Barnhart: Document is important to sportsmen

By Steve
Piatt
Editor

Albany — It’s not the kind of document you’ll find in a hunting
camp, or something you’ll plunge into as you sit by the fire on a
cold winter night.

Make no mistake, the draft Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation
Strategy will never be considered light reading.

Still, while the cumbersome document won’t make anyone’s
bestseller list, it’s an important document for sportsmen, says DEC
Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Gerald
Barnhart.

“I think there are several aspects of the plan that are
important to sportsmen,” said Barnhart, pointing specifically to
sections dealing with heritage strains of brook trout and
grasslands development efforts that would benefit the state’s
pheasant populations.

Barnhart added there are also sections within the document that
addresses species like the woodcock and river otter, both of which
are of interest to sportsmen.

The plan, which has been four years in development and addresses
537 species throughout the state, focuses on what Barnhart calls
“in between” species — not necessarily those hunted, trapped or
fished and not those already threatened or endangered. The goal is
to keep those in between species from becoming threatened or
endangered.

Comments on the plan were received through Sept. 16; perhaps not
surprisingly, DEC officials received little input from
sportsmen.

“We received comments from most of the non-governmental
conservation organizations, like The Nature Conservancy and Audubon
Society — those types of groups,” Barnhart said. “I would say the
common theme was, ‘this is a really solid piece of work, and we
have a couple of suggestions to make it better.’

“We were pretty pleased with the tone of the comments.”

The document breaks down the state into watershed basins, from
the Allegheny to the Atlantic Ocean. It also identifies species in
greatest need of attention and what is threatening their
future.

Some of those potential threats include habitat loss,
contamination, illegal or unregulated harvest, poor water quality,
erosion and even motor vehicle collisions.

The plan, which tops 1,100 pages in length including appendices,
includes birds, crustaceans, freshwater and saltwater fish species,
insects, mollusks and mammals.

With the public comment period now complete, the proposal has
been sent on to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for that
agency’s approval.

“We’re hopeful it will be approved,” Barnhart said.

In fact, the proposal must be approved by USF&WS in order
for the state to continue to receive federal wildlife grant
funding, which since 2001 has been pouring in at $3 million per
year.

The Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy can be viewed
online at www.dec.state.ny.us, and is also available on CD by
calling (518) 402-8920. The document is also available at DEC
regional offices during normal business hours.

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