Nature Conservancy discusses environmental projects


People came to the Oyster Bay Brewing Company for a presentation by the Nature Conservancy on the current state of environmental efforts on Long Island. Updates were given on onging major environmental projects and future initiatives coming in the next months and years.

Friends of the Bay hosted, their first in-person speaking event since the pandemic. Friends has been monitoring water quality in the harbor for over two decades, leading to numerous beach cleanups. They’ve worked with local government and organizations to improve environmental projects and provide information.

“This is our 35th year working to protect Oyster Bay and Cold Spring Harbor’s estuary,” Heather Johnson, executive director of Friends, said. “This is a time to educate everybody on the state of the environment, and also have a good time at the same time, which is why we’re here at the Oyster Bay Brewing Company.”

The keynote speaker was Carl LoBue, oceans program director for the Nature Conservancy in New York.

The Conservancy, an international environmental nonprofit, works to promote conservation and research on environmental issues. It boasts more than a million members and over 400 scientists across 76 countries.

LoBue discussed a wide range of environmental projects, including water quality, marine fisheries, offshore wind energy development and upcoming public policy and public funding investment opportunities.

LoBue focused on fisheries and offshore wind. He spoke of recent efforts to reorient fishing practices to take into account the impact of industrial fishing on populations and the continued effects of climate change.

“A lot of our work is trying to modernize the information we get from fisheries and how we utilize it in our management,” LoBue said. “It’s also gearing up and getting fisheries and fishermen and their management to really be understanding of the impacts of climate change and being able to adjust to the way things are done.”

One example he used was their work on protecting bunker, a forage fish native to the Atlantic, which is not eaten, but is still one of the most harvested fish because it’s used to make fish oil and other products. LoBue explained that through their conservation work for bunker numbers have risen, and they attract dolphins and whales to the area for the first time in decades.

He referred to offshore wind energy development as “beyond a doubt the biggest thing happening in the ocean.” There are currently seven offshore wind stations either in the demo stage or under development. The number, he estimated will rise to 2,000 in the next decade.

He said it’s important not just transitioning to clean energy to save the environment, but also to ensure the United States and its allies aren’t reliant on countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia, of particular concern due to the ongoing international embargo of Russian gas and oil as they fight their illegal “special military exercise” in Ukraine.

Attendees were able to ask LoBue, Johnson and other local environmentalists questions about the ongoing projects, as well as other queries and concerns they had about environmental efforts in the area. One question, the state of septic tanks in the county, was answered by Eric Swenson, secretary of the Friends’s board and on the board of the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“The state has now allocated another $2 million to Nassau County, and just yesterday the county Legislature approved it’s match of $2 million,” Swenson said. “In other words, there will be 400 new homes that can apply to replace their septic tanks.”