A Lifelong Steward of the Environment, Lynn Dwyer Says Farewell, Retiring After 20 Years Directing the Long Island Sound Futures Fund Program

A middle-aged white women poses against a fence and smiles in a selfie taken next to a large pink flower.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Dwyer.

Lynn Dwyer has had a long career in conservation. Over 26 years to be exact, most of which were spent working for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as program director of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. She is retiring in March of this year, leaving behind a legacy of over 640 grants and $56 million invested into Long Island Sound conservation projects.

A native of Long Island’s South Shore, Dwyer holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. She started her career in the private sector working in marketing for a banker training company in Washington, DC, and an accounting software company in San Francisco. Her interest in conservation was sparked during graduate school at San Francisco State University while pursuing a master’s in public administration.

“I really wasn’t sure where I was going to focus and then I did an economics project on establishing the value of endangered species and habitat,” said Dwyer. “I loved it.”

Dwyer wrote her graduate thesis on an innovative endangered species program rolled out by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This led to her first experience working in the environmental sector.

“I gained a real appreciation for the economics of nature, but also nature itself,” she said.

A conservation career in California was born, as Dwyer worked in water quality and endangered species projects for the state. She joined Sustainable Conservation, a regional non-profit, and worked at the Environmental Defense Fund. After six years, Dwyer relocated to New York to be closer to family. That’s when she settled into her role as program director at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, drawing upon her diverse skill set of field experience and conservation management knowledge.

“I think I have a good sense of what it takes to do field-based conservation, not just biology, but partnerships, funding, working within governmental systems and processes,” said Dwyer. “I like to believe my knowledge and expertise helped me facilitate good conservation by people and the organizations served by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Long Island Sound Futures Fund.”

As program director Dwyer maintained a long-time collaboration with Mark Tedesco, director of EPA’s Long Island Sound office in Stamford.

“Lynn has helped build the Futures Fund from the ground up into a trusted, innovative, and vital program to galvanize community participation in the protection and conservation of Long Island Sound,” said Tedesco.  “We have been fortunate to have her skill, passion, and wry sense of humor contribute so much to the success of the Futures Fund.”

Over the past 20 years, she’s acted as a grantee for a range of projects in Clean Waters and Healthy Watersheds, Thriving Habitats and Abundant Wildlife, and Sustainable and Resilient Communities, three of the major themes of the Long Island Sound Study’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Dwyer recalled three projects that stood out from her career:

  • The Unified Water Study, launched in 2017, is a collaborative citizen science project developing water quality monitoring protocols so that groups across Long Island Sound can collect comparable data.
  • The habitat acquisition and restoration of Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford, the largest un-ditched salt marsh in Connecticut.
  • The Pee-Cycling Program at the Rich Earth Institute in Vermont collects and converts human urine into rich fertilizer.

“That’s innovative conservation [Pee-Cycling],” said Dwyer. “I mean, it’s got national attention.”

Dwyer said that improving water quality is the most significant of the conservation areas for the suburban and urban environment of the Sound.

“Water quality is such a cross-cutting issue,” said Dwyer. “If we improve water quality, we improve habitat. Wetlands stop degrading. Eelgrass grows. We can fish and swim,” said Dwyer. “If we improve water quality, we improve quality of life in communities.”

Peter Linderoth, Director of Water Quality at Save the Sound, expressed that Lynn has been a crucial contributor to Long Island Sound projects, providing leadership from design to implementation.

“She helped solve problems, achieve results, and guide projects to fruition,” said Linderoth. “We wish Lynn all the best and plenty of adventures in her well-deserved retirement.”

A group of four middle-aged women are posed together, with two women in each kayak smiling for the photo. The kayaks are blue and there is green and tan seagrass in the background. The two women in front are wearing sunglasses and hats. They all have life vests, the two women on the left are wearing blue ones. the women on the front right is in read and the back right corner is in a teal vest.
Lynn and a group of friends kayak along the Nissequogue River in New York. Photo courtesy of Lynn Dwyer.

While Dwyer will no longer be supporting conservation efforts as a grant professional, she remains determined to be a lifelong steward of the environment.

“I enjoy kayaking,” said Dwyer. “And I want to be a good and smart volunteer so that I leave behind the things I care about in a better place.”

When asked about her final call to action, Dwyer cited climate change efforts.

“I don’t think I would get any argument from my colleagues, partners, grantees, applicants, really anybody that the biggest issue that we are facing short, mid, and long-term is climate. We are going to have to improve our game significantly to address that issue and to make sure that nature-based solutions are part of it,” said Dwyer.

One of Lynn’s favorite projects, Great Meadows Marsh exemplifies LISS’s nature-based resiliency efforts. Roughly half of the marsh’s acreage was lost due to habitat destruction and sea level rise occurring over the past century. With the Futures Fund contributing to a large restoration effort, the marsh is on its way to recovery.

While Lynn plans to keep her “home base” near the Great South Bay in Long Island, she hopes to continue to explore America’s natural resources and will miss the friendship that the Long Island Sound Study has brought her.

“The people are so wholeheartedly committed to improving their world, the environment, and Long Island Sound,” said Dwyer. “So, I get real pleasure from that. That’s my best memory, and my happiest feeling – to have served that community.”

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