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New Study: "Staggering" Loss Of Wetlands In CT And LI

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A new study says one-third of all the tidal wetlands that surround Long Island Sound have disappeared since the 1880s. The Environmental Protection Agency calls the loss staggering.

Mark Tedesco, director of the EPA’s Long Island Sound Office, says wetlands are important to cities and towns on the Sound.

“They help protect homes and properties and roads from flooding because they’re able to absorb water. But they’re also really important for the environment. They provide great habitat for birds and fish and other wildlife,” Tedesco said.

The study was released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies. It says that since the 1880s, Connecticut has lost more than 5,000 acres of wetlands and New York has lost about 2,500 acres. Tedesco says most of the loss happened before 1972, when congress passed the Clean Water Act.

“Before the Clean Water Act, and wetland protection laws in Connecticut and New York, it was legal to take a wetland and fill it with soil and build on top of it. And now that’s greatly restricted,” Tedesco said.

Since the 1970s, Connecticut has regained some of its wetlands thanks to local, state and federal wetland restoration projects. But the North Shore of Long Island is still losing wetlands. Tedesco says that’s probably because Long Island doesn’t have as many rivers. And rivers provide wetlands with sediment, like silt and sand, that helps them withstand rising sea levels.