ARGYLE Grassland Bird Trust, formerly Friends of the IBA, officially acquired another 64 acres of critical habitat in February. The two-year project was completed on schedule thanks to a $63,000 grant from NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (Parks), a $50,000 grant from the Open Space Institute (OSI) and donations from Grassland Bird Trust members and supporters.
“This purchase wouldn’t have been possible without support from NYS Parks, OSI and the Capital Region Economic Development Council,” said GBT founder and Executive Director Laurie LaFond.
The 64-acre purchase permanently protects critical habitat in the heart of the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area (IBA) for state endangered Short-eared owls and a dozen other threatened and rapidly declining grassland birds. The area is at the core of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and GBT efforts to protect and restore populations of at-risk grassland birds across New York State.
“The protection of this land is a conservation success that demonstrates the importance of protecting critical habitat so that wildlife can thrive,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “We congratulate GBT on their success securing this haven for our most threatened migratory birds.”
“Washington County Grasslands is a wonderful place for people to explore the incredible diversity of plants and birds in our state,” said Acting (NYS) State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “I applaud the Grassland Bird Trust for their successful acquisition, which will further preserve this critical natural habitat and restore threatened grassland bird populations.”
“DEC is delighted by the Grassland Bird Trust’s acquisition of this 64-acre parcel in the Washington County Grasslands Important Bird Area,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This grassland will be an important addition to the Alfred Z. Solomon Viewing Area and complements the 468-acre Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area just a mile to the south. Together, these properties provide crucial habitat for overwintering raptors, including short-eared owls, as well as breeding bobolinks, northern harriers, upland sandpipers, and meadowlarks. We commend GBT’s dedication to the conservation of New York’s wildlife heritage.”
The purchase expands conserved lands in the Grassland Bird Trust’s Alfred Z. Solomon Viewing Area to 78 acres. GBT provided vital assistance on DEC’s acquisition of another 180 acres in the nearby Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) last summer.
“Birding continues to grow as a popular activity to visitors of Washington County,” said Andrew Meader, President 8 of Eight Strategies, contracted to promote tourism in Washington County. “Having a safe, public place to observe these animals only helps attract more visitors interested in checking off some species on their viewing lists that are unique to Washington County.”
Grassland birds play a vital role in the environment and in agriculture. They control crop pests, eat insects that cause Lyme and other diseases and share their habitat with pollinators and other wildlife.
LaFond said GBT’s land committee is already meeting with landowners to determine the next parcels for conservation. Landowners interested in learning more about GBT’s conservation initiatives should contact Grassland Bird Trust at 518-499-0012.