This month, environmental groups, conservation societies, and representatives came together for the official launch of the NYS Wildlife Action Plan website – nyswap.org. The website, which was in development for nearly two years with assistance from interns at Dartmouth College and George Washington University, was created to function as a resource and educational tool for critical information about wildlife conservation on Long Island.
It includes information about high priority species, Long Island species, upcoming/ongoing restoration projects in New York State, and ways in which one can get involved. The site was created by the Group for the East End to raise awareness for state wildlife and the threats many species currently face. It gets its name from legislation that passed in 2015, the New York State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), which will guide conservation strategy in New York until 2026 (a new plan must be presented every ten years).
The most recent plan assessed nearly six-hundred species to identify crucial habitats, study population trends, and identify forces that currently threaten wildlife such as pollution, climate change, and habitat loss. This assessment resulted in the designation of over 500 species as “species of potential conservation need” (SPCN) that, without intervention, will likely suffer a significant drop in population levels. Species range many taxa and include birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, bees, butterflies, and mollusks.
The primary goals of SWAP are to protect and restore New York habitats, restore vulnerable and declining wildlife populations, and engage the community through outreach and education. The website is the outreach tool created to help to actualize these goals.
“We need to give more tools to the public, and this is a great tool for the public to understand what to do and what not to do,” said Robert DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. “That’s a big part of why Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was formed; we wanted to engage the public in their backyard and in their community.”
For community involvement, the website includes information for how to create prime habitats conducive for wildlife (planting trees of varied heights for birds; keeping brush and rock for animals to hide from predators; and planting berry/fruit flora as a food source). Additionally, there is information for how to attract and provide a habitat for bees, how to reduce use of chemicals in maintaining lawns and gardens, who to call if one finds a stranded, sick, or injured animal, and where to go on Long Island for wildlife watching.
“Part of the richness of life out here is the wildlife that we enjoy,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. “Knowledge and information are power, and outreach to the public and providing information to them 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. If the public is informed about that, they will be with us to help protect those species.”
“This is a good time to get the public engaged and involved,” added Senator Kenneth P. 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 are more into protecting the habitat.”
Also present at the website launch were representatives from the Long Island Nature Organization, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Save the Sound.
For more information about the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, visit nyswap.org. For more information about Group for the East End, visit groupfortheeastend.org.