The gifts of nature, once lost, are gone forever. In the case of the Long Island Pine Barrens, the loss would be monumental.

Formed by a unique set of geological conditions over the past 15,000 years, the Pine Barrens is Long Islandís premier ecosystem and one of the Northeastís greatest natural treasures. It is home to literally thousands of plant and animal species, many of them endangered or threatened.

Dry upland areas are dominated by the pitch pine that gives the region its name, though in many areas black, scarlet and white oak share the tree canopy. Scrub and dwarf chestnut oaks dominate the shrub thicket, joined by a variety of interesting heath plants. From the forest floor springs a profusion of lichens and wildflowers.

The barrens also contains a diverse range of wetland communities, including marshes, heath bogs, red maple swamps and rare Atlantic white cedar swamps. Wetland areas team with unusual plants, including several insectivorous species and over a dozen species of orchids.

Animals in the Pine Barrens include over 100 bird species, many of which are disappearing in the region; an outstanding population of butterflies and moths, including the threatened buck moth; and such threatened or endangered vertebrates as the eastern tiger salamander, eastern mud turtle and northern harrier hawk.

In fact, the Long Island Pine Barrens boast the greatest diversity of plant and animal species anywhere in the state of New York.