Saranac Lake, NY. America’s grasslands and shrublands are disappearing due to the intensification of agriculture and abandonment and development of farms. As we lose these open and shrubby habitats, we are also losing the grassland and shrubland birds that depend on them. Of the estimated three billion birds that have disappeared in the U.S. and Canada over the past 50 years, grassland and shrubland bird populations have been the most devastated. This makes the small and fragmented farmscapes of the northeast especially important.
Northern New York Audubon (NNYA) hopes to partner with local farms in our territory to improve these special habitats. NNYA’s new Small Farm Grant program will provide grants of up to $1,500 to farmers in the St Lawrence and Champlain Valleys and Northern Adirondacks to improve bird-friendly habitats and management practices on their lands.
“Our farms have a critical role to play in preserving local populations of these birds, and responsible farming practices can utilize birds in pest control, reducing the need for more harmful practices,” says Hyla Howe, graduate student and NNYA board member.
NNYA is hosting two online Information Sessions for farmers on Thursday, December 8 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, December 14 at 4 pm.
The application period for grants is now open and will close on January 31, 2023. Grant awardees will be notified and funds distributed in March 2023.
For more information, or to receive a link to the application or online information sessions, interested farmers should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Projects should be directed to one of NNYA’s four areas of focus: grasslands and hayfields, shrublands, riparian areas, and bird habitat around and within crops to manage on-farm pests. Grants can be used to offset the cost of labor and supplies to complete bird-friendly projects that include habitat improvement and ecological restoration components, such as planting native species; improving habitat structure; replanting wetland and riparian areas; creating infrastructure to increase nesting habitat or reduce predation; or altering farming practices to accommodate nesting birds.
Projects must be completed on farms within NNYA’s territory, which includes most of the Adirondacks, as well as the Champlain and St. Lawrence Valleys, within two years of receiving funding. Priority will be given to projects that benefit NYS Species of Special Concern or fit into a larger conservation effort.
“Habitat improvements benefit farming in other ways,” said Howe. “Native and diversified habitats support populations of birds and insects that pollinate crops and help to control pests. The Small Farm Grant program connects birders with food producers in our region in a way that is positive for both.”
The Northern New York Audubon Society is dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems in the Adirondacks and surrounding valleys, focusing on habitats of particular importance to birds, other wildlife, humanity, and the Earth’s biological diversity as a whole. As one of National Audubon’s 27 local chapters in New York, NNYA endeavors to “promote the protection and proper management of birds, other wildlife and their habitats through advocacy and education.”
For more information or to become a NNYA member, visit https://www.nnya.org/.
Photo at top: Northern NY Audubon website photo.