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2021 Year in Review: Protecting Land for Wildlife

Photo Credit: Joe Burnham, GADNR

Across the east, OSI’s efforts to protect land made a real difference to the sensitive, threatened, and endangered species that call these landscapes home.

The hard-working Gopher Tortoise received a considerable boost from OSI this year with the protection of South Carolina’s Slater and Tillman Addition properties, which together span nearly 4,000 acres. Conservation of the properties builds on OSI’s previous land protection efforts in Georgia to benefit the gopher tortoise, a keystone species whose burrows provide habitat for 350 other species including the state-endangered gopher frog. The protection of a second property near Slater, called Slater Duck Ponds, also secures managed wetland habitat for waterfowl.

Nine more Peregrine Falcons, the world’s fasted animal, were released along OSI’s River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, New York – including a beautiful juvenile named Fabio, who was rescued after being rescued from an Upper West Side courtyard in Manhattan. The River-to-Ridge Trail was identified as an ideal location for the release by the local bird rehabilitator because of the trail’s proximity to the Shawangunk Ridge and its expansive site lines that allow greater monitoring as the birds take flight and re-enter the wild. Peregrine falcons prefer to nest at high altitudes and along cliff faces, like those found at the nearby ridge.

In northern Saratoga County, New York, the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly will benefit from an addition by OSI to Moreau Lake State Park that features exceptional habitat for thousands of native plant and wildlife species. An OSI-led habitat restoration project on the site is expected to support a minimum of 3,000 rare butterfly specimens annually.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, OSI also protected wild turkey, habitat in the Piedmont region with the addition of 481 acres to Sumter National Forest. Once almost driven extinct by over-hunting, the Wild Turkey’s population levels have now rebounded considerably. And, the rocky shoals spider lily also received a boost this year with OSI’s transfer of 385 acres along the Catawba River to the State of South Carolina — a move that will enhance water quality just upstream of the world’s largest remaining colony of the beautiful, rare flower.

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