Wednesday, July 1, 2009

3 Esopus Sites Listed as Priorities for Conservation in 2009 NY Open Space Plan

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently released its 2009 Open Space Conservation Plan, which includes a list of high-priority areas for conservation. The areas listed as "regional priority conservation projects" are eligible for funding from the State's Environmental Protection Fund, and other state, federal and local funding sources.

"For most of the project areas identified, a combination of State and local acquisition, land use regulation, smart development decisions, land owner incentives and other conservation tools used in various combinations, will be needed to succeed in conserving these open space resources for the long term," the plan reads. "Many of the priority project areas are large and will require a balance between conservation and compatible, natural resource sensitive economic development."

As many as three or four of the 135 priority conservation projects in the state have land in the Town of Esopus. Three are listed here. A possible fourth is the Shawangunk Mountain region. Whether or not Esopus is a focus are of protection for the Wallkill Valley is unclear, as the focus seems to be upriver, possibly because Esopus has not participated in previous biodiversity mapping efforts. (The Northern Wallkill Biodiversity Plan, authored by Danielle T. LaBruna and Michael W. Klemens, prepared by the Metropolitan Conservation Alliance / Wildlife Conservation Society and funded by the DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, includes this note: "This project began as a four-municipality initiative which included the Town of Esopus. However, the Esopus Town Board was unable to commit to assist in requesting site access for biodiversity surveys. MCA was, therefore, not able to survey sufficient land area to warrant the inclusion of Esopus in this report. Due to Esopus’ rich biological resources, future cooperation with Esopus would enhance the Northern Wallkill Biodiversity Plan and should remain an option.")

The text below is lifted straight from the 2009 NYS Open Space Conservation Plan.

PLUTARCH / BLACK CREEK WETLANDS COMPLEX - This project encompasses a very large wetland complex in the Ulster County towns of Esopus, Lloyd and New Paltz, which is important because of its size and variety. It includes the Plutarch Swamp and other nearby wetlands associated with the Swarte Kill and Black Creek drainages as well as associated uplands for buffers, access and management. These wetlands provide habitat for numerous wetland-dependent wildlife species, including critical habitat for the threatened northern cricket frog. The area is important for breeding and migrating waterfowl and river otters. It includes significant and rare ecological communities, including one of the largest dwarf shrub bog occurrences in the Hudson River Valley. The area also could provide significant recreational opportunities including canoeing, hiking, wildlife observation, fishing, hunting and trapping.

KARST AQUIFER REGION - The Karst Aquifers are situated in a narrow band of carbonate rocks that extend throughout Ulster County, generally parallel with the Hudson River and trending southsouthwest, through portions of Saugerties, Kingston, Esopus, Marbletown, Rosendale, Rochester and Ellenville, continuously outcropping just northwest and along the flank of the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge. This region is characterized by such features as caves, sinkholes, mines, springs, lakes and sinking streams. The area is rich in biological, geological and historical resources, provides diverse outdoor recreational opportunities and critical water reserves.

WALLKILL VALLEY The Wallkill River begins in the mountains of northern New Jersey and enters New York via the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge on the NY/NJ border. From there it flows through the fertile black dirt region of southern Orange County and then winds through a variety of landscapes, some amazingly rich in biodiversity, joining the Rondout just south of the City of Kingston, Ulster County, a short distance from its confluence with the Hudson. It provides excellent opportunities for recreational fishing and boating. A recently completed Southern Wallkill Biodiversity Plan (Wildlife Conservation Society/Metropolitan Conservation Alliance) identifies critical areas in need of protection. In addition, Counties and local municipalities are beginning to plan for its protection and restoration through a Wallkill River Watershed Planning program. Through these planning processes open space priorities will be identified for future protection measures.

The Shawangunk National Wildlife Refuge (Galeville Grasslands) and surrounding agricultural landscape in southern Ulster and northern Orange County provide an area of rare grassland habitat large enough to support a suite of grassland-dependent birds including short-eared owls, northern harriers, upland sandpipers, vesper sparrows, grasshopper sparrows and many others. This area also provides significant recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching and hunting. Opportunities to conserve additional lands in this area should be pursued.

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