New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the State has purchased 180 acres of land to add to the Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The $326,000 land acquisition, located along Plum Road and County Route 46 in the town of Fort Edward, will increase the amount of grassland habitat protected in the WMA to 466 acres.
The Washington County Grasslands WMA is home to more than 100 bird and animal species, including wintering snowy owls and state endangered short-eared owls. The area also provides critical habitat to 10 of the 11 grassland bird “species of greatest conservation need,” including Northern harriers, upland sandpipers, Eastern meadowlarks, horned larks, and American kestrels.
The WMA is part of the 13,000-acre Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) in the towns of Fort Edward, Argyle, and Kinsgbury, in central western Washington County. The IBA contains large open areas which grassland birds require for nesting, roosting, foraging and protection from predators.
The Pulver Family is selling the lands to New York State in memory of the late David Pulver.
Friends of the IBA (FIBA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit land trust dedicated to conserving critical habitat across New York State for endangered and threatened grassland birds. The organization provided assistance on this project and facilitated communications between DEC, the Pulvers, and the Town of Fort Edward.
Grassland birds benefit humans in a variety of ways including controlling insects and rodents that damage crops or carry disease such as Lyme or other diseases. Grasslands are also important habitat for bees and butterflies that pollinate fruits, vegetables, hay, and other crops.
DEC plans to construct two parking areas and a half-mile trail, and install directional and educational signage. In addition, an ADA-accessible viewing blind will be constructed on another part of the WMA. The newly acquired lands will be open to hunting during open hunting seasons. Deer, turkeys, and rabbits inhabit the lands. DEC is evaluating stocking pheasants at this location in addition to other locations in the WMA.
DEC is partnering with FIBA to construct a regional Birding Center in the Washington County Grasslands. The center will provide environmental education to local schoolchildren and adults and serve as a destination for bird watching tourism to the region. It will also host research facilities for DEC and FIBA biologists and wildlife managers.
For more information, including a map of the Washington County Grasslands WMA click here.
Photo of Birder at Washington County Grasslands provided by DEC.
You don’t often hear much about lowland habitat protection (where more biodiversity is found). This is wonderful news for habitat protection. Hats off to all parties involved to protect this wildlife corridor.
Tyler is so right. The IBA friends have pushed hard for faster progress on land protection here. Every step forward is important for the short eared owl, kestrel and rough-legged hawk. Hats off indeed to DEC, IBA Friends and conservation minded landowners.
I was only down there a few times but recognized the habitat importance of this IBA. Many grasslands are reverting to young forest and we should all try to preserve this type of habitat when feasible. I can’t remember the last time I saw an Uppie.
Tyler Socash says: “You don’t often hear much about lowland habitat protection (where more biodiversity is found).”
Recently I was on Guthrie Road near South Starksboro, Vermont. This is a quiet, rural dirt road that dead-ends into a forest, or becomes a private road thereafter. At this section of road is an old gate that once led to a farmer’s field once farmed for 50 years by Lester and Monique Anderson. They passed this land on to The Vermont Family Forest Foundation (which, I have noticed in my Vermont travels, lots of Vermont folks do) who then placed it under a “Forever-wild” conservation easement. On this road near this gate were hundreds of small yellowish brown butterflies, which I believe to be in the ‘skipper’ family, in groups of dozens or less. I hadn’t seen so many butterflies since I was a young boy on Long Island when fields and woods aplenty once were where apartment complexes and shopping centers or houses now stand. Being in this area on Guthrie Road, with its placid scenes and fresh earthy aroma’s, I could just feel how healthy the ecosystem was with all of its biodiversity….a natural paradise. It was like going back in time. I get that very often in Vermont!
The sign on the fence begins: ‘Hello! You’ve reached the edge of a special place. Among the trees, the mossy stone walls trace the contours of what were, not so long ago, cleared fields – a legacy of more than a century of farming here. Now, forests have returned and are slowly reassembling their natural complexity and ecological function……’
We should do this everywhere fields and woods remain! Leave them alone to let them rewild. Not here in the Capital region New York! It’s all about new tax havens here, which means taking down them woods and fields and putting up more stores or parking lots or housing developments which in turn creates more problems with pollution and congestion and psychoses down the road.
Vermonters are a special breed I’m here to say and there’s this sense of hope that overwhelms me every time I go there. Surely if you visit Vermont you know what I’m talking about Tyler!
I just re-read the article and noticed the part about DEC stocking pheasants. I am not a big fan of non-migratory birds being raised only to be shot or starve. Not to mention, every item of food a pheasant eats is one not available to native wildlife. But I guess if it is a WMA, this will likely become a reality.
Good news indeed. Marilyn Pulver, Laurie LaFond and others deserve lots of credit. I’m hoping that the adjacent site of the Vita Spring might be purchased someday as well. This would add an historical preservation aspect to the ongoing wildlife habitat conservation.
Property taxes are a daunting obstacle to wise land use. Even conscientious land owners may be forced into compromised decisions when faced with their yearly obligation. Some type of agriculture that maintains the grasslands while still being profitable would be in the best long term interest of the birds. I farm hay fields not too far from the grasslands and see many of the same species. Unfortunately, the school tax burden makes it necessary to aggressively take multiple cuts looking for that extra dollar and this practice works against the birds breeding success. A cropping system that gives the farmer a small profit while still supporting wildlife would be ideal. Public ownership/preservation is important, but not the whole solution.
Of course, the worst possible scenario is subdivision. A pox on mowed/manicured “ranchettes”. Sadly, that is what is happening. Washington County has a Jekyll and Hyde aspect. There are many decent, thoughtful people working to save its farmland and open space, while at the same time some town/county officials seem enraptured by sprawl and determined to turn the place into the next Clifton Park/Wilton/Queensbury. Has anyone noticed that America is divided? Right down to the local level.
” thoughtful people working to save its farmland and open space, while at the same time some town/county officials seem enraptured by sprawl and determined to turn the place into the next Clifton Park/Wilton/Queensbury.”
Yes wash wild… & there are many that are disappointed with the way those Clifton Park erected officials are allowing all of the destruction of that old farm country with its open space and fields. Not only are they destroying placid scenes which adds so much charm to the landscape, but they’re killing biodiversity also whereas we should be preserving what’s left!!!
There were two very nice letters to the editors in our local rags regards this matter recently which was very refreshing to see. I don’t think it’s going to matter though as our erected officials are who they are stuck on the old way of doing business. They’re going to continue raping and pillaging that old farmland and creating urban sprawl because when it comes to new tax havens that’s what they know how to do best. It’s a crying shame how much open space they are bulldozing in Clifton Park and all along that corridor Rt. 9. There ought to be more laws to protect open space versus allowing our leaders free reign over them, or should I say their handing them over to developers every chance they get. A crying shame I say!
Politicians are attracted to money as moths are attracted to flame.