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DEC Announces $2.75 Million to Help Vulnerable Wildlife

DEC Announces $2.75 Million to Help Vulnerable Wildlife

News from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

For more information contact: Maureen Wren, 518-402-8000
DEC Announces $2.75 Million to Help Vulnerable Wildlife

Twenty Projects To Receive Funding to Assist Species Most in Need of Protection

ALBANY, NY (11/13/2007; 1452)(readMedia)-- Turtles in the Hudson Valley, caddisflies in the Adirondacks, paddlefish in Western New York and whales in New York Harbor are among the species that will benefit under $2.75 million in wildlife and biodiversity grants awarded to 20 research and planning projects throughout the state, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

The funding is available through the New York State Wildlife Grants Program – the core program to conserve biodiversity and protect potentially threatened and endangered species. Funding was awarded to projects sponsored by universities, non-profit groups and research centers.

“The projects that we have chosen will significantly advance our goals of understanding and improving populations of New York’s most vulnerable species of fish and wildlife,” Grannis said. “Working with these partners, the goal is to find and implement new and innovative ways to help reduce the risks facing our state’s diverse ecosystems and enhance sensitive wildlife communities for the benefit of all New Yorkers.”

New York has a vibrant collection of plants and animals, with more dragonfly and damselfly species than any state except Texas and more mammal species than any state in the Northeast. According to the New York Natural Heritage Program, however, only 55 percent of the state’s plants and vertebrates are considered secure and the status of most invertebrates remains hard to pin down.

These concerns were highlighted during the development of the New York Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy adopted in 2006. The undertaking, which took more than two years to develop and included the input of more than 100 government agency and organizational partners, found that the biological diversity of the state is challenged by development sprawl, habitat degradation and loss, invasive species, pollution and climate change. The strategy’s recommendations, including funding the State Wildlife Grants program, will serve as a blueprint to conserve wildlife and prevent additional species from being added to the federal Endangered Species List.

The State Wildlife Grants program receives federal funding to support projects that will protect and enhance the “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” (SCGN) in New York. More than 500 species in New York are deemed at risk for decline and possible extirpation -- herons and egrets, tree bats, freshwater mussels, sturgeon species, several types of butterflies and moths, and the hellbender salamander, among others. Further information on the CWCS and the full list of the state’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need may be viewed at the DEC web site at New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

New York-based chapters and offices of the The Nature Conservancy were among the grant awardees. Kathy Moser, Acting New York State Director, said, “The Nature Conservancy is thankful to DEC for this funding from the State Wildlife Grants Program. These funds will help us work with partners to manage and restore habitats to sustain New York’s rich wildlife diversity.”

The 20 projects receiving funding today will protect SCGN and advance the strategy’s recommendations through research, planning, management and restoration work, and evaluation of prior restoration efforts to facilitate good management practices for the future. New York State agencies, municipalities, and not-for-profit organizations were eligible to apply for grants. Below is the list of grant recipients.

Research and Inventory Projects:

* Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, Dutchess County - $99,121: evaluate the extent, timing and causes of reproductive failure in freshwater mussels in southeastern New York. The project will focus on the mussel community found in Webatuck Creek, Shawangunk Kill, Neversink River, and Delaware River in Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.

* Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program - $150,034: to assess the levels of mercury in tissues of Species of Greatest Conservation Need across New York.

* Cornell University - $80,633: to study the movements of whales in New York’s coastal waters using passive acoustic listening arrays. This research will assist in avoiding whale deaths due to being struck by ships entering New York Harbor.

* State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh - $99,887: to describe the community of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies of the Adirondack region. These little known insects are a vital food source to fish, including the prized brook trout, and are used as an indicator of water quality. This project will be the first comprehensive survey of these species across the North Country.

* SUNY Potsdam - $118,494: to describe the community of amphibians and reptiles in northern New York. Many of these species have proven difficult to survey for in other efforts. Better information on their distribution will significantly aid in their protection. Amphibians and reptiles are very sensitive to pollution and eat many pest species.

Planning and Administration Projects:

* New York Natural Heritage Program - $145,766: to help planners target key conservation corridors that will assist animal movement and migration at multiple scales in the Upper Hudson and Lower Hudson/Long Island Bays watersheds, and in particular the 10 counties bordering the Hudson River Estuary.

* The Nature Conservancy Adirondack Chapter - $99,107: to build a strategic partnership around conservation and transportation in New York State. In concert with identifying priority streams and barriers, an interagency work group will also identify best management practices to improve culvert designs to restore and enhance fish and wildlife movement. In addition to influencing state road planning and maintenance activities, the maps resulting from this project can guide similar decision-making by town and county departments of public works.

* New York Forest Owners Association (NYFOA) - $148,600: to identify landowners of critical forested habitats for Species of Greatest Conservation Need statewide who would be willing to undertake forested habitat management and restoration activities on their lands. NYFOA will partner with volunteers from the Master Forest Owner program, the Cornell School of Natural Resources faculty and staff, and county-based Cooperative Extension natural resources educators to develop a comprehensive written implementation plan for management and restoration of critical habitats on New York State’s private forest lands. Final products will include a site-specific map layer that would be compatible with the DEC mapping system, identifying the property boundaries and habitats of interested landowners; and the communications, funding, and technical assistance needed to engage these landowners in taking future action.

* SUNY Research Foundation on behalf of the University at Albany -$70,693: to undertake a wildlife conservation analysis for Montgomery County. This assessment will compare the habitat needs of SGCN with existing conservation areas and identify areas of highest conservation priority for future protection or acquisition. As part of the planning process, University at Albany project leaders will create a framework for cooperation by key stakeholder groups in land use planning for SGCN; provide stakeholders with accessible, comprehensive geospatial data about wildlife and habitat distribution; and provide tools for using this information in the planning process.

* Clarkson University - $148,433: to evaluate the success and ecological impact of wetland restoration incentive programs for SGCN on private lands. The project will focus on restoration programs in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties funded by federal programs aimed at private land stewardship. Conclusions from such a study should result in specific management recommendations (e.g. optimal technologies, best-practices, priority-setting), and may also justify modifications in incentives offered to improve recruitment and retention of private landowners in projects that have a high-probability of benefiting populations of SGCN

* The Nature Conservancy’s New Paltz office - $98,615: to evaluate the efficacy of prescribed fire to maintain forest and grassland habitats for bird SGCN in the Shawangunk Ridge. The results of this project will provide recommendations for the appropriate application of prescribed fire to restore and/or maintain rare and declining habitat for bird SGCN in grasslands and deciduous forests. These results will be incorporated into ongoing work in the Shawangunks and will also be applicable to other planning and management efforts across New York State where prescribed fire is being explored as a bird habitat management tool in grasslands and deciduous forests.

Management and Restoration Projects:

* The Nature Conservancy - $200,000: for endangered Karner blue butterfly habitat restoration in the Albany Pine Bush and Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park. The project will remove invasive plant species, plant native grasses and flowers needed by the butterflies, and use mowing and prescribed fire to maintain previously restored areas. The project will also benefit birds that depend upon shrub habitat in forests, grassland birds, turtles, woodland-grassland snakes, and several types of insects, including other butterflies and other moths.

* Palisades Interstate Park Commission - $54,603: to manage wetlands within the Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in Orange and Rockland Counties for the diverse turtle community found there. The project will use surveys and radio-monitoring to design management practices to increase juvenile turtle recruitment levels including the protection of active nests from predators, a captive rearing program in cooperation with the Trailside Zoo and restoration of nesting sites that have been shaded over by trees.

* DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests - $147,442: to manage and restore 1,618 acres of grassland habitats on various state-owned lands in central and lower New York State. Project management actions will involve seasonal mowing, prescribed burns, tilling, seeding of warm season grasses, cool season grasses and wildflowers; and placement of some nesting bird boxes. The grant project will increase the amount of habitat for declining grassland nesting birds in New York State. Additionally, public benefits from this project will include the continued enjoyment of bird watching, hiking and hunting in these regions.

* The Mohonk Preserve - $149,670: for initiatives to better manage the regeneration of low forest vegetation. The SGCN expected to benefit from increased forest regeneration are forest dependent birds. Management strategies to be employed in this project include fencing to keep deer out of sensitive habitats while new plants are established and increased hunter recruitment to the preserve property to control the locally abundant white tailed deer herd.

* The Wildlife Management Institute - $333,080: to develop a set of Best Management Practices for the American woodcock - a representative species dependent on shrub habitat. The management of forested and recently harvested forest lands for American woodcock will benefit a number of other SGCN that favor shrub habitat. Effective management for American woodcock requires a blend of both commercial and non-commercial habitat management activities. The project will use demonstration areas on the 274,186 acres of former International Paper and Domtar, Inc. timberlands purchased by Lyme Timber, Inc. Secondary recipients of technical assistance will include NYDEC Wildlife Management Areas, Department of Defense installations, and other private forest landowners.

* The Nature Conservancy Long Island Chapter - $148,125: to use prescribed fire to restore and expand pitch pine scrub oak woodlands, grasslands, shrubs, pine and oak forests. The fires will improve these habitats for bird, butterfly, moth, amphibian and reptile SGCN, and increase their populations. As a result of this project, fire dependent habitat critical for SGCN will be restored, and populations of many SGCN should stabilize or increase. An additional benefit is the reduction of wildfire risks to public health safety near project areas.

* The Prospect Park Alliance - $100,000: to restore Lookout Hill, an important piece of Brooklyn’s last forest and a documented critical habitat for 50 bird SGCN. The project would repair eroded slopes, remove invasive plants, and restore low forest growth of native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants to the area. Native shrubs such as spice bush, chokeberry, and blackberry will restore an important lower level of vegetation, attracting migratory birds for foraging and breeding. Invasive tree canopy would be thinned to allow more sunlight into the site, fostering the growth of a denser shrub layer beneficial to many forest bird species. The top of Lookout Hill includes a small (0.75-acre) meadow that would be improved to provide a diversity of insects in the area, thereby increasing the availability of food to insect-eating birds.

Performance Monitoring Projects:

* Ithaca College - $149,982: to evaluate the effects of an experimental forest management area on golden-winged warblers in Sterling Forest State Park. Golden-winged warblers have been in decline due to breeding competition from blue-winged warblers. The experimental forest treatment sought to create habitat conditions that favored the golden-winged warblers.

* DEC Region 9 Fisheries Office - $168,600: to evaluate the success of a paddlefish stocking effort in the Allegheny River and its tributaries. The project will use radio tracking and other methods to determine the survival and possible reproduction of paddlefish in a portion of their historic range in New York. Confirmation of natural reproduction is essential to assess the stocking program and guide future management efforts to achieve a sustained population of paddlefish throughout the historic range.