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Message from the Soundkeeper

 "The time will soon be here when my grandchild will long for the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of the spruce needles, or the screech of an eagle. But he will not make friends with any of these creatures and when his heart aches with longing he will curse me. Have I done all to keep the air fresh? Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom? Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild's fondness?"*

Chief Dan George 1899-1981

* From My Spirit Soars, 1982. By Chief Dan George and Helmut Himschall. Reprinted with permission from Hancock House Publishers, 1431 Harrison Avenue, Blaine, Washington 98230

Message from the Soundkeeper

From the headwaters of the Connecticut River, through the farmlands of Vermont and the industrial heart of New England, and onward to the coastline, a vast and abundant natural resource exists: the Long Island Sound watershed.

Each and every one of us benefits from recreational, manufacturing, and economic activity made possible by resources in the watershed, along the coast, and in the Sound itself. Yet many of us take these resources for granted, rarely considering how fortunate we are to live in such a plentiful environment.

All too often we think of ourselves as independent from our natural surroundings. We don't pay enough attention to the relationships among ourselves, plants and animals, and the land and water that support us all. Such neglect, whether from ignorance, apathy, or lack of true awareness, cannot continue. If we don't take steps now, the beauty and economic value of Long Island Sound could be destroyed.

Virtually all threats to the Sound are population-driven. As everyone knows, we like to live and work near the water.  It's been estimated that one of every ten Americans lives within 50 miles of the Sound. To grasp fully the impact of human activity on the Sound, add the thousands of cars traversing 1-95 in Connecticut every day and the more than one million people who live away from the coast but still in the Sound's watershed.

Our uses of the Sound often compete with each other and with the interests of the Sound's marine life. As cities and towns expand, the need for housing, offices, factories, parking lots, waste disposal sites, sewage treatment plants, and other trappings of society forces us to alter the land.

Land development has resulted in a more comfortable setting in which to live. It has also, unfortunately, resulted in a significant loss of forests, freshwater bodies, and wetlands, all of which once helped to cleanse the waters flowing into the Sound. In Connecticut, for example, about one-third, or 9,000 acres, of the estimated 26,500 acres of wetlands present in 1916 have been destroyed.

From 1900 to 1940 development along the Sound was intense and the population density in the area increased rapidly. During this period, our environmental know-how was very limited. We did not know what impact many of the materials we were introducing into the environment would have on it. As a result, little thought was given to controlling the content of waters flowing into the Sound from throughout the watershed.

The time has come to seriously evaluate what damage we have done and are still doing. There will be no quick fix for the problems we have created. The situation, however, is not without hope. Numerous municipal, state, and federal programs are now aimed at water quality protection and improvement in general, and the Sound in particular. Technology has provided means to better understand the problems and repair them.

Cleaning up the Sound will not be accomplished independently by either the private sector or government action. It is essential that we all work together. We can make simple changes in our daily lifestyle and in our own backyards that will diminish pollution of the Sound. We must be vigilant and speak out against threats to the Sound. We must also inform legislators that there is widespread support for protective action at the city, state, and federal level.

Terry Backer

Soundkeeper, Inc.