Clean Water is on the Ballot

Ballot being dropped into a box - ballot has a water drop on it

This upcoming election is important for a lot of reasons.  When you receive your ballot, you’ll choose your names on the front side (you’re on your own with that). However, it is extremely important that you flip your ballot over and check out the propositions on the back.

If you live and vote in Suffolk County, you’ll have two or three propositions on your ballot, depending on what Town you live on.  Pay careful attention to Proposal No. 2 (Resolution 547-2020).  Suffolk County Politicians are trying to raid your Drinking Water Protection Program again.

Suffolk County has carefully worded the proposition in a way that makes no sense, so that you know what they’re actually up to. But make no mistake, they are asking for your permission to raid a fund of your tax dollars that you have already designated for water protection.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

PROPOSAL TWO, A PROPOSITION

Resolution No. 547-2020, “A Charter Law to Transfer Excess Funds in the Sewer Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund to the Suffolk County Taxpayer Trust Fund and to Eliminate the Requirement that Interfund Transfers Be Made from the General Fund to the Sewer Assessment Stabilization Fund”

Shall Resolution No. 547-2020 be approved?

( ) Yes     ( ) No

Makes a lot of sense, right? (That was sarcasm, in case you missed it.)

Here’s the deal.

A Vote AGAINST Suffolk County Prop #2 (NO Vote) –

  • Would enforce a court ruling that requires the repayment of tens of millions of dollars illegally raided from the Drinking Water Protection Program Fund
  • Would ensure the availability of money to protect residents’ drinking water
  • Would maintain enough money in the tax stabilization fund to assist taxpayers in existing and new sewer districts

A Vote FOR Suffolk County Prop #2 (YES Vote) –

  • Would move funds from the Drinking Water Protection Program to a general fund, which can be used for whatever politicians want.
  • Would “forgive” the repayment of tens of millions of dollars back to the water protection fund, that had been previously illegally raided

The Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program (DWPP) was created by voters in 1987 by an 87% majority and has been extended several times since. It uses a ¼-percent in sales tax to fund important water quality improvement initiatives, the preservation of open space, and control taxes for those in sewer districts.

Unfortunately, Long Island has the most contaminated water in the state.  It also has some of the highest concentrations of nitrogen in our groundwater in the country.  This is a public health crisis, that we cannot ignore.  We cannot afford to raid the Drinking Water Protection Program.

So, join us, alongside countless other environmental and civic organizations to VOTE NO on PROP 2.  To learn more, please visit https://www.pinebarrens.org/voteforcleanwater/.

Make a plan to vote.  Visit https://www.vote411.org/ to register to vote, check your voter registration status and find your polling place.

Five Questions with a Pine Barrens Educator

In this latest installment of our “Five Questions with an Environmentalist” blog series, we’re welcoming Melissa Griffiths Parrott, the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the New York State Pine Barrens Commission.

First, just a quick note: We (the Long Island Pine Barrens Society) are often confused with the New York State Pine Barrens Commission and vice versa – so, we thought we’d clear up some confusion!⁠ The government agency that oversees protection of the largest section of Pine Barrens is the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission.⁠ Created by landmark state legislation, the Pine Barrens Protection Act of 1993, the Commission is responsible for producing the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the Central Pine Barrens, holds monthly meetings to consider limited development possibilities and is responsible for stewardship of protected lands.⁠

Our Long Island Pine Barrens Society is a non-profit, whose mission is to advocate for and educate the public on matters of land preservation and drinking water protection, especially in the Pine Barrens.⁠ The Society attends meetings and stays in contact with the Commission to ensure proper adherence to the Land Use Plan and to collaborate on efforts to improve the protection of the Pine Barrens.

Now, let’s learn from Melissa!


1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you end up at the Commission?

I like to say Point A to Point B is not necessarily a straight line.

I grew up in Southern California and graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a BA in Radio/TV and Film. (Yep- remember that squiggly line from A to B?). Before I graduated, I studied abroad in London, England and took a gap year to live in Florence, Italy, becoming fluent in Italian.  After graduation, I worked in two fields that I was most passionate about; Natural History and TV/Film.  While I was a production assistant with various producers and studios, I was also a docent educator at my local nature center and the assistant Outreach Coordinator at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

I finally landed the job of my dreams, Post Production Coordinator for ABC/Kane TV.  ABC/Kane is the documentary division of ABC television.  I was able to combine my two passions, of nature and TV and film.  I was in heaven!  After some time working in the film industry, I realized my passion for the natural world was stronger.  I knew I had to follow my stronger feelings, so I left the entertainment industry and dove head first into working in the Environmental Education and Outreach field.  Along the way, I went back to school and trained to gain the knowledge and skill set needed to be the best at what I wanted to be!  After about 20 years as an environmental educator, working as a Director of Education at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, Director of Environmental Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (yes, for the Governor!!), and Director of the Sport Fishing Education Center for Cornell Cooperative Extension along the way, the Education and Outreach Coordinator position with the Central Pine Barrens Commission was recommended to me by a friend.  After some research into the position and the Commission, I thought it would be a great stepping stone for me with the ability to create a brand new Division within the Pine Barrens Commission.  That was in 2007 and I’m still here!

2. What kinds of educational programs does the Commission offer?

What don’t we do! We can certainly tailor any of our programs to fit a variety of needs.  Although we are a Pine Barrens-based Commission, we do provide educational opportunities across our Pine Barrens boundaries, everything is connected, so we teach from a holistic point of view, including all Long Island habitats and ecosystems. 

Our main educational programs include our Barrens to Bay Summer Camp- One of my favorite parts of the year.  We partner with Wertheim Wildlife Refuge and provide 6 weeks of hands-on, fun and creative ecosystem-oriented educational programing at the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge for ages 6 –12.  We explore the  trails, seine the Carmans river, partake in water quality and biodiversity studies, animal tracking, microscope discovery and hands on time with live animals and other specimens.  It. Is. The. Best.

We also co-sponsor with Brookhaven National Lab and NYS Department of Conservation, for our annual A Day in the Life program.  We partner students, teachers and natural resource experts with 11 aquatic ecosystems across Long Island.  It is so much fun!!  We train the teachers, work with the students and partner with the best natural resource experts on the Island.  We also get to travel to some of the most beautiful locations on Long Island, including the Carmans River, Peconic Estuary and Fire Island to do a deep dive into its environmental health!  The students learn real world scientific techniques to test the water quality, inventory biodiversity and more, to become true citizen scientists!  They also connect with their natural world, which is so important for long term conservation.

Every Fall we partner once again with Wertheim Wildlife Refuge to host a Pine Barrens Discovery Day!  A day of learning and experiencing the Pine Barrens.  The entire day is full of “fun shops” tailored to a variety of levels to either be introduced to the Pine Barrens or learn more!  Some of our past presentations include: LIVE Birds of Prey, Marine Life, Native Plants, Sharks and Whales of Long Island, Long Island Bats, American Eels, Forest Rangers, Wildlife Forensics, to namejust a few.  We also have expert Naturalists guide walks along the trails of the Refuge and on the Carmans River.  We seine and dock scrape for some in-depth hands-on aquatic life fun. It’s a GREAT day!

We also provide fun in-class presentations on Pine Barrens Ecology, Long Island Biodiversity and Climate Change on LI (yes, we do try to make that one fun too, or at least end on a positive note).

teacher in a classroom teaching a lesson on the long island pine barrens

Melissa Griffiths Parrott teaching a Pine Barrens Lesson. – Credit: A. Graziano Photography/ Pine Barrens Commission

3. What subject do your students seem most interested in?

Without a doubt wildlife! Hands Down.  It engages every age level with their eternal curiosity and connection to animals, insects included!  There is nothing more exciting than to see a student get excited about nature! I actually believe we are all kids at heart, because honestly, I still get excited about seeing any animal in the wild.  It is such a treat and really a rarity!

4. What is your favorite Pine Barrens park and why is it your favorite?

That is a tough one.  There are a few I connect with.  Wertheim Wildlife Refuge along the Carmans River is my second home.  Whenever I am on the trails or on the river, I am at peace and feel excited to explore. I have experienced so many surprises there when it comes to wildlife.  You just never know what you will see!   I also love the  Dwarf Pine Plains, that happen to be right next to my office (Lucky me!).  This trail, depending on the season has many surprises for you – Including orchids, deer, fox, whippoorwills and the endangered Coastal Barrens Buckmoth in the fall. This trail is rich in what makes the pine barrens the  pine barrens, sandy soil, scrub oak, bearberry, huckleberry, lichens, and the globally rare, dwarf pitch pine tree.  I also love any trail in the Pine Barrens that ends at the Bay or Sound. The Pine Barrens Maritime history is rich!

Aerial photo of the Carmans River Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge

Carmans River – Photo by Julie Clark

5. Do you have any advice for the younger generation or the future stewards of our environment?

Explore.  Ask questions, lots of questions.  Don’t be afraid to do something you’re interested in.  Pick up that stick and check out that scat.  Enjoy your time outside and connect with your surroundings.  Skin your knees, get dirty, experience YOUR LOCAL outdoors.  Sit. Be still and listen.  Observe.  Be patient.  Watch that butterfly or that bird, try to figure out what it is doing. It’s fun!  As far as stewards of our environment; you protect what you love.  It is your future and one day, YOU will be the decision makers that can protect our natural world.   We will need you to do so.  

Five Questions with a Scientist & Professor

Status Update on “The Hills” (now “Lewis Road PRD”)

Lewis Road PRD development project proposed for the East Quogue Pine Barrens

Five Questions with a Herpetologist

Grey tree frog within a pine tree

Backpacking Practice for Beginners in The Long Island Pine Barrens

People walking through the Dwarf Pine Plains

Hiking, much like backpacking, is the act of walking through nature on trails or even an unknown path. Backpacking, however, is the act of hiking over the course of a few days or more. Backpacking is not something you go and do spur of the moment. It takes strategic planning and some research. Without planning and research, you could easily find yourself in unsafe situations. For these reasons, the Long Island Pine Barrens is the perfect place to practice and get yourself ready for that backpacking trip you’ve been thinking about, but are not quite prepared for yet. Always know before you go! Do your research, practice, plan, map it out, and pack appropriately. Have fun, but most importantly, be safe!

Unfortunately, Long Island is not set-up or suited for backpacking as Suffolk County and the NYS Parks Departments do not allow overnight camping in places where there are not designated campsites. However, a hike along the Pine Barrens’ Paumanok Path or along other trails, is a great way to practice your stamina and endurance for a longer backpacking trip.  Many people take long day hikes on Long Island to gear up for a longer backpacking trip in places like Upstate New York. After all, practice makes perfect!

Below are the steps you should take when planning and preparing for a backpacking trip, so take these steps into consideration when practicing in the Pine Barrens for that future backpacking trip elsewhere.

First Step: Where to go?

Before setting off on your backpacking trip, do your research and pick a destination because you cannot plan without first having a destination. Picking the right destination that best fits you and your experience is very important. If you have never backpacked before then you must choose a beginner’s trail that is easy and you should stick to one overnight. If you are a beginner, you should also try and go with someone who has backpacked before.

  • Know your skill set and pick a trail that is well marked if you are not an experienced backpacker.
  • Pick a season that suits your experience because weather plays a huge factor in what you bring on the trip.
  • Do not just go ahead and wing it!
  • Do your research and prepare yourself by reading about all things backpacking.
  • Look up the trails before you decide to go anywhere and know how many miles, what pace, and the terrain.

The above steps will help you choose a destination to begin your backpacking trip. However, when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you can utilize the following link to our website to check out our hiking guides: https://www.pinebarrens.org/recreation-guides/

Second Step: What to bring?

The destination you choose and the weather will determine what you need to pack. When packing, you need to consider the weight because after all, you will be carrying it on your back. You will need to pack for four categories: Clothing, Cooking, Sleeping, and Emergency.

  • Clothing: Synthetic hiking pants or shorts, synthetic shirt, midlayer fleece/hoodie, waterproof jacket and pants, lightweight puffy jacket, lots of socks (1 pair per every 2 days), beanie and light fleece gloves and hiking boots.
  • Cooking: Lightweight backpacking stove and fuel, pot set, cooking utensils, bowl, cup, and spork, sponge and soap, food and water, and water filter.
  • Sleeping: Down or synthetic sleeping bag, inflatable or closed cell foam pad and 3 season tent.
  • Emergency Essentials: First aid kit, headlamp, lighter and matches, map and compass or GPS, accessory cord, toiletries, duct tape/ repair kit, pocket knife and  camera/ journal.

The above steps will help you choose a destination to begin your backpacking trip. When planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you only need the clothes on your back and some basic emergency essentials. You can utilize the following link to our website to check out our guide on detecting and preventing ticks on Long Island before setting off on your practice day hike: https://www.pinebarrens.org/recreation-guides/ 

Third Step: Meal Prep/Plan!

  • Remove any food that is in large packaging and repack it.
  • Dehydrate your food
  • Water!! Do not dehydrate! Carry at least 2 liters per person and also check to see if your trail has any natural springs.
  • Protect your food! Animals can and will try to eat your food so pack it accordingly. If you’re in bear country then bear-proof your food.

The above steps would help you plan what food to bring on your backpacking trip, but when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, you usually do not need to bring any food and just a bottle of water will suffice. Always leave with what you bring!

Fourth Step: Packing!

When packing your backpack you want to pack it comfortably. Pack all heavy items near the center of your back and pack the lightweight items around that. This helps to keep you balanced. Any items such as snacks, keep in the side pockets for easy access.

  • Lid: Maps, snacks, other essentials.
  • Sides and top: Clothing, tent.
  • Center: Water, food, cooking gear.
  • Bottom: Sleeping bag.
  • Outer: Sleeping pad.

The above steps will help you pack for a backpacking trip, but when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, it is not necessary to pack much of anything. Always bring a bottle of water and some basic emergency essentials for your day hike.

Lastly: Emergency Plan!!

  • Never leave without telling a friend or relative!
  • Leave your complete itinerary with someone back home.
  • Carry a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) This device will send a distress signal to local authorities and search and rescue teams.
  • Problems will occur along the way, but with proper gear and knowledge, you can get yourself out of minor problems.
  • Take a basic first aid course before you go!

The steps above will help you prepare you for backpacking trip emergencies. However, when planning a practice day hike in the Pine Barrens, much of the above does pertain and should be followed, but it is not necessary to go out and buy a PLB. Always be safe and let someone know where you are going and what trail you’ll be hiking before setting off on your day hike.

Man hiking on a trail in the Long Island Pine Barrens

Man hiking in the Long Island Pine Barrens

Backpacking is fun and for those seeking adventure in the wild, but it is also serious and can be unsafe, so you must practice, plan, do your research and prepare. If you have never hiked before, but wish to backpack, then the Long Island Pine Barrens is the perfect place for you to practice. Conquer all of the Long Island Pine Barrens hikes and become familiar with the basics. Get in shape before backpacking and break in your footwear in the Pine Barrens to avoid blistering on that future backpacking trip.


By: Claire J Moran, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Five Questions with a Board Member

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society is officially launching a new blog feature called “Five Questions with an Environmentalist.” We will be interviewing a variety of people who are involved in protecting Long Island’s natural environment – advocates, scientists, artists, educators and more! Each person has their own unique perspective and we are excited to share their voices.

Our second post will feature Thomas (Tom) Casey, a Long Island Pine Barrens Society Board Member of our Board of Directors.


1. Please tell us about your background. How did you go from English teacher to naturalist?

I grew up in Woodside. For me, wildlife consisted of pigeons, sparrows and the rats along the Astoria waterfront. My love of the outdoors began in graduate school in Central New York, and later I started hiking in Harriman State Park. In 1974, I backpacked in Montana for the first of eight straight summers. Back home, I helped edit an edition of the New York Walk Book, and in the process discovered the L.I. Greenbelt Trail Conference and the diverse treasures of our open spaces. Most of what I’ve learned since has come from field guides and other reading, the familiarity that comes with visiting places repeatedly, and listening to those who knew more than I, most notably John Cryan, Bob McGrath and John Turner (the founders of the Pine Barrens Society) and the late Larry Paul.

Long Island Pine Barrens Society Board Member, Tom Casey.

 

2. You’re on the Society’s Board of Directors, but you’re also the Board President of Quogue Wildlife Refuge. Please tell us why you refer to QWR as the “Jewel of the Pine Barrens.”

Walking in Quogue Wildlife Refuge offers a short course in the entire Pine Barrens ecosystem, from tidal wetlands to bogs, upland barrens and dwarf pines—all in a compact space with well-maintained trails. A beautiful visitor center provides tranquil views of a historic ice pond.

Quogue Wildlife Refuge

 

3. You’re a busy guy! You’re also the Vice President of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference. Can you tell us about the work that you do with them?

I became involved with the Greenbelt in 1980, two years after its founding, and began leading hikes for the group in 1982. I’ve been doing so ever since, though the walks are a bit shorter now. Adding up Greenbelt hikes, summer courses on the trails for teachers, and occasional hikes for other groups, I suppose that’s about 2,000 hikes. I also have been editing and laying out the Greenbelt newsletter since 1983 and seen it grow from a small booklet to 16 and occasionally 20 pages. I’ve also given many library presentations about our trails. In every case I try to include some interpretive information to attract more Long Islanders to our open spaces. I’ve also worked on the trails, set up mailing label programs, taken meeting minutes, represented the Greenbelt on government committees, and gotten roped into other tasks.

4. What’s your favorite Pine Barrens Park and why is it your favorite?

I can’t choose one place, but several come to mind readily. Obviously, Quogue Refuge is always at or near the top of my list. I also like walking the Paumanok Path in Flanders from Pleasure Drive to Sears-Bellows County Park. It offers rolling terrain, Maple Swamp, Birch Creek, Owl Pond and an ever-changing landscape where nature repeatedly heals itself after bouts of various tree diseases. I also like to walk the Paumanok Path from Ridge to Manorville. Another beautiful spot is Hubbard County Park, where the Pine Barrens meet the bay, with gorgeous salt marshes and the “ghost forest” of ancient Atlantic White Cedars poking out of the shoreline.

5. You’ve led a lot of hikes and have taught a lot of people about the Pine Barrens. What’s one thing that you find people are always surprised (or interested) to learn about the Pine Barrens?

That it’s there. I frequently hear newbie hikers say, “Who knew all this existed?” They know it does on an intellectual level, but when they learn a little about how the ecosystem works or smell Sweet Fern or taste a Wintergreen berry, they get emotionally connected to the land. I never tire of hearing, “Who knew all this existed?”

Quogue Wildlife Refuge Board President, Tom Casey, leading a hike through the QWR in 2019.

 


Help the Long Island Pine Barrens Society protect our natural treasures, make a contribution today!

Five Questions with a Founder

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society is officially launching a new blog feature called “Five Questions with an Environmentalist.” We will be interviewing a variety of people who are involved in protecting Long Island’s natural environment – advocates, scientists, artists, educators and more! Each person has their own unique perspective and we are excited to share their voices.

Our first post will feature Robert (Bob) McGrath, a co-founder of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and the Vice President of our Board of Directors.


1. As a co-founder of the Pine Barrens Society, can you please tell us how the Society was formed?

The Society was formed over a period of time beginning in 1977. At the time, myself and my two good, close friends, John Cryan and John Turner were all employed as park attendants at Hoyt Farm Preserve in Commack, Suffolk County. Primarily because of the interest John Cryan demonstrated in Pine Barrens Ecosystems, we were all drawn to our Pine Barrens whenever we had any free time to spend hiking. We called it  “Bushwhacking”, because more often than not we weren’t on a specific trail, we were creating one of our own! We spent many long hours in the field studying, recording our observations, and taking photographs of the plants and animals we were encountering.

Unfortunately, as these trips were taking place we all came to recognize that there were many development projects that were slated to destroy the very places we enjoyed visiting. In an effort to try and head off this development and destruction we set up meetings with local, town, and state officials in an effort to try and persuade them to preserve these areas. Two specific areas that come to mind were the Bogs and uplands surrounding Swan Pond in Calverton and the Dwarf Pine Plains in Westhampton Beach. When meeting with these officials, it quickly became clear to us that we needed to be representing an Organization if we wanted our requests to be taken seriously. After just a few meetings we soon began referring to ourselves as the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Our primary purpose was a simple one, we were “Dedicated to the Preservation and Understanding of our Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Woodlands”.

At the time I was 17 and both John Cryan and John Turner were 22.

Three Long Island Pine Barrens Society Founders with Governor Pataki

LIPBS Founders, John Turner, Bob McGrath and John Cryan, with Former NYS Governor George Pataki

 

2. What is your favorite Pine Barrens park and why is it your favorite?

I have many many favorites. But if I had to pick two, I would have to say Calverton Ponds and Cranberry Bog County Nature Preserve. Calverton Pond contains textbook Coastal Plain Pond ecosystems that are one of the many truly special habitats found within our Pine Barrens. They are a globally endangered ecosystem confined to the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. They are a reflection of the water table and contain many rare and endangered plants, insects and fish. One rare and diverse group are the carnivorous Bladderworts. We have nearly a dozen species and one, the Purple Bladderwort is federally endangered.

Cranberry Bog County Nature Preserve is special to me because aside from its natural beauty, it is the county of Suffolk’s very first nature preserve. Purchased in the early 1960’s it is 165 acres in size and contains, according to famous Long Island naturalist Roy Latham, 13 species of Orchids, 20 species of ferns, such rarities as Water Hornrush, and has the only state record for Shining Whip Grass. It contains some specimens of Atlantic White-cedar with trunks 16” in diameter, according to Latham as well as Dr, Robert Cushman Murphy. Freshwater life is abundant throughout this preserve and contains such rarities as the Bog Copper butterfly, a species that never strays far from its host plant, the large cranberry.

Little Pond at Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve - Pond and sky

Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve

 

3. What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the Pine Barrens?

There are many things I wish everyone knew about the Pine Barrens… I wish everyone knew that our Long Island Pine Barrens contains the highest percentage of rare and endangered animals and plants of any ecosystem in New York State. I wish that they knew that our Pine Barrens is the second largest of its kind in the world… second only to the New Jersey Pinelands. I wish they knew that Long Island’s water supply is drawn primarily from the aquifer system beneath the Long Island Pine Barrens and that the water beneath the Pine Barrens is the purest of any on Long Island. And finally, that ensuring the future of our water quality depends entirely of preserving the rare and specialized ecosystem that exists at the surface.

4. What do you see as the greatest threats to the Pine Barrens today?

There are many things that still pose a threat to the long-term survival of our Long Island Pine Barrens. Fire suppression is a huge ongoing problem. The Pine Barrens are dependent on periodic natural wildfires to sweep through and open the canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor. Most, if not all, Pine Barrens plants are dependent on direct sunlight for their survival. They receive this sunlight because they are capable of surviving the periodic natural wildfires that evolved eons ago to burn through the Pine Barrens. The fires also eliminate the forest litter that has accumulated and does not decay because of the high acidity in the soil. Pine Barrens plants have massive root crowns that remain insulated under the soil when a fire sweeps through. They are damaged by the fire, but  quickly rejuvenate. This delicate relationship has been severely disrupted throughout the Pine Barrens and is dangerous, as it leads to the accumulation of fuel, which often leads to hotter and more severe wildfires which eventually do get started as they always do. Hotter than normal fires are not good, even for the Pine Barrens species.

5. Do you have any advice for our members that are looking to help protect Long Island’s environment?

My advice would be for all Long Islanders to simply pay the natural world the respect that it deserves! We cannot, I repeat cannot, survive without the natural world around us. You don’t necessarily have to be a “treehugger” who places the value of a Box Turtle on par with a human, but you should respect the planet and the other creatures that exist here as equal in many ways. Were it not for the other life forms, life as we know it could simply not survive. That advice is especially true relative to the Long Island Pine Barrens. Our Pine Barrens harbor the most precious life requirement beneath it. There is NO substitute for clean fresh water, plain and simple. Our Pine Barrens supply us with this resource in vast quantities. Most Long Islanders do not understand this. They think they drink “city water”, a bygone term from when many people moved out from the city to live in the suburbs of Nassau and Suffolk. Long Islanders living in Nassau and Suffolk do not drink city water, they drink water drawn up from our aquifers and in most cases from directly beneath the Pine Barrens. If this weren’t reason enough to save the Pine Barrens, the delicate relationship that the landscape and the myriad of rare and endangered plants and animals  and the delicate balance of wildfires should, in my opinion, be enough to warrant their protection.

So… my advice. Heed that warning and spread the word as much as possible. All Long Islanders depend on clean fresh water. Imagine the cost of a shower if one were forced to buy bottled water to take a bath or shower? Right now our water is a bargain, but it won’t remain that way if we don’t get all Long Islanders to respect the value in the precious region that supplies it.

Bob McGrath with his daughters in the Long island Pine Barrens

Bob McGrath with his young daughters in the Long Island Pine Barrens (Circa 1990s).

 


Help the Long Island Pine Barrens Society protect our natural treasures, make a contribution today!

The Nocturnal Pollinator

While you are outside enjoying these warm summer nights, you most likely will notice an abundance of moths. Some moths are nocturnal, while others are not. You might have even wondered what the purpose of a moth is and may have even thought that they are a nuisance. Some, but not all, actually do serve a significant purpose, which is that some nocturnal moths pollinate.

Nocturnal flowers exist, which have specific traits that attract the nocturnal moths. The flowers that attract moths are usually pale, dull-red, purple, pink, and white. Their strong sweet odor that is emitted at night attracts moths to its hidden, but ample nectar. The flowers have a limited amount of pollen and can be tubular in shape. The purpose of these specific traits that these flowers have to attract the moths is to ensure that its pollen will be successfully carried to another flower with the end result of reproduction.  

Hummingbird Moth by: Sandra Richard, Flickr CC

The Oakes’ Evening Primrose (Oenothera oakesiana) is a flowering nocturnal plant that can be found along sandy roadsides or streamsides in the Pine Barrens as well as on maritime dunes. This flowering nocturnal plant attracts moths for pollination. Not all nocturnal flowering plants that can be found on Long Island are native, but they still provide nectar for the nocturnal moths, such as the Moonflower. Moonflowers open at night and give off a fragrant smell in the evening to attract pollinators.

Oakes’ Evening Primrose by: Dan Mullen, Flickr CC

Moths that can be found in the Long Island Pine Barrens and that may pollinate these nocturnal, fragrant, and flowering-plants include, but are not limited to:

  • Waxed Sallow (Chaetaglaea cerata)
  • A Noctuid moth (Chytonix sensilis)
  • Melsheimer’s sack bearer (Cicinnus melsheimeri)
  • A hand-maid moth (Datana ranaeceps)
  • Barrens Buckmoth (Hemileuca maia maia)
  • Imperial moth (Eacles imperialis pini)
  • Brown-bordered geometer (Eumacaria madopata)
  • A noctuid moth (Eucoptocnemis fimbriaris)
  • A noctuid moth (Orthodes obscura)
  • Pink sallow (Psectraglaea carnosa

Isabella Tiger Moth by: Seabrooke Leckie, Flickr CC

As mentioned before, not all moths are nocturnal and not all moths pollinate and some moths are still not fully understood, but they should be appreciated. The next time, which may be tonight, when you are swarmed by the moths of the night, think about the purpose they may serve before well, you know… squishing them. 


By: Claire J Moran, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

 

BIRDS AND THE BEES Part II

The birds and the bees need our help!

Now onto the bees. In part I of the Birds and the Bees, we talked about the birds, but now let us discuss the bees. The bee population is on the decline as well. We rely heavily on honeybees, so let’s help them out too! We also cannot forget about the other bees, such as the Long Island natives, which include bumblebees and mason bees. Honeybees are considered invasive to Long Island, so we must give a little more TLC to our natives. Regardless, all bees are important and need our help. With 17 different species of bees on Long Island, our work is cut out for us, so we must act now! 

Bumblebee on a Happy Single Dahlia
Credit: John, Flickr CC

What would happen if we didn’t have any bees left?

If bees were to go extinct, the environment and human life would suffer tremendously. Bees play an unimaginable role in the cycle of reproduction all over the world. Plants rely on bees for pollination and humans rely on bees to pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Without the bees, there aren’t many other mechanisms for plants to transfer their pollen from one plant to another. It would be a very scary future without the bees! 

We are stressed out and so are the bees!

We know what it feels like when we are stressed out and it’s not good, so just imagine how a bee feels. Imagine what it feels like to have all of the following stressors affect you on a daily basis:

Stress 1 – Pesticides

There are contact pesticides and there are systemic pesticides. Contact pesticides are pesticides that are sprayed on plants that kill bees upon contact. Systemic pesticides are pesticides that are incorporated into the soil and or seeds, which result in the growth of plants that carry the pesticide in their pollen, stem, leaves, and nectar. Systemic pesticides are extremely harmful to bee colonies because the bee does not die immediately when it comes into contact with the pesticide, but instead, it carries the pesticide back with them to the entire colony. This can result in colony death. Pesticide use results in colony collapse disorder. Agencies such as the EPA and European Food Safety Authority  are working towards banning and limiting the use of pesticides that are toxic to bees. There is also another type of pesticide called the neonicotinoid. New research shows a connection between bee decline and this insecticide that was once believed to be more environmentally friendly compared to other pesticides being used.

Stress 2 – Invasive species

Invasive species like the external parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, threaten the bee population. This mite feeds on bees’ circulatory fluid, which then leads to the spreading of the mite to the colony. The mite spreads viral diseases and bacteria that can kill colony after colony. This one particular mite was discovered in Southeast Asia in 1904 and has since spread worldwide. 

Stress 3 – Habitat Loss

As our human population increases we continually destroy natural habitats that are home to many plants, animals, and insects. We impact the natural environment through fragmentation, degradation, and destruction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature predicts a global loss of 20,000 flowering plant species over the next couple decades. This will in turn lead to the decline of pollinators that depend on these plants for survival. Habitat diversity is key to the survival of many species including the bees. 

Stress 4 – Climate Change

Bees rely on natural cues within the environment  to make certain decisions, but because of climate change, those natural cues have been thrown off. Due to climate change, there has been a loss of bee habitats. Normally, bees would migrate to cooler areas and establish new hives, but because of climate change, bee territories have shrunk tremendously. The rise in temperatures has also affected the timing of when flowers bloom, which has created a food source issue for bees. Bees are ready to feed on pollen at a certain time, but due to climate change, that timing of when flowers bloom and the bees are ready to feed are no longer matching up. The stress of climate change on the bees can also cause bees to be more susceptible to infections. 

Other stressors include: parasites, viruses, bacterial diseases, malnutrition, and queen quality.

There are way too many stressors that the bees have to deal with. Unfortunately, we are the cause of many of these stressors that affect the bees. However, we all have the ability to make bees’ lives a lot less stressful, so let’s do our part.

Here is what you can do to help the bees survive and thrive!
  1. Stop using pesticides and herbicides! There are alternatives to pesticides that won’t harm and kill the bees. The following link may be helpful when choosing an alternative method: https://www.planetbee.org/natural-pest-control
  2. Plant wisely! Bees are attracted to blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow flowering plants.
  3. Plant strategically! Bees depend on plant pollen and nectar throughout the growing season, so plant plants that will bloom throughout the growing season.
  4. Perennials and herbs are good sources of nectar and pollen for bees, so plant them and don’t forget, plant native. Bees need and love native plants, not the fancy exotic non-natives. 
  5. Ditch the fully groomed lawn! Give yourself and the bees a break and let those clovers, dandelions, and violets grow all over your lawn.
  6. Again, plant native! Fun fact, the Pine Barrens white-flowering low bush blueberry is a great source of food for the bumble bee. They have a symbiotic relationship, which means they both depend on each other for survival. Some plants do have the ability to self-pollinate, but cross-pollination is much better. 
  7. Other Pine Barrens native plants that are co-dependent with bees,  are the Sweet pepper-bush, Sheep-laurel, and the American-holly. 
  8. Bee informed! Research local stressors to bees in your area and get involved in recovery efforts.
  9. Support local beekeepers who are respectful and thoughtful to the bees and buy local chemical-free honey! We do not want to support beekeepers who treat their bees inhumanly and use chemicals. 
  10. Bees are thirsty too! Leave a small water dish or a water-filled bird bath out for the bees.
  11. Sign petitions, speak up, and vote to support the bees. Our local, state, and federal government must hear and see our support for the bees so that changes will be made.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and follow along throughout the entire month of May, where we are featuring native plants each week.


By: Claire J Moran, Long Island Pine Barrens Society