Lush LI landscapes jeopardized by dwindling budgets

WOODBURY - With its sprawling farms and rustic views, Long Island's East End feels worlds away from the strip malls and congested roadways of the west. But thanks to the struggling economy, land preservation programs are running low on funds, and that has many asking what will happen to the serenity of the Forks. Despite a major construction slowdown, environmentalists warn that Long Island is losing the race to save open space: about 65,000 untouched acres are left. A coalition has been urging local governments to buy or otherwise preserve at least half of those acres by the end of the decade.Yet the actual number of acres saved each year is slumping far behind what's needed to meet that goal. It's bad news for Long Island, environmentalists say, because open space programs help protect the drinking water and drive the multibillion dollar tourism industry.Many local governments' purse-strings are tied because the sour economy has taken a big bite out of money that would have gone to open space preservation. Environmentalists are urging Suffolk lawmakers to craft legislation that makes preservation a higher priority, before all of the pristine wilderness is spoken for.

Watch extended interviews from this story:Interview with Bob Deluca, Group for the East EndInterview with Richard Amper, LI Pine Barrens SocietyInterview with Islip Legislator Tom Cilmi

Get more information on this story:Pat Dolan's blog: The Un-Greening of Long Island?L.I. Pine Barrens Society Open Space ReportThe Nature Conservancy: Long Island?s Last StandEconomic benefits of Open SpaceFinancial status of Suffolk?s open space programs (see page 20)Open Space bill proposed by Legislator Lou D?AmaroNorth Fork Environmental CouncilRauch Foundation report

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