NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state officials chose Earth Day on Friday to announce purchase of a large tract of land in Long Island's pine barrens as a preserve for hikers and other naturalists and a source for pure drinking water.
The land, mostly surrounded by publicly owned property, had been sought for years by preservation advocates as an essential part of the 100,000-acre pine barrens in Suffolk County in eastern Long Island.
Calling the pine barrens a "beautiful natural resource" as well as "an important source of clean drinking water," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the acquisition would preserve the area, in the heart of the Carmans River watershed, for generations.
The 99-acre parcel was purchased from a local nursery, and will be paid for with New York state's Environmental Protection Fund's land acquisition fund.
State environmental conservation laws afforded the area special protection because it overlays Long Island's purest, and federally designated, sole-source drinking water aquifer.
"We've been working for years for preservation of this key Pine Barrens parcel in the Carmans River Watershed," said Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper, who praised the newly elected Cuomo for getting results.
The Pine Barrens constitute Long Island's largest natural area and its last remaining wilderness, containing a mere remnant of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion.
All of Long Island's drinking water comes from ground water wells, and nearly all of the Carmans River, as well as much of its watershed, are in the pine barrens.
The newly acquired land lies in the hamlet of Middle Island in the town of Brookhaven, about 50 miles east of New York City.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)