Conserving, Under the Sea

Saving nature's assets under water has become as important as saving them on land. That's why the Nature Conservancy, a mostly above-ground land trust, has acquired 11,500 acres under Great South Bay, Long Island – a donation from the Bluepoints Oyster Company valued at $2 million.

In obtaining the New York waterway, the Conservancy wades into the relatively new ecoterritory of marine conservation. It plans to map the area using sonar and to design a recovery for tidal flats and marshes now polluted by coastal runoff and threatened by overdevelopment.

As breeding grounds for both aquatic and land species, the coastal waters of the US need increasing protection. The Conservancy plans to pass along lessons learned from recovering Great South Bay to similar projects in the future.

And the Conservancy hopes to re-open the once-prosperous oyster beds for commercial use, a wise decision that reflects new environmental thinking that not every "natural" site should be devoid of human activity.

Partnering local interests with national conservation is a useful strategy for other groups interested in helping to restore the balance between ecological soundness and commercial viability.

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