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For Release: Monday, December 22, 2003
Contact: Maureen Wren (518) 402-8000

DEC Proposes Two New Bird Conservation Areas

Sites Will Protect Critical Bird Habitats, Expand Research, and Promote Education

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced the proposed designation of two new Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs) that will enhance management activities for critical bird habitats and expand opportunities for bird watching and outdoor enjoyment. The Bird Conservation Areas proposed for designation today include the Helderberg BCA in Albany County and the South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCA located in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

"New York State offers bird enthusiasts a variety of opportunities to explore and appreciate birds in their native habitats, as demonstrated by these two proposed BCAs," Commissioner Crotty said. "Governor Pataki recognizes that Bird Conservation Areas help to maintain the health of important ecosystems, like the Helderbergs and the South Shore Tidal Wetlands, that support abundant and diverse wildlife populations.

"Today, as we officially begin winter in New York, I encourage all individuals to participate in fun and educational activities such as the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, to foster an appreciation of the abundant natural resources surrounding us," Crotty said.

The Helderberg and South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCAs will promote education, research and habitat management initiatives in these regions, while providing nearby communities opportunities to take an active part in natural resource conservation efforts.

The Helderberg BCA consists of four parcels of land, totaling approximately 6,716 acres. The BCA includes Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Partridge Run State Forest, Margaret Burke WMA, and Cole Hill State Forest. This BCA meets the criteria necessary to be designated because it is: a migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; and a species-at-risk site. Of particular interest are the early successional bird species, which include American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Prairie Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Blue-winged Warbler. The BCA also supports a wide variety of forest warblers, songbirds, and winter finches.

The South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCA comprises 21 State Tidal Wetland parcels, totaling approximately 1,377 acres, in the South Shore Estuary area of Long Island. These parcels include Inwood, Lido, Babylon Islands, Isbrandtsen, Timber Point, Pickman-Remmer, Pepperidge Hall, Ludlow Creek, Benton Bay, Brown's River, Namkee Creek, Stillman Creek, Lyman Marsh, Bellport Bay Marsh, Fireplace Neck, John's Neck, Tuthill Cove, Haven's Point, Moneybogue, Quantuck, and Shinnecock State Tidal Wetlands. The South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCA meets the criteria necessary to be designated because it is: a waterfowl concentration site; shorebird concentration site; wading bird concentration site; migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; individual species concentration site; and a species-at-risk site. The BCA supports a wide diversity of wetland-dependent and upland species, including several species at risk, such as Northern Harrier, Common Tern, Osprey, Seaside Sparrow, Clapper Rail, and Short-eared Owl.

Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels, who chairs the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council, said, "Governor Pataki has been instrumental in helping communities across New York State protect environmentally-sensitive lands and create new opportunities for the public to access and enjoy our State's magnificent natural resources. There are a number of important projects underway in the South Shore Estuary Reserve to highlight the natural beauty and environmental heritage of the region, and open up additional avenues for public use and stewardship of these resources. The designation of the South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCA is another step toward achieving theses goals."

In April 2001, Governor Pataki approved the Comprehensive Management Plan for the South Shore Estuary and its watershed. The plan identified actions to be taken over the next five years to ensure the long-term health of the estuary as a natural and cultural treasure and its important role in supporting local economies. Information from the management plan contributed to the formulation of the South Shore Tidal Wetlands BCA. Since 1995, the State has undertaken more than 70 projects to improve the health of the South Shore Estuary.

Designation of these BCAs is also intended to promote awareness of National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count, which, this year, is being held from December 14, 2003 to January 5, 2004. More than 50,000 observers nationwide participate in this census of early-winter bird populations. The results of observers' efforts are compiled into the oldest database in ornithology, representing over a century of data on trends for early-winter bird populations across America. For more information, visit the National Audubon Society's website at: http://www.audubon.org.

David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York said, "Winter is a fabulous time to celebrate birds. The announcement of two new Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs), the South Shore Tidal Wetlands and the Helderberg Area, combined with the start of the 104th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count this past Saturday, is a great kick off to the winter bird season. The continued growth of the State's BCA program reflects Governor Pataki's genuine commitment to the environment."

New York State's BCA Program, modeled after the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Areas Program, was signed into law by Governor Pataki in 1997. The BCA Program is designed to safeguard and enhance bird populations and their habitats on selected State-owned lands and waters. The law authorizes the designation of State-owned lands and waters that are of particular importance to the conservation of birds.

Bird Conservation Areas are recommended by an advisory committee of State and private wildlife experts based upon the site's ability to support an exceptional abundance or diversity of birds. The focus of the BCA program is to provide a model stewardship program and to develop interpretive and educational programs for bird conservation.

To date, 25 BCAs have been designated across New York State, including: Buckhorn Island (Erie County); Eastern Lake Ontario Marshes (Jefferson and Oswego counties); Iona Island/Doodletown (Rockland County); the Catskill High Peaks (Greene and Ulster counties); David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens (Suffolk County); Braddock Bay (Monroe County); Montezuma Wetlands Complex (Cayuga, Seneca and Wayne counties); Nissequogue River (Suffolk County); Mongaup Valley (Orange and Sullivan counties); Bashakill (Sullivan County); Fahnestock (Putnam County); Constitution Marsh (Putnam County); Harbor Herons (Richmond County); Perch River (Jefferson County); the Adirondack Sub-alpine Forest (Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties); Sterling ForestŪ (Orange County); Lake Champlain Marshes (Clinton, Essex and Washington counties); High Tor (Ontario and Yates counties); Schodack Island, (Rensselaer County); Oak Orchard/Tonawanda (Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties); Pharsalia (Chenango County); Upper and Lower Lakes (St. Lawrence County); Carter's Pond (Washington County); Ashland (Jefferson County); and Long Pond (Chenango County).

People that are interested in birds and their habitats are reminded that they can help support DEC's efforts to conserve habitat and increase public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation by purchasing one or more "Habitat Stamps" available to anyone for $5, wherever sporting licenses are sold. The 2003 Habitat Stamp features a pen and ink rendering of a brook trout. Buying a habitat stamp is the perfect way for young or old, angler or hunter, birder or photographer to help conserve New York's fabulous wildlife heritage.

The proposed BCAs are subject to a 30-day public comment period which ends on January 23, 2004. Comments or questions should be addressed to Bryan L. Swift, Nongame and Habitat Unit, DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754, phone (518) 402-8896; fax: (518) 402-8925; e-mail: blswift@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

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