ALBANY: Neil Gifford, Conservation Director of the Albany Pine
Bush Preserve Commission, gave a powerpoint presentation to
the attendees of the September vegetarian lasagna dinner at
the First Presbyterian Church on the new 2002 Pine Bush Management
State Law requires the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission
(the Commission) to review its management plan every five years,
and prepare a new one if needed. The Commission released a new
management plan in April, 2002. This new plan replaces the Implementation
Guidelines, published in 1996, and the original Management Plan,
published in 1993. The Implementation Guidelines were written
by the Commission in response to Save the Pine Bush's
lawsuit over the inadequacy of its original 1993 plan.
The presentation Neil prepared for Save the Pine Bush was the
same presentation that Neil has made to the Guilderland and
Colonie Planning Boards. All the local municipalities in which
the Pine Bush is located has representatives from the municipalities
including Albany, Guilderland and Colonie. Municipalities are
required to notify the Commission when developments in the Pine
Bush study area are proposed. The Commission can then supply
comments about how such developments will affect the Pine Bush.
Neil started by briefly highlighting the significance of the
Pine Bush, though he knows we are quite familiar with this.
He stated that there are 19 rare plants and animals, and that
the Pine Bush is located on glacial sands. Other butterflies,
besides the well-known Karner Blue, feed on the blue lupine,
including the persius duskywing and frosted elfin.
Noting that the Pine Bush was once from 25,000 to 60,000 acres
in size, there are only about 5,000 to 6,000 acres of the ecosystem
remaining, 2940 of those acres are in the Preserve, the remainder
Neil showed two dramatic slides, air photographs comparing land
use in 1940 to land use in 1990. Not only has the Pine Bush
ecosytem become significantly smaller during these 50 years,
but the type of plant communities has changed.
No presentation of the Pine Bush would be complete if the Karner
Blue butterfly was not mentioned. Listed on the NYS register
in 1978, and the Federal register in 1992, the Karner Blue has
greatly declined over its historic range from New Hampshire
to the mid-west. New York's capital region remains the
eastern most site of the Karner Blues, as the New Hampshire
population in Concord became extinct two summers ago.
The cause of decline of the Pine Bush ecosystem are habitat
destruction and fragmentation by developments; fire exclusion;
and invasive plants, which are a biological pollution and silent
Invasive species such as the black locust change the soil composition
and completely alter the environment, making the surrounding
area even more suitable for invasive species. Non-native birds
spread the seeds of invasive species.
Environmental Conservation Law, Article 46, which created the
Commission, states, "The Pine Bush is a landscape of rare
and endangered natural communities and species."
The goal of the Commission in its current management plan is
to protect and manage a viable Pine Bush preserve of 4,610 acres.
Currently the Preserve contains 2,940 acres. The Commission
will reach these goals by protecting and managing linkage between
Preserve parcels, protect and manage buffers, protect and manage
significant environmental resources, such as the Karner Blue
butterfly, including working with the Federal Plan to recover
the butterfly, manage and enhance public access to the Pine
Bush and education.
The Federal Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan will be completed
by December 31, 2002. Currently, the plan's goals
are full recovery of the Karner Blue in 20 years in 13 areas.
New York is the eastern stronghold of the Karner Blue. The plan
proposes to protect and expand current sites, link existing
sites, and create new sites. Recovery will be considered successful
at a specific site if the population of the Karner Blue is 3,000
individuals each year for a five-year period, without the population
falling below 1500 individuals.
Karner Blue populations in eastern New York are found in the
Pine Bush, in the Saratoga Sands Plains (the Saratoga Airport),
and the Queensbury Sand Plains.
Neil spoke about practical reasons why Planning Board members
should be interested in saving the Pine Bush. The ecological
value of the Pine Bush includes biodiversity, clean air (the
Pine Bush is a huge oxygen pump), and a source of clean water.
The Pine Bush has value as a recreation area. The Pine Bush
is a great educational resource. With the coming of the Pine
Bush Discovery Center, educational opportunities in the Pine
Bush will expand.
'The Pine Bush is an incredible asset," said Neil.
"No one else has this in their backyards."
Neil then turned to describe the Commission's role in
review of projects in the Pine Bush study area. In the new 2002
Management Plan, the Commission ranks all of the undeveloped
land which is not in the Preserve. An analysis is made of each
parcel. Some parcels received a higher ranking in this plan
than in the 1996 Implementation Guidelines, due to the discovery
of Karner Blue sites.
The Commission has some tools for balancing development and
conservation. Native plant landscaping of developments, which
is now available, keeps down the number of invasive species
in the Pine Bush. Changing exterior lighting to lights invisible
to amphibians and insects disturb these native animals and insects
less. Easements, set-asides and mitigation fees are also used..
Printed in the October/November 2002 Newsletter