of all races, ages, and incomes. It also was credited with helping to launch the US Environmental Protection Agency in December of that year. The new EPA consolidated many environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency. Soon Earth Day and the founding of EPA were followed by passage of landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Those efforts continued into the 1980s as communities worked through nonpartisan efforts to restore and protect their local environments with help from local, state, and federal governments. In 1987, Congress amended the Clean Water Act to authorize the National Estuary Program to specifically deal with the environmental threats to America’s estuaries, the coastal environments where salty ocean water mixes with freshwater from upland rivers and streams. The Long Island Sound Study was one of four inaugural estuary programs, but Congress actually started funding the Long Island Sound Study back in 1985 to study pollution problems and identify solutions.
Fifteen years ago, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) commemorated the 20th anniversary of its formation with a special edition of its Sound Update newsletter highlighting 20 topics over 20 years. The issue remains a good read to understanding the history of Long Island Sound study in its early years. With the exception of the Sound Update annual report, the newsletter is no longer in print. That doesn’t mean a new anniversary can’t be recognized and the many new achievements that have occurred over the last decade and a half highlighted.
Below is a list of 15 additional topics over the past 15 years to commemorate and celebrate. A 16th topic was added to wish continued good fortune in restoration efforts. A slide show highlights some of the topics. Happy 35th and 50th!
Recipients of the first Long Island Sound Futures Grant awards in 2005 pose with state and federal environmental officials in front of a ceremonial $1 million check. The ceremony was held at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. Photo by Kimberly Graff.
A ceremony at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx in 2005 marked the announcement of $1 million in grants being award in the first year of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant program. Pictured left to right in front of a ceremonial check are: Karen Chytalo, NYSDEC, Wendy Fiado, Friends of Flax Pond and a grant recipient, Peter Scully, NYSDEC; Lynn Dwyer, NFWF; and Callahan Callahan, the acting Region 2 Administrator for EPA. Photo by Kimberly Graff.
Branford River Fishway: First Graders witness the first alewives to swim over the dam in 100 years at the inaugural ceremony on April 11, 2006. Photo credit: Branford Land Trust.
Odd Lindahl, a marine ecologist specializing in the study of eutrophication effects and re-eutrophication measures in Swedish coastal waters, at the bioextraction workshop in Stamford, CT, Dec. 4, 2009. photo by Ian Hollis.
Mentor Teacher Hildur Palsdottir (in green) and workshop attendees conduct a plot study to collect microplastics at Sands Point Preserve in Sands Point, NY.
Attendees at a Mentor Teachers Workshop in Sands Point, NY and Mentor Teachers Hildur Palsdottir (third from right) and Leah Master (second from left) huddle at a screen connected to a microscope to view their magnified sample materials from the beach. As part of the workshop, the Mentor Teachers demonstrated the use of various types of microscopes that educators can use in their classrooms, including some that can be connected to computers for use with multiple students.
In summer 2011, the Citizens Advisory Committee promoted the Sound Vision Action Plan with a tour to seven ports, including at this educational sail in New Haven Harbor. Photo by Save the Sound.
The Long Island Sound Study Management Conference approved its a 20-year Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to restore and protect the Sound in 2015. It was the first major update to the Sound since 1994.
In 2016, Connecticut and New York met its goal to reduce nitrogen from point sources such as wastewater treatment plants by 58.5 percent, one year ahead of schedule. Pictured are the aeration tanks at the Hunts Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Bronx, which was upgraded to reduce nitrogen. (looking west). Photo by NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection.
In 2018, LISS achieved a goal established in 1998 to restore 2,000 acres of coastal habitat. Pictured here are volunteers joined by a New York State Parks employee in planting salt marsh grasses at Sunken Meadow State Park. Photo credit: Save the Sound.
A resource manager at Audobon Connecticut discusses coastal bird monitoring to the Citizens Advisory Committee at Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport near Long Beach West, site of a major dune restoration project.
Management Committee members and LISS staff on board the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport following a meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan in Port Jefferson.