Local environmental organization Group for the East End unveiled the website for the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, the state’s comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy, at Hallock State Park Preserve in Jamesport last Thursday. The website, nyswap.org, serves as a conservation resource for the organization’s 45-year commitment to the protection and restoration of local wildlife populations.
The site provides information on more than 50 high priority Long Island wildlife species deemed to be in imminent need of conservation action. It also offers visitors details on where to see wildlife and learn more about it, how to manage property to enhance its value to wildlife, who to contact upon finding injured animals, and some helpful “dos and don’ts” about interacting with wild animals.
“Once we read the SWAP plan and consulted with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, we felt an obligation to raise awareness about the plight of our local wildlife and educate others about the issue,” said Bob DeLuca, Group for the East End president.
“More importantly, we are working to teach others what they can do to help restore the local wildlife populations that enrich our lives and, in many cases, have substantial economic value for our region,” DeLuca added.
Visitors to the site will also find current case studies of ongoing species restoration projects and campaigns including Plum Island preservation, shorebird and osprey monitoring, and the restoration of Long Island’s river otter population, which was once believed to be locally extinct.
In attendance at the unveiling were GEE’s Aaron Virgin, Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, NYS DEC’s regional director Carrie Gallagher, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society founder Robert DiGiovanni, and Mike Bottini of Long Island Nature Organization.
“This is a good time to get the public engaged and involved,” said Senator LaValle. “When we look at our habitat, it is constantly being challenged. I think it’s critically important for our young people to start getting involved, and I think today the general public is more into protecting the habitat.”
“What we need to keep in mind is that these lands and waters are, thankfully, not sterile, and we’re not the only ones occupying them,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Part of the richness of life out here is the wildlife that we enjoy. The fact is, knowledge and information are power. In providing information to the public about the fact that we do have a wildlife action plan, and species and animals that we take for granted that are a part of our lives every day but are endangered, they will be with us to help protect those species.”
The site was developed over the course of nearly two years with the help of the Long Island Community Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization that connects donors with charitable groups and research assistance provided by interns from Dartmouth College and George Washington Universities.
“One goal is effectively communicating with all audiences regarding conservation of these species, to inform the public, and engage the conservation community,” said Gallagher. “What better tool? We haven’t had the ability to do that at the DEC, but now we have a partner who has taken on that responsibility. This is going to make sure the information is going to be communicated effectively.”
GEE launched this site to serve as a conduit to engage more Long Islanders in the effort to protect and restore native wildlife populations, including many fish and shellfish.
“In all my years of doing stranding response, I have responded to over 4500 animals, and I’ve never been the person to call one in,” said DiGiovanni. “The public has always done that. This is a great tool for the public to understand what to do, and what not to do. That’s a big part of why Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was formed; we wanted to engage the public in their backyards and in their community.”
For more information about the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, visit nyswap.org. For more information about Group for the East End, visit www.groupfortheeastend.org or call 631-765-6450.