ARGYLE, NY (April 9, 2019)—Land conserved with the support of the Open Space Institute (OSI) permanently protects critical habitat for more than a dozen threatened and rapidly declining grassland birds. The project also advances conservation goals within the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s top priority region for protecting and restoring populations of at-risk grassland birds.
The 64-acre parcel was protected by the Grassland Bird Trust (GBT), using funding provided by OSI. The land will be an important addition to the Alfred Z. Solomon bird viewing area while complementing 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, snowy owls and Northern harrier hawks, as well as for breeding bobolinks, northern harriers, upland sandpipers, and meadowlarks.
Protection of grassland birds is critical because these creatures play a vital role in the environment and in agriculture. They control crop pests, eat ticks that cause Lyme and insects that spread other diseases, and share habitat with pollinators and other wildlife.
“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 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. “We commend GBT’s dedication to the conservation of New York’s wildlife heritage.”
The two-year project was completed on schedule thanks to a $63,000 grant from NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a $50,000 grant from OSI and donations from Grassland Bird Trust members and supporters.
One of the most important and imperiled habitats across New York, grasslands are home to a significant community of bird species. Due to changing land-use patterns, natural vegetative succession, and development, however, grasslands are fragmenting and disappearing.