Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators
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A follow-up survey to the 2006 baseline public perception survey needs to be conducted.
According to the baseline 2006 Public Perception Survey of Long Island Sound Watershed residents, a majority of Long Island Sound homeowners in all of its regions did not believe that any change in their practices around the home (such as lawn care practices) would improve water quality.
More than 70 percent of residents did not believe that they did anything that worsens the quality of water in Long Island Sound. A closer looked revealed that those who thought they did not affect water quality negatively were just as likely to partake in harmful activities such as washing a car in the driveway, or using quick-release fertilizer) as those who thought they may affect it negatively.
Residents have limited knowledge of environmental issues that impacts Long Island Sound’s water quality. For example, only about 25 percent of residents knew that nitrogen and phosphorus promoted excess plant and algae growth. Those who were more environmentally knowledgeable, which represented about a quarter of the population, were more likely to engage in lawn care practices that were good for the environment although there were still substantial numbers who were well informed who did not enact pro-environmental behaviors.
The survey also showed high public engagement in the use of Long Island Sound for recreation. When asked about different recreational activities undertaken at or on the Sound in the summer 2006, over three quarters (79 percent) of Long Island and 72 percent of Connecticut resident had taken part in at least one activity in the past year compared to under a half of Westchester (49 percent) and Bronx/Queens (44 percent) residents.
The 2006 survey suggests that increasing knowledge about environmental issues may encourage an increase in sustainable practices. An information campaign by itself, however, may not be sufficient to change the behaviors of the overwhelming majority of residents who believe there is nothing they can do to improve lawn care practices. Additional efforts beyond increasing knowledge such as developing campaigns that address the specific barriers that prevent individuals from changing established norms and adopting healthy lawn care practices in their communities also need to be investigated.
The 2006 Public Perception Survey of Long Island SoundWatershed Residents, conducted by the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research, involved 1,220 randomly sampled interviews by telephone in four regions: Long Island, Connecticut, Westchester, and Bronx/Queens. The methodology is available at the Long Island Sound Study website.
The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, under the theme Sustainable and Resilient Communities, recognizes that “ultimately, local government leadership, private sector engagement, community organization, empowerment, and individual stewardship are vital to efforts to restore the Sound.”
Surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017 by The Nature Conservancy for three Connecticut watersheds revealed that in those communities there was a much stronger willingness to engage in efforts to restore and protect the Sound compared to the 2006 Soundwide survey.
The 2016 and 2017 TNC surveys in the Pawcatuck/Stonington/Mystic, Niantic, and Saugatuck regions revealed a high understanding of nutrient pollution impacting their local waterways. For example, more than 75 percent of residents in Saugatuck and Stonington said that stormwater runoff had a moderate to strong impact on the health of their local bay. Almost every resident in these surveys said they were willing to engage in one of eight suggested activities to protect their watershed. In each watershed, for example, more than 70 percent said they would be willing to consider reducing pesticides and fertilizer use to protect their local embayments.
Citizens participating in efforts to restore and protect Long Island Sound through volunteerism is another indicator of public engagement. Long Island Sound Study has been tracking the strong participation rates in the International Coastal Cleanup of Long Island Sound beaches (about 3,000 volunteers a year) since 1998.
Robert Burg, NEIWPCC, [email protected]
Long Island Sound Study