ConservationLast Updated 2/15/13
NYSOA Conservation Actions
Population Mgmt | Camp
Hero | CARA | Cats | Climate Change
2/15/13 Article by Andy Mason (NYSOA Conservation Chair), January 2013: Most recently, the Conservation Committee contacted Parks Commissioner Carol Ash in 2010, asking that the agency revisit the feral cat issue. Commissioner Ash replied that surveys of colonies had shown that free-ranging cats were not as much of an issue statewide as previously thought, although there were colonies, particularly on Long Island, that were of particular concern. She stated that steps were taken to remove cats that were in proximity to at-risk species and habitats. Commissioner Ash also said that guidelines for feral cats were in place, but implementation was limited by Parks Office resources.
Article by Stella Miller (president of Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society), July 2011: It's 10am. Do you know where Fluffy is? If you are like many people, and allow your cat to roam outdoors, there is a distinct possibility that at this
Feral Cats, 2003 and 2010: Feral
cats, as well as domestic house cats, have a significant impact on wild
birds and other small wildlife. Estimates are that free-roaming
cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. These include
common species such as Robins and Mourning Doves, but also threatened
and endangered species such as Piping Plovers and those in decline, including
Wood Thrushes and Black-throated Blue Warblers. FNYSBC/NYSOA sent letters to
the Commissioner of the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic
Preservation in 2003 and 2010, urging the elimination of feeding stations for feral cats
in state parks. For more information on the impact of outdoor cats
on birds, see the American Bird Conservancy's Cats
7/12/12 Article on NYSDEC budget cuts and their impact on bird conservation programs (2012): This article highlights the impact of budget cuts on the NYS DEC's programs designed to benefit birds.
7/12/12 Comments submitted by NYSOA on the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, June 2012: The plan includes expansion of hunting as a management strategy and reduction in shrubland and grassland habitats. NYSOA is concerned about both of these. In addition, NYSOA is calling for reopening of the public comment period because the time allowed has been too short.
Spruce Grouse Resolution, July 2011: A resolution calling for increased management for Spruce Grouse in the Adirondacks was put forth by Onondaga Audubon Society at NYSOA's Annual Meeting in Batavia on October 6, 2007. This resolution calls on the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation to allocate sufficient funds to “ . . . finalize and implement the recovery plan for Spruce Grouse in NYS, and to provide funds for monitoring of recovery efforts.” The resolution further urges The Nature Conservancy to consider active management techniques to ensure that the Spruce Grouse persists on their lands with Spruce Grouse habitat.
An initial article was published on the FNYSBC (now NYSOA) website, devoted to the issue of Double-crested Cormorant population management. At the 1998 Annual Meeting, the council of delegates approved a resolution regarding control of Double-crested Cormorants. A more general FNYSBC resolution on bird population management was approved in 2003.
In 2004, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation began a large-scale effort to reduce populations of Double-crested Cormorants in the state. After five years of this management, DEC has succeeded in lowering cormorant populations, although other factors such as disease and natural population fluctuations also have come into play. However, the agency has not presented any evidence of changes to fisheries, or success of other colonial nesting birds as a result of these actions.
Read Andy Mason's new article published in the October 2009 issue of NY Birders for more details.
NEW 2/1/13 Gerry Smith wrote an article on cormorant management that was published in the October 2012 issue of NY Birders.
Update - article by Andy Mason, July 2011: Incredibly, mercury from power plants has been
totally unregulated by the Clean Air Act, until now.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced
a significant rule to reduce emissions of
mercury—along with arsenic, lead, dioxins, acid
gas, and six dozen other toxic chemicals that
power plants are now able to freely dump into our
Letter supporting reduced mercury emissions, 2006: Coal-fired power plants discharge mercury into New York State waters. As a result, several species of fish in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks have been identified as potentially dangerous for consumption. In addition, Common Loon populations have seriously declined over several decades, possibly, in part, as a result of ingesting fish contaminated by mercury.
In October 2006, NYSOA sent a letter to NYSDEC supporting the DEC'S proposal to reduce Mercury emission levels by 90% by 2015. The US EPA only requires a 70% reduction of mercury emissions. We also urged the DEC to reduce the timeline for compliance and to eliminate the trading of emissions credits.
Comments on the Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program: The Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) presents a comprehensive review of ecological effects due to water
withdrawal for High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing
(HVHF)....The DEC conclusion
that the "… projected water withdrawals
and consumptive use of water are modest
relative to overall water withdrawals in New
York" is misleading and self-deceiving.
Unless this perception is changed,
we have little reason to believe that our DEC
will spend their resources of personnel and
money to protect our aquatic resources from
the effect of water use by HVHF.
Fracking for Natural Gas Threatens Birds (2001): Almost all of the habitat in central New York was
devastated in the 1800s when the area was deforested.
Gas drilling has the potential to become
the next large scale devastation. The DEC is
scheduled to release its regulations in May 2011.
Gas drilling will begin soon after. We should be
ready. Any Big Days in May should be well documented
and the results put into the public domain.
The Big Days of 2011 could become very pivotal
data points for future reference.
Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling Project (2009): New York State is on the verge of major development of an energy source that could have negative impacts on birds in the region. The Marcellus shale formation that underlies much of the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Catskill regions is estimated by geologists to contain 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas throughout its entire extent, which includes portions of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Although it is not yet known how much gas will be commercially recoverable, to put this quantity into context, New York State uses about 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year.
Birders and birding organizations will need to be involved in review of the DEC's environmental impact statement regarding this project in order to ensure that potential impacts to birds from drilling are identified and addressed in the document and in any regulations DEC imposes on drillers.
For more details and information on the Marcellus shale gas drilling project, see the separate 2009 article by Andy Mason.
Bear Swamp (2005): The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued a proposal to lease state forest lands for oil and gas exploration in Bear Swamp State Forest in central New York. In July 2005, NYSOA sent a letter to NYSDEC strongly urging the Department of Environmental Conservation to recognize the importance of Bear Swamp and remove it from the list of areas under consideration for these activities.
390 Parts Per Million & Rising: In December 2010, the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the atmosphere
reached 390 parts per million (PPM). By 2014, the CO2 level will pass 400 PPM. By the end of the 21st century, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency projects atmospheric CO2 levels
will be at least 535 PPM and possibly as high as 983 PPM.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is directly related to the
temperature on Earth. 2010 was just ranked one of the three
hottest years on record, within the hottest decade (2001-2010)
Projected Effects of Climate Change on High Elevation Forests: In January 2010, NYSOA published information on the projected effects on montane forest habitats that are crucial to the survival of Bicknell's Thrush.
An effort is underway to replace a significant
source of lead in the environment – hunting ammunition.
NYSOA first publicized this NYSDEC program in its quarterly newsletter, New York Birders, in July 2009. Grants are being made available to private owners of 10 or more acres of grassland to encourage the preservation of this important habitat for a number of bird species that are in serious decline.
A separate article summarizes NYSOA's position on this complex issue. At the 2007 Annual Meeting, the council of delegates approved a resolution regarding wind power development. For a more general discussion on wind power and birds, see Andy Mason's article Birds in the Wind.
In December 2007, the DEC published a draft of Guidelines for Conducting Bird and Bat Studies at Commercial Wind Energy Projects. NYSOA responded in February 2008, stating that "The introduction to the guidelines refers to the environmental damage related to use of fossil fuels and the merit of developing alternative energy sources. Yet the guidelines fail completely to follow up on this excellent beginning since there is nothing subsequent that assesses the potential adverse effect of wind power in the context of our energy mix for the future....While NYSOA recognizes the need for developing these guidelines, there are major problems with this document. The errors are so fundamental that a revision requires a fundamentally different approach to truly assess the damage to wildlife and to develop appropriate monitoring protocols. NYSOA suggests that DEC hire a panel of outside experts to rewrite these draft guidelines with the goal of providing ecologically meaningful protection for wildlife based on a sound statistical basis assessed in the context of all the other energy-related stresses to our environment."
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued its final guidelines for conducting bird and bat studies at commercial wind energy projects. Although the final document does not go as far as NYSOA had recommended, it is clear that the threats to bird concentration areas that we pointed out were recognized in the final guidelines.
In January 2006, the US Fish & Wildlive Service (USFWS) released
a draft of their 15 year management plan for the Shawangunk Grasslands
NWR in Ulster County, one of the most important
nesting and migratory stop-over sites for grassland dependent birds in
NYSOA urged the USFWS to remove the old runways with as little disruption
as possible, to use herbicides judiciously, to allow bow, not gun, hunting
of deer and to restore the natural hydrology which the military had filled
in for runways. All of these positions were adopted in the final Comprehensive
NYSOA joined with a number of conservation partners in
an effort to ensure proper consideration and review of environmental
issues, including birds, prior to development of the Enterprise Park
at Calverton (EPCAL), a 3000 acre site in Suffolk County in eastern Long
a letter to
Governor Paterson, NYSOA commended the DEC for protecting the Calverton
grasslands and insisting that work be halted to allow for an appropriate
environmental assessment to be made.
In 2007 and 2008, NYSOA actively supported the Northeast Nightjar Monitoring Program by organizing Whip-poor-will monitoring efforts in New York State.
In March 2007 NYSOA expressed its strong opposition to plans for development of the lands of the former Seneca Army Depot. The plans called for construction of ethanol and biofuels plants on these lands, and for the conversion of extensive shrubland habitat to row crops supplying fuel for those facilities. In a detailed letter to the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency citing bird surveys conducted on the lands in question and providing species-by-species results, NYSOA called for a full Environmental Impact Statement and explained the errors in the assessment that had been released.
The NYSOA Board of Directors at the 9 February 2008 meeting passed a resolution of support for the DEC regarding their reclassification of wetlands at the former Seneca Army Depot.
Recent mapping of the former base increases the acreage
of protected wetlands from about 200 acres to 2,100 acres. The NYSOA
resolution commended DEC for its proactive efforts to protect wetlands
and their environmental values.
Jet Ski Use (2007): In the fall of 2007, comments were sought by the New York State Department of State on a proposal to allow personal watercraft—jet skis—within the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. NYSOA sent a letter to the Department of State stating its strong opposition to the proposal, urging denial of the use of personal watercraft in Jamaica Bay: "To expose the birds and critical environment of Jamaica Bay to personal watercraft is not in keeping with the recognition the Department of State and others have given this area. Jamaica Bay is already stressed and threatened from a number of sources—certainly another danger should not be added to this fragile ecosystem."
FCC Regulations on Communication Towers (2007): In April 2007, NYSOA sent a letter to the FCC urging the Commission to adopt rules to reduce the threat posed to birds by lighted communication towers, stating that "Research has shown that these changes can significantly reduce bird kills. Ongoing delay in implementing improvements in tower construction and lighting will only continue the unacceptable mortality to already declining species."
Bird Mortality at Communication Towers (1998): At the 1998 Annual Meeting, the council of delegates approved a resolution addressing bird mortality at communication towers.
"Survey of Bird Mortality at Communication Towers in Upstate New York", by Bill Evans, New York Birders, October 1999.
NYSDEC issued a proposed Draft Unit Management Plan for the Raquette Boreal Area. In October 2006, NYSOA sent a letter to NYSDEC supporting the proposal to maintain high quality of water, keep soil erosion and compaction to limits that closely approximate the natural erosion process, and plan to manage invasive plant species. However, we strongly opposed the building of a bridge over the Raquette River that would give motorized vehicles, including ATVs and snowmobiles, access to the sensitive boreal habitat lands east of Carry Falls Reservoir. NYSOA cited the issue that additional motorized access would cause irreversible damage to the natural environment.
In March 2006, NYSOA wrote a letter to support the use of NYS Wildlife Grant money to fund the proposed Conservation Alternative Mowing Plan, a collaborative effort of the NYSDOT and SUNY Brockport. This proposed project would study the impact on birds of mowing versus non-mowing of the grasslands which border NYS roads. These grasslands support bird species which have declined as natural grasslands have disappeared. The NYS Wildlife Grant money is administered by the NYSDEC.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued a proposed plan to retain the Wakely Mountain Fire Tower, rebuild a helipad, and mount communication equipment on the tower, all of which are at the summit. Not only was this proposal in non-conformance with the Adirondack State Land Master Plan, but also its provisions threatened to fracture critical habitat for Bicknell's Thrush, a species of special concern in New York State.
In February 2006, NYSOA sent a letter to NYSDEC strongly urging the DEC to comply with the State Land Master Plan which dictates that Wilderness and Primitive Areas should be, “protected and managed so as to preserve, enhance and restore, where necessary, its natural conditions.”
American Crows are particularly susceptible to WNV, with many specimens confirmed as infected with the disease by government agencies. Although crow populations have been considered steady or increasing, there is a very real possibility that WNV could dramatically reverse that trend. In March 2003, the Federation sent a letter to the Director of the NYSDEC Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources inquiring about the Division's assessment of American Crow populations and whether any consideration is being given to changing crow hunting seasons or bag limits in light of this new threat to the species. For more information about West Nile Virus and Crows, see Kevin McGowan's website.
Each year many people visit the the Upper Delaware River Valley on the southern border of New York in order to see Bald Eagles. At its Annual Meeting in September 2002, the Federation passed a resolution urging the establishment of a Mongaup visitor center to educate the public on Bald Eagles.
When Camp Hero had been acquired by the New York State Parks department, the future of the property was unknown. John Fritz wrote an article that was published in New York Birders urging readers to support making this park land available for public use. Today (2007), the 415 acre park is open year-round.
Support Encouraged for Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) (2001)