A Great Win for Water on the East End of Long Island and a Renewed Call to Action for Land Protection

by Robert S. DeLuca, President and CEO, Group for the East End and John v.H. Halsey, Founder and President, Peconic Land Trust Category:

On November 8th,  East End voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to extend the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund through 2050 and to allow up to 20 percent of its future proceeds to be used for water quality initiatives. Group for the East End and Peconic Land Trust are two of many groups who collaborated to ensure this huge win. Louis BaconThe Moore Charitable Foundation and local affiliate The Robin’s Island Foundation are longtime supporters of both.

Since 1999, the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) has provided the five East End Towns of Long Island with an important revenue source to protect what we know and love – our working farms and natural landscapes, watersheds and habitats, shorelines and wetlands, as well as our historic resources.  While we have achieved so much – over 10,000 acres protected — there is still much to be done.

Basically a real estate transfer tax program, the fund has raised more than $1 billion since its inception. An important component of the funding is that the dollars raised, in each town through these sales (2% tax on real estate transactions), stays within that town. Town boards make the decision on how the funds are spent – with public input – based on priorities established.

Since its passage, voters on the East End have overwhelmingly supported its goals, most recently on November 8, 2016, where voters here were united in seeing not only our lands preserved but our water quality improved.

The recent referendum added 20 years to this widely successful conservation funding program, and also gave our Towns the opportunity to invest, upwards of 20% of the annual revenue raised, towards water quality improvement projects that will help to address the contamination issues impacting our drinking, fishing and recreational waters.

For over 33 years, the Peconic Land Trust has partnered with our local municipalities, landowners, and community members to protect this unique region that we all cherish.  We have leveraged CPF funds with private donations to do more conservation, and identified new creative approaches to ensure a future that includes fresh local produce, clean drinking water, breathtaking landscapes, barns and buildings indicative of our historic community character.

Now in its fifth decade, the Group for the East End has worked to protect and restore the environment of eastern Long Island through professional advocacy and education.  Since its inception, the Group has inspired people to embrace a conservation ethic and to take action in their local community.  Over the years, the Group has developed a reputation for achieving lasting conservation success, such as the CPF, with the support of broad-based civic, business and elected constituencies.

These efforts, along with those of many other including conservation, environmental, agricultural, and civic organizations, have ensured the protection of:

  • Watershed conservation areas in all five Town’s that protect our sole source aquifer
  • Family farms across the region’s rich agricultural soils
  • Natural habitats for our native flora and fauna
  • Shorelines from Riverhead to the far eastern points of Montauk and Orient

We are so very proud of our East End residents and their strong commitment to conservation. We look forward to working together to continue protecting the land and water so vital to our communities for generations to come.

Robert S. DeLuca has served as President and CEO of Group for the East End since 1992.

John v.H. Halsey is the founder and President of the Peconic Land Trust.