New York state bulks up wildlife management area system

Wildlife abounds at the Chautauqua Lake Fish and Wildlife Management Area. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Two recent land acquisitions are expected to significantly impact wildlife and outdoors opportunities in lower New York state.

On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it recently acquired nearly 700 acres in the Columbia County towns of Ancram, Gallatin and Taghkanic, in far southeastern New York. Named the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area, it will become the county’s third and largest WMA.

And on Wednesday, the NYSDEC announced that, through a partnership with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, it also recently acquired 11 acres of land in the town of Chautauqua, along Whitney Bay in Chautauqua Lake, in far southwestern New York. The newly acquired parcel, called the Whitney Bay Site, will become part of the Chautauqua Lake Fish and Wildlife Management Area.

In Columbia County, the DEC purchased the large parcel from an anonymous seller for $2.8 million using federal Pittman-Robertson Act funds, the agency said in a news release. Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act established an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to pay for restoration, land acquisition, wildlife habitat management, and wildlife-related recreational programs.

The DEC said several areas of the parcel provide strong opportunities for the development and expansion of young forest/early successional habitat, and the Doodletown WMA will provide areas of shrub habitat that can support the New England Cottontail, which is found nearby and is a state wildlife species of special concern. In addition, the parcel contains upland habitat that supports important migratory songbirds, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, scarlet tanager, Louisiana water thrush, and the wood thrush, the DEC said.

The agency added that the acquisition also will support wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities, including hunting, trapping, hiking, and wildlife viewing. With that, the DEC said it will make a number of access improvements, including to parking areas, signage and kiosks. It also will examine the area for the potential to add trails and other infrastructure improvements in the coming months.

The Whitney Bay Site is the fourth parcel to be added to the Chautauqua Lake Fish and Wildlife Management Area, which now totals 134 acres along Chautauqua Lake. And although much smaller than the Columbia County acquisition, the importance of the addition’s impact on that property is significant, too.

“The directors and members of the Conservancy are very pleased that this wooded wetland lakeshore with valuable native emergent and aquatic vegetation important to the fisheries and waterfowl of the lake has been permanently protected and will be available for public use,” John Jablonski, CWC executive director, said in a release. “With less than 10 percent of the lake’s shoreline in a natural condition, conserving these last remaining habitat sites is extremely important to the health of the lake and its fish and wildlife populations.”

Over the last 20 years, the CWC and DEC have worked collaboratively to conserve over two miles of environmentally sensitive shoreline and wetland areas along Chautauqua Lake and its outlets, according to the DEC release.

“Not only will it provide additional recreational opportunities and lake access for the public, it will also help to protect valuable wetland habitat and 300 feet of lake shoreline,” Abby Snyder, DEC regional director, added in the release.

According to the DEC, there are 114 WMAs across New York state, comprising approximately 197,000 acres. The lands are owned by the state under the control and management of DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. Money used to acquire lands included in the WMA system has been a combination of state and federal funding.

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