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.