DEC adds 180 Acres to Washington County Grasslands WMA!

NYS DEC Press Release, 07-30-18:

$326,000 Acquisition Increases Size of Protected Grassland Habitat to 466 Acres

New York State has purchased 180 acres of land to add to the Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. The $326,000 land acquisition, located along Plum Road and County Route 46 in the town of Fort Edward, will increase the amount of important grassland habitat protected by the WMA to 466 acres.

“This acquisition allows the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect and maintain grassland habitat and provide breeding and foraging grounds for grassland birds, many of which are experiencing steep population declines,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “These lands will also provide additional wildlife viewing, hunting, and other outdoor recreational opportunities.”

The 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.

“My children and I want to see the land preserved on behalf of my deceased husband, David, as part of our family’s legacy to the town and future generations,” said Merrilyn Pulver. “This transaction couldn’t have happened without the support of Friends of the IBA. They are as committed to helping people and local communities as they are to the birds, and we are fortunate to have them here.”

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 vital assistance on this project and facilitated communications between DEC, the Pulvers, and the Town of Fort Edward.

“Washington County is doubly fortunate to not only have one of the few intact grassland habitats in the northeast but also to have it in an area accessible to people from all over the country who readily see and appreciate the diversity of species found there,” said Robert Henke, Chairman of the Washington County Board of Supervisors. “We are grateful to the Pulver family for protecting this important tract in the grasslands.”

“We applaud DEC’s commitment to preserving New York’s biodiversity,” said FIBA founder and Executive Director Laurie LaFond. “We need to conserve critical grassland habitat imperiled birds like short-eared owls and snowy owls will still be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

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 on the Pulver. 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.

“This grassland has tremendous ecological value, protecting an important habitat. And there’s a tourism value as well as this bird habitat attracts more visitors each year,” said Senator Betty Little.

Assembly member Carrie Woerner said, “I am pleased that these Important Bird Areas will be protected for generations to come. My thanks to Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Seggos for their leadership on habitat conservation throughout the state and to the Friends of the IBA for their stewardship of this land.”

More information, including a map, on the Washington County Grasslands WMA can be found on the DEC website

ABOVE: Snowy owl in 180 acres, photo courtesy Gordon Ellmers