Save the Sound’s 2020 Annual Meeting

Did you miss this year’s Annual Meeting? We’ve got you covered. Read on for the year’s highlights and challenges from Save the Sound President Curt Johnson, and see video of our four breakout sessions.

Resiliency During a Pandemic: How People and Nature Rebound

Save the Sound’s 2020 Annual Meeting opening remarks from President Curt Johnson were framed around Save the Sound’s resiliency through the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been a tough year, but environmental protection never stops, and neither do we. Curt spoke on some of the ways Save the Sound and our members have remained resilient through the pandemic, including pivoting to virtual events; continuing ecological restoration work in the field; increasing access to solar and wind energy to combat climate change; completing another water monitoring season; advancing land conservation campaigns; and more.

We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

“Without you and your support, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to share today how Save the Sound has pivoted during COVID-19 to ensure that regional action for your environment continued stronger than ever this year, which I am proud to say in fact, it did,” said Johnson.

Johnson also presented the 2020 Save the Sound Annual Award to Leslie Lee, who has been board chair since 2015 and now steps down. Todd Cort now takes up the board chair role.

“Leslie is our awardee for a simple reason,” said Johnson. “She steered our Save the Sound through some challenging waters and helped build the reputation and resiliency of the organization.”

“It has been such an honor to be part of the leadership of Save the Sound,” Lee said of the honor. “It has brought the joy of knowing that I was working with an incredibly talented staff and a smart committed board to bring vital work for our environment and it has been a fabulous honor.”

We also honored our dear co-worker, Melissa Schlag, who tragically passed away at the beginning of October. As a member of our climate and communications teams, she worked with youth to combat climate change and kept you up-to-date on policy action in Connecticut.

“She took care of each and every one of us,” said Johnson. “We honor her, she was and is a resilient and indomitable warrior for justice on every level, and for climate justice in particular.”

Watch the main meeting below, and see video and summaries of breakout sessions on our four major program areas:

Annual Meeting Main Session

The Work Continues: Changing Landscapes and Building Resilience

Director of Ecological Restoration Gwen Macdonald, Ecological Restoration Project Manager Alex Krofta, and Watershed Coordinator Nicole Davis gave an overview of our Ecological Restoration work and all that has been accomplished in the last year. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, our Ecological Team was deemed an essential service and the work continued as the team planted seven rain gardens and remained in the field restoring our ecosystems. 

Highlights of 2020 include restoring 135 acres of marsh habitat at Sunken Meadow State Park in Suffolk County, New York and completing a fishway installation at Pages Millpond Dam along the Farm River in North Branford, Connecticut.

Exciting things are coming in the future, as our Ecological Restoration team expands into New York; begins preliminary work of a dam removal at Merwin Meadows; and makes plans to build a green infrastructure park in Fair Haven along the Mill River.

Climate Change: Policy, Action, and Justice

Climate and Energy Attorney Charles Rothenberger has taken his advocacy virtual to fight for climate action in Connecticut. He spoke about key components to lower our carbon emissions, the steps we have taken to get there, and what we still have left to do. Currently, Connecticut has a goal of reducing 45% of emissions by 2030 and 80% by 2050, as well as reducing the electricity sector emissions to zero by 2040.

While the Connecticut legislative session closed mid-March, work continued in state agencies where we successfully helped procure offshore wind to electrify 125,000 homes; refined a shared solar program that will bring renewable energy within reach for individuals of all incomes; and worked with the Governor’s Council on Climate Change to focus on adaption, resiliency, and environmental justice.

Major goals for the next legislative session include increasing the energy performance of buildings, decreasing barriers and increasing access to electric vehicle charging stations, and making sure everyone can access clean energy.

Find it, Fix it, Fish it: Cleaning Up Long Island Sound

Soundkeeper Bill Lucey and Senior Legal Counsel Roger Reynolds discussed our Campaign for a Sewage-Free Long Island Sound, which combines on-the-water-watchdogging with legal action to keep your waters pollution-free.

Our water quality monitoring team collects valuable data about the open water in Long Island Sound, as well as the bays and harbors that feed into it, which is then used to find and address problems related to local sewage infrastructure, land use, and more. This data is reported to the public via the Long Island Sound Report Card, the Sound Health Explorer, and more to empower communities to take informed action.

Currently, our legal team is working with a dozen towns, from New York City to Bridgeport, to improve their wastewater and stormwater systems and prevent sewage overflows from impacting your water.

Protecting Lands You Love and Water You Drink

New York Natural Areas Coordinator Louise Harrison, Land Campaign Manager Chris Cryder, and Staff Attorney Kat Fiedler spoke about the fight to preserve Plum Island, Oswegatchie Hills, and water company lands.

The government has been trying to sell Plum Island, New York to the highest bidder since 2008, and Save the Sound has been fighting it every step. This year we released Envision Plum Island, a report that depicts a regional vision for New York to create Plum Island Preserve by 2023. This vision includes opportunities for new research, careful public access, and historical research and preservation.

Oswegatchie Hills is a 236-acre coastal forest on the Niantic River in southeast Connecticut at risk of being lost to high density development. Save the Sound brings legal expertise and coalition-building skills to assist Friends of Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve and Save the River-Save the Hills in fighting to preserve the land as an extension to Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve.

Employing laws we helped pass 15 ago, this year we worked to protect lands owned by CT Water Company and by Aquarion Water Company, and are currently monitoring about 11,000 acres around the Colebrook Reservoir to ensure it remains conserved.

Thanks for reading, and for making this work possible!

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