What is “The Best of The Rest”?

A little over a month ago, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society announced our newest initiative, The Best of The Rest. This important initiative seeks to preserve the remaining environmentally sensitive pine barrens parcels in the Core Preservation Area and Compatible Growth Area. In total these parcels make up 3,800 acres of land across Long Island! But maybe that isn’t the best explanation of what we’re doing, maybe an initiative this big deserves a little more background.

Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act Signing

Governor Mario Cuomo signs the Pine Barrens Protection Act in 1993

Beginning with the original Pine Barrens Protection Act, the goal of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society had always been the preservation of land and drinking water.  Also important is public education about this land. Making sure that people know that there was essentially one of the nation’s most beautiful nature preserves right in their backyard was just as important as preserving that land itself. And in 2019, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society declared victory on one of those fronts, with over 100,000 acres of land having been successfully preserved for future generations! By then, it had been a 42-year long battle to protect the Pine Barrens.

With Pine Barrens protection in place, it was important to promote opportunities for residents to appreciate the area. When the first wave of COVID-19 infections hit Long Island, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society put more focus into the recreational aspects of the Pine Barrens, and we released our family-friendly Parks Passport.

The LIPBS Parks Passport can be found at https://www.pinebarrens.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Pine-Barrens-Parks-Passport-7.pdf

This comprehensive guide to Long Island Pine Barrens Parks compiled not only hiking trails, but lessons for families to complete together, encouraging them to venture out of the house while keeping safe in the early days of the pandemic.

At the same time, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society continued our long-standing battle with the Discovery Land Corporation over The Hills project in East Quogue, newly minted as the Lewis Road PRD. That particular fight became part of the basis for what would come next.

Enter The Best of The Rest initiative. I think by this point you have an idea of what that is, but I’ll take one more moment to explain. We at the Long Island Pine Barrens Society are pushing forward with our newest endeavor, to preserve 3,800 acres of land, the Rest, located in the Pine Barrens, the Best.

So, what about the land we’re trying to preserve? There are too many parcels to go over all of them here, but I will highlight a few of them here. If you were following our social media channels during the month of August, you probably saw us posting about three different parcels in three different townships. Those posts are still available to view as of now, but let’s go into a little more detail on some of them here.

Earlier in the blog I briefly mentioned the Lewis Road PRD, and how it came to be part of the push behind the Best of The Rest. The patch of land in East Quogue where the Discovery Land Company is seeking to develop their resort is one of the many parcels we’re seeking to preserve with The Best of The Rest. If you look through our old newsletters, in almost every single one for the last 13 or so years you’ll find a snippet about either Lewis Road or The Hills. Sometimes the blurbs would be counting a win for our preservation efforts, sometimes it’d be a win for the development. The fight with Discovery Land Corporation has been a long back and forth that’s ongoing, and as we approach some of the most decisive meetings with the Pine Barrens Commission and Town Board members, it’s more important than ever to maintain our resolve to protect that land.

Dick Amper standing at a podium

Dick Amper- Lewis Road Hearing 2/20

On a lighter note, during the early days of the pandemic, I mentioned that we’d created the Parks Passport, a fun way for families to venture into the Pine Barrens together and learn about Long Island’s most unique ecosystem. Not included in that family-oriented passport, for obvious reasons, was the over 125-mile long Paumanok Path, which stretches all the way from Rocky Point to Montauk Point. You could travel across just about all of Suffolk County without ever leaving public parkland on that trail! And while it’s certainly a marvel, and a must-try challenge for any serious hiking/camping enthusiasts, it’s still a very significant leap from the more casual trails around the Island.

That comes into play with some of the parcels we’re seeking to preserve in Suffolk County, including Shoreham beach and beyond. These parcels represent the final pieces in a roughly 16-mile-long jigsaw puzzle, that would create another trail, similar to the Paumanok Path. This new trail, freshly comprised of public park land, would create a single path reaching from Shoreham Beach, all the way down to Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. Certainly not as massive as the Path, but regardless, a massive achievement, and what is bound to be a new challenge for recreational hikers looking to find something to brag about.

I’m not discussing just two parcels here; the Hills development site and 16-mile trail are made up of almost 20 individual parcels we’re looking to preserve. None of what we do at the Long Island Pine Barrens Society is simple, but all of it is important, not just for us, but those who will come after us.

To support these efforts, and to ensure that we can continue protecting Long Island’s most unique ecosystem well into the future, we’re hosting our annual environmental Gala on October 20, at 7:00PM EST this year. This time, the theme is all about the Best of The Rest initiative, and the steps we’ve taken this year to reach this point. As in recent years, we’ll be hosting our Gala online, livestreamed for all to see over Facebook and YouTube. That doesn’t mean we’re skimping on gifts for our supporters though; this year we’re offering a new “Party box” filled with specialty items all crafted right here on Long Island. Even if we can’t meet in person this year, we’d love to have you join us as we celebrate not only the past 45 years, but the future that The Best of The Rest hopes to preserve.

You can read more about The Best of The Rest here.

 


By Andrew Wong, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Cover Photo: Julie Clark

Protecting Yourself From Ticks

With the summer heat sweeping across the island, it’s one of the best times of the year to get out and enjoy some of Long Island’s natural green trails. Many villages and towns will have paved paths for you to walk on, but some of you may be more inclined to dive deeper into some natural areas, and take walks in the wooded areas of the Pine Barrens. Wherever you end up going, though, it’s almost certain you’ve heard, either from a concerned friend or Facebook comment, about the rise in tick populations over the past few years.

For many of the tick species on Long Island, we’re actually in a bit of a lull, with many of them peaking in the spring and fall. However, even if adult populations have begun to dwindle, that’s no reason to disregard safety precautions when hiking in deep woods. For our friends outside of the Long Island area, certain species may still be in a state of high activity.

So this month, we’ll be going over the types of ticks to be on the lookout for, how to identify them on your person, what diseases they can carry, what to do to protect yourself from them, and what to do if one bites you. This post is about what to do if you are bitten by a tick, so we won’t be going over strategies to keep your dogs safe, though you should absolutely look into that yourself if you plan to take them hiking with you, or just if you tend to walk them in green areas.

The Types of Tick

While we’ll be focusing on the species prominent on Long Island in this blog, anyone who wants to protect themselves from ticks in any part of the United States should absolutely have a look at the tick finder published by the University of Rhode Island. The finder is an invaluable tool for determining not only what ticks may be prominent near wherever you live, but also during which months their activity is at its peak, and what diseases specific variants can carry. New York specifically will mostly see four kinds of tick: The Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum), The American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and The Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Right now, Long island, as well as the general tri-state, is actually seeing some of the lowest numbers for adult ticks we’ll have all year! And while you might assume that means there’s less to worry about, we still have larval ticks, and nymphs to worry about, which are currently at their peak for this year. The standard tick mating season happens to be right around now, so while the adults are beginning to die off, their spawn for the year will be coming in droves. Just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean you can ignore the threat of an immature tick; if anything, they’re even more dangerous because of their smaller size making them harder to find.

The fall is when adult ticks are at their absolute peak. If you’re willing to brave the cold, the winter months see populations drop massively, for both adults and larvae.

How to Identify a Tick

In addition to knowing the kinds of ticks that exist, it’s important as well to know what they’ll look like on your skin, as well as what a bite may look like. The most common advice about tick bites is to watch out for a bullseye rash, a large circular rash with a ring of red containing white skin within. However, this sort of rash only applies to Lyme disease, which is not the only way a tick bite may appear.

For any noninfectious tick bite, you’re likely to mistake it for a simple mosquito bite, and there isn’t as much to worry about. The odds are good that you might not even know you were bitten by a tick, since they are small enough to be mistaken for a freckle, and their bites are not likely to illicit pain similar to a small pinch.

Photo of a Blacklegged (Deer) tick attached to a pale skinned individual, courtesy of NYS Integrated Pest Management Program, www.DontGetTickedNY.org.

Even adult ticks are small enough that they might not be noticed on your skin, especially in a hard to see area, so generally be on the lookout for any freckles you might notice being a bit darker than you remember.

An Important Note about Identification

An unfortunate and pervasive issue that is still ongoing with tick identification is a general lack of resources when it comes to identifying bites and rashes on darker tones of skin. Online resources for what to look for are extremely limited, and doctors can have a harder time identifying potential infections because of that.

Finding online resources for any skin condition on dark skin is a difficult task, and the way Lyme disease can appear on darker skin makes it extremely difficult to spot.

Pictured is a dark skinned individual with an EM rash on the right shoulder, courtesy of the CDC’s Public Health Image Library, https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=14482

For these reasons and more we felt it important to highlight this here, as we unfortunately lack sufficient information to offer advice on this topic. If you personally have images or experiences removing or identifying ticks on darker skin, please feel free to send such examples to us at info@pinebarrens.org so that we might better update our information in the future. Know that we will never publish or share any images shared with us without express party consent.

The Risks

For most tick bites, the most you’ll have to deal with is a bit of a welt for a few days. In fact, if you accidentally remove or crush the tick without realizing it, you may mistake it for a mosquito or other insect bite.

The real danger though, comes from ticks which carry some form of infectious virus, the most well-known one being Lyme disease, a potentially serious disease should it not be treated immediately. Lyme disease is most recognizable by the bullseye rash it produces, which is commonly used to identify it. However, the rash will not always form in the traditional shape of a bullseye, and could be mistaken easily for a normal rash. On dark skin, the rash may appear as a slightly darkened patch of skin, but its circular shape should still be recognizable. In addition, while the rash will spread, if it occurs somewhere that is hard to see may hamper your ability to identify it.

Illustration of various EM (expanding) rashes, courtesy of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, https://www.bayarealyme.org/

For that purpose, it’s always recommended to go hiking in, at minimum, groups of two in order to check each other for ticks after a hike, removing the need entirely to twist or contort to see your back.

Lyme disease isn’t the only disease carried by ticks, though, and in fact it isn’t even the most serious. Some diseases, like Tularemia, don’t produce any rashes, and you’ll instead need to rely on a diagnosis exclusively. For that reason, it’s always recommended to save any ticks you find on your person to bring in to your doctor.

The variety with which rashes can manifest is to such an extent that, if you’ve been deep woods hiking recently and find a rash on your person that was not there before, it’s always wise to go to your doctor for a diagnosis. While ticks will burrow into the skin relatively firmly, there’s always the possibility that you can crush or remove them by accident.

Removing a Tick

When it comes to removing ticks, there’s a plethora of ways to do it, from old Boy Scout tricks to free little clips that come with your purchase of bike racks. Here, though we’ll just be going over the easiest and safest way to do it at home.

Once you’ve identified a tick, you’ll want to remove it using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Don’t use the kind that you might use for plucking hairs, since the sharp edges may separate the head from the tick’s body if you apply too much pressure. Once you have your tweezers, try to grab the tick as close to its head, or your skin, as possible, to minimize the risk of detaching the head. Pull the tick out with steady, even pressure, and avoid twisting or moving the tick if you can, since that, too, can increase the chances of a detached head.

Once the tick is out of your skin, it’s a good idea to save the tick in a plastic bag so that any potential infections can be identified by a doctor. Mark the bag with the date and bite location, and put it in the freezer to kill and preserve the tick until you’re able to go to a doctor.

To treat a bite, first wash the affected area with soap and water, before gently wiping the area with a cotton swab dipped in medical grade alcohol. Always monitor a tick bite for any potential rash development, even if you do remove it as soon as it attaches.

Preventing Tick Bites

If you’d like to completely avoid the hassle and worry of removing a tick and needing to check for potential infections, the best way to do that is to stop them from getting on you entirely. Repellant is likely the first thing most people would look to to deal with any sort of insect, but there are steps that can be taken even before that.

Simply stated, it’s best to cover as much of yourself as possible. Wear long-sleeved shirts tucked into long pants tucked into long socks. If you have gloves tuck them into your shirt as well. As much of your skin as possible should be covered, including the hair, which is an easy place for ticks to hide in. For that purpose something like a bucket hat would be best, and if you want to make absolutely sure nothing is getting in your hair you can go the extra mile of wrapping your head in a bandanna or thin towel to cover your neck as well. All this advice is likely to sound absurd in the summer heat as we regularly breach 80 degrees F during the daytime, but they’re nonetheless important steps if you intend to do deep woods hiking.

Of course, ticks aren’t only in the deep woods, and can be along any trail or even in your backyard, which makes tucking your shirt a good practice. The clothes you wear should be a light color: white, tan, and light grey all apply. This helps not only with identifying ticks, but also in keeping you cool with the sun beating down on you. You would also want some form of DEET repellant to spray onto your clothes to be extra safe, and a separate repellant to apply to any exposed areas of skin.

When selecting a repellant, there’s no way to tell what somebody’s personal skin condition is and what chemicals may cause a negative reaction. For that reason, visit the EPA’s repellant searcher here. The searcher allows you to select exactly what chemical ingredient you want in your repellant, and can even offer a complete list of repellants if you’d prefer to do the research yourself. Generally speaking you’ll always want a repellant that contains DEET or Picaridin, but this tool helps with choosing exactly which ingredients you want to avoid, or include, in your repellant.

If you’re not too concerned with your skin sensitivity, though, something like the OFF Deep Woods Towelettes are recommended by The Strategist as a good all-around DEET repellant. When it comes to covering your clothes, a towelette is likely going to be somewhat inefficient, so The Strategist recommends the Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing. If you look for this on Amazon you may be taken aback a bit at the price tag, a whopping $58, but cheaper options are available on the same page that you may want to look into. Additionally, if you do choose to shop for these products on Amazon, and wish to support the Long Island Pine Barren Society in the process, you can do so through our Amazon Smile page, which will donate 0.5% of your purchase to our organization at no charge to you. Important to know as well about repellants meant for clothing, is that they are often ineffective when applied to the skin, and should only be used on clothing or equipment.

 

This covers just about all the common knowledge to know about tick prevention. Of course, everyone will have their own anecdotal advice and steps to take in both preventing and treating tick bites, but having a baseline in your mind will always help. And if you ever need a refresher on these details, you can check out our Detecting Ticks on Long Island Guide, a much more condensed version of what you’ve read here.

So armed with this knowledge, and hopefully a bottle of repellant, we at the Long Island Pine Barrens Society hope you’ll take the nice weather as a chance to experience the Pine Barrens in their most natural, beautiful state. And, if you need some recommendations for trails, check out our Hiking Guide or Park Passport!

 


By: Andrew Wong, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Cover Photo: Erik Karits, via Unsplash

How Your Donation Dollars Help

Have you ever wondered how your donation benefits our non-profit organization?  Let’s take a look at the important projects your contribution helps fund.

 

Preserving Our Pine Barrens

Since our founding in 1977, our Society has fought tirelessly to protect over 106,000 acres of land that make up the Central Pine Barrens.  Throughout our history, we have effectively advocated for the land our organization is named for in state and local governments as well as in the courts.  Our efforts have not stopped, and we continue to work hard to protect our Pine Barrens from destruction and safeguard this globally rare ecosystem for future generations of Long Islanders.

With your support, we are able to monitor any and all proposed development plans in the Pine Barrens and ensure they adhere to the Pine Barrens Protection Act and the Central Pine Barrens Commission’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.   In addition to making sure there is no new development within the Core Preservation Area of the Pine Barrens, we review and investigate new proposals targeted for the Compatible Growth Area and determine if they would be environmentally compatible.  We then present our findings to the appropriate town and county oversight agencies, such as the Central Pine Barrens Commission, which is tasked with managing land use within the Pine Barrens.

We also advocate for funding and resources to help maintain the health of the Pine Barrens.  Since the Pine Barrens is a fire-dependent ecosystem, prescribed burns are needed to support the survival of this important ecological community.  Scheduled burns also help protect the surrounding community because without them, there is a risk of out of control wildfires causing damage to homes and people.  These planned efforts are collaborations between the Central Pine Barrens Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and local fire departments.  Fire management helps trees be more resistant to the deleterious effects of the Southern Pine Beetle that has posed a significant threat to pine trees, particularly pitch pines, in recent years.

Using your donation dollars, we are able to be the voice of the Pine Barrens, and because of you, we have been able to launch a new campaign to acquire an additional 3,800 acres of land.

Prescribed Burn in the Pine Barrens.
Credit: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Protecting Our Drinking Water

Our non-profit also advocates for efforts to improve Long Island’s declining water quality.  Since our island’s drinking water comes from underground aquifers, anything we do above ground affects our water supply.  We help promote initiatives that help mitigate the negative effects that come from the way we use our land, such as Suffolk County’s septic system replacement program, known as the Reclaim Our Water Initiative, that would reduce the amount of nitrogen contaminating our groundwater.  Our Society also focuses on educating the Long Island public about this crucial issue.

Peconic River through Pines.
Credit: Sandy Richard

 

Educating Our Children

Our organization is also involved in the education system.  For the past ten years, with the support of the National Grid Foundation, we have been hosting the annual Middle School Kids Go To College program.  Middle school kids participate in a science competition, where they present their innovative solutions to address Long Island’s water quality crisis after researching the issue.  In the past, this event has been held at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, however in recent years, we have adapted the program to be virtual in order to continue to provide this valuable opportunity to kids during the pandemic.

We are also getting involved with organizing field trips in the Pine Barrens, where kids in elementary school all the way up to high school can participate in fun activities that help them learn about our remarkable natural resource.

In addition, we recently initiated a scholarship program in 2020 in memory of Robin Hopkins Amper, who was instrumental in helping to preserve the Pine Barrens.  Long Island students who share Robin’s commitment to the environment and who are pursuing an undergraduate degree have the opportunity to be awarded $5,000 through our scholarship fund.

Stony Brook University Professor Dr. Christopher Gobler with Patchogue-Medford Middle School Kids at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in May 2019 during the Middle School Kids Go To College Program.

 

Engaging the Public

In addition to being involved with education in schools, our organization works to engage the public with our local environment.  We promote environmental stewardship and educate the community through informative newsletters, news articles, television programs, blog posts, and social media.  On our website, we provide a variety of recreation guides with detailed information as well as quick tips about how you can enjoy the Pine Barrens.  We also occasionally offer guided hikes or kayak tours that aim to get people outside and experience the wonderful natural areas that have been preserved for them.

Check out our Bridge to the Barrens blog on our website, our YouTube page featuring our TV shows, and our Facebook and Instagram pages to stay engaged with us.

Guided Hike at Shoreham-Wading River Coastal Forest with LIPBS Co-founder and Naturalist, John Turner, in June 2021.

 

Hopefully, you now see how meaningful your contributions are to not only our organization, but also to your local community.  We are so grateful to all of our past donors because we could not have accomplished our goals and provided opportunities to the community without them.

Our work is never finished as there are new challenges arising every year.  If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to the Long Island Pine Barrens Society by visiting our website and clicking on Contribute under Support Us.  To specifically donate to the scholarship program, click on Robin Amper Memorial Scholarship.  We truly appreciate your generosity!

 


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Katie Muether Brown

Cover Photo: Sandy Richard

Summer Recreation in the Pine Barrens

Summer weather is finally here!  Whether you’re spending time with your family or flying solo, there are many ways to get out of your house and appreciate the sunshine and warm temperatures.  Let’s explore some fun activities you can enjoy in our very own Pine Barrens.

 

Kayaking, Canoeing, and Row Boating

Living on an island, we are lucky to have access to water all around us.  Bored with going to the beach?  Trade your swimsuit and towel for an oar or a paddle!

Journey down the scenic Carmans River, and observe the different fish and wildlife that inhabit the river and its shores.  You might see some turtles sunbathing on nearby logs or along the river banks.  You are also bound to see a large variety of birds if you pass through the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, which is home to almost 300 bird species.  Carmans River Canoe & Kayak II, located on Montauk Highway in Brookhaven, offers rentals and guided tours.  If you’re feeling adventurous, check out their moonlight guided tour.  In addition, rowboat rentals are offered by Suffolk County Parks at Southaven County Park in Yaphank, which the Carmans River flows through.  Fun fact: Southaven County Park was the site of the Pine Barrens Protection Act’s signing in 1993.

Another Pine Barrens park kayakers, canoers, or row boaters can enjoy is Indian Island County Park in Riverhead.  This park features a self-launch area along the Peconic River.  Need to rent?  Peconic Paddler offers a variety of options, including numerous types of kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards.  Enjoy the distinctive ecology of the Peconic Estuary, and observe the many unique aquatic species, such as bay scallops, summer flounders, and eelgrass.

Kayaking, canoeing, and row boating are not only fun pastimes, they are also great workouts!  Your arms might be sore the next day, but you won’t care after experiencing the wildlife that makes Long Island special.

LIPBS Guided Kayak Tour at Quogue Wildlife Refuge in May 2021.
Credit: Long Island Pine Barrens Society

 

Fishing

Whether you enjoy freshwater or saltwater fishing, there are many great fishing spots in the Pine Barrens.

Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays features a plethora of freshwater ponds and creeks, where you can catch many different fish, such as bluegill, bass, perch, and pickerel.  Another great freshwater fishing spot is Swan Pond in Calverton, which offers a relaxing natural environment for anglers.  Many fish species inhabit this pond, including yellow perch, pumpkinseed, sunfish, and brown bullhead.  Further west in Middle Island is Artist Lake, an irregular-shaped lake that contains a variety of warm-water fishes.  This lake is a great place to catch largemouth bass, black crappie, chain pickerel, and common carp.  Make sure to purchase your New York State Fishing License through the Department of Environmental Conservation.

For those interested in saltwater fishing, you can visit Indian Island County Park in Riverhead, where the Peconic River empties into Flanders Bay.  Some marine fish you might catch here are bluefish, porgy, striped bass, and weakfish.  Anglers will also enjoy the peaceful view of Flanders Bay, which is situated between the north and south forks of Long Island.

Credit: Michael Coghlan

 

Camping

What’s a better way to celebrate summer than to sit around a campfire and eat s’mores?  Whether you’re roughing it with a tent or you have a travel trailer or RV, there are plenty of Pine Barrens parks that offer camping sites.

Located along the headwaters of the Carmans River, Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island offers over a hundred campsites for tents and trailers, with 10 sites equipped with water and electric hookups.  While staying at this park, you can go hiking in the nearby Prosser Pines Nature Preserve, another Pine Barrens park that contains impressive White Pines.  Don’t forget to check out the cool Tree Fort there!

A little further south along the Carmans River is Southaven County Park in Brookhaven.  Over 1,300 acres in size, this park has sites for tents and trailers, with 51 sites that have electric hookups.  As discussed earlier, Southaven also offers rowboat rentals, so you can explore the wildlife while traveling down the beautiful Carmans River.  Anglers will also enjoy camping at this park as freshwater fishing is permitted here.  Don’t miss the Long Island Live Steamers‘ ridable steam, diesel, and electric trains that are perfect for the whole family!

Not only is Indian Island County Park in Riverhead a great place for water recreation activities, it is also a popular camping site.  This scenic park near the Peconic River features sites for tents and trailers as well as restrooms and shower facilities.  Fishing, kayaking, bird watching, and hiking are all activities you can enjoy while camping at Indian Island.  This park also offers one of the finest picnicking sites in Suffolk County.

Another great camping spot on the south fork is Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays.  This park contains 30 tent sites and 40 trailer sites.  Rowboat rentals are offered on freshwater Bellows Pond, where fishing is also permitted as mentioned before.  There is also an extensive trail system that is popular among hikers.

Plan your trip and make a reservation at one of these parks today!

Camping in Sears Bellows County Park.
Credit: Gino D. (thedyrt.com)

 

Nothing is better than spending time in nature and letting your worries drift away, with the summer breeze blowing through the trees.  Take some time to appreciate the Long Island Pine Barrens by participating in these delightful activities with your friends and family.  Check out our recreation guides on our website for more helpful information.  Enjoy!

 


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Cover Photo: Frank Schmidt

Endangered and Threatened Species on Long Island

Friday, May 20th is National Endangered Species Day.  Many remarkable creatures inhabiting our local environment are at risk of disappearing forever.  This is an unfortunate reality for several Long Island wildlife species.  Let’s learn about some of these vulnerable reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects and how we can help them continue to call Long Island home.

But first, let’s define some important terms.  What does endangered mean? The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) defines endangered as “any native species in imminent danger of extirpation or extinction in New York State.”  Extinction means no longer living or existing anywhere, whereas when a species is extirpated, it is locally extinct.  So, there are no populations left in New York, but the species is still found in other states.  Finally, when a species is listed as threatened, it is likely to become endangered in the near future.

Now let’s look at some of the unique Long Island wildlife that are in danger of being lost to history.

 

Endangered Species

Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

This amphibian spends the majority of its life in its burrow underground, but it comes out at night to breed in ponds.  In New York State, the Eastern Tiger Salamander is found exclusively on Long Island, mostly within the central Pine Barrens.  Recent surveys have identified only 90 breeding ponds in eastern Nassau and Suffolk County.  This mole salamander has been extirpated from western Long Island because of heavy development resulting in loss of habitat.  Additional threats to this species include pesticide contamination and introduction of predatory fish in its breeding ponds as well as increased road construction and development.  There has been a recent effort to construct tunnels under roadways for this salamander, so it can safely migrate to ponds for breeding.  You can help this wonderful amphibian by not using pesticides on your lawn or in your garden – try a natural alternative to avoid contributing to contamination of ponds and waterways.

Eastern Tiger Salamander
Credit: Alex Roukis

 

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubum)

This small hard-shelled reptile only measures 3-4 inches long!  This semi-aquatic turtle can be found in marshes, small ponds, wet ditches and fields, and offshore islands.  When its habitat dries up, it travels on land to another body of water.  This short journey could land this turtle in trouble – turtles are very often killed by cars when attempting to cross roads.  Other threats to the Eastern Mud Turtle include habitat loss due to the draining of wetlands for urban and industrial development, land clearing, habitat fragmentation from road construction, and the illegal pet trade.  The NYSDEC recommends habitat management activities, such as placing “turtle crossing” signs along roads to warn drivers as well as protecting areas where mud turtle populations currently reside.  Help protect the rarest turtle species in New York by looking out for this creature when you’re driving and avoiding keeping it as a pet.

Eastern Mud Turtle
Credit: animalspot.net

 

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

You can find this sand-colored shorebird on Long Island’s sandy beaches from Queens to as far east as the Hamptons.  From early to mid-March, this species starts breeding and building nests in preparation for laying eggs between May and early July.  Unfortunately, the Piping Plover is continually threatened by increasing human activity.  Coastal development, recreational activities, and disturbance by off-road vehicles all compromise its breeding habitat.  These problems are not exclusive to New York State; this bird is listed as endangered in many other eastern states as well.  You have probably seen signs and fencing surrounding the dunes at your local beach.  These serve to protect this bird’s nesting and feeding sites.  Long Island conservation efforts also include annual censuses of the plover’s breeding colonies and active monitoring of its nesting sites to help increase nesting success.  Help protect this bird by keeping off the dunes during the spring and summer seasons, or even become a volunteer to assist with yearly breeding surveys.

Piping Plover
Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

 

Hessel’s Hairstreak (Callophrys hesseli)

This butterfly species is rather unique because it feeds only on the Atlantic White Cedar tree.  Unfortunately, the Hessel’s Hairstreak is believed to be extirpated from New York State as it has not been observed since the mid-1990s.  Spraying of harmful pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) in the 1950’s for gypsy moths wiped out many colonies and the population is still struggling to recover.  In addition, much of its Atlantic White Cedar swamp habitat has been converted to agricultural land.  It is important to protect what is left of these swamps as well as maintain cedar tree populations in order to help safeguard this beautiful butterfly.

Hessel’s Hairstreak
Credit: butterfliesandmoths.org

 

 

Threatened Species

Pine Barrens Bluet (Enallagma recurvatum)

This damselfly (smaller than a dragonfly) inhabits coastal plain ponds in our very own Pine Barrens!  Just one inch long, the Pine Barrens Bluet lives only three to four weeks.  Threats to this species include anything that leads to water pollution, like roadway or agricultural run-off, eutrophication and nutrient loading from fertilizers, herbicides, and septic systems, or development near their habitats.  Invasive plants, like the white water lily, that are replacing native plants are an additional risk to the bluet population.  To combat the decrease in bluet numbers, the New York Natural Heritage Program suggests restoring native vegetation as well as maintaining good water quality by reducing run-off and other sources of pollution.

Pine Barrens Bluet
Credit: New York Natural Heritage Program

 

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis)

This cool insect gets its name from its aggressive predatory behavior – it grasps prey with long mandibles (mouthparts) in a “tiger-like” manner.  This species feeds on lice, fleas, and flies as well as scavenges dead crabs and fish.  This beetle used to be very common on Long Island beaches, but unfortunately it is no longer found anywhere in New York State.  The only known population north of Maryland is on Martha’s Vineyard.  The depletion of its population is attributed to habitat degradation by off-road vehicle use and increased foot traffic on beaches.  Larvae are deeply affected by these activities because they are crushed by the heavy physical impact.  Without larvae, the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle isn’t be able to produce enough individuals to ensure its long-term survival.  The NYSDEC recommends translocating beetles from other areas, like the Chesapeake Bay, to help restore the species in its historical range.  However, current beach activities will need to be addressed prior to this effort.

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle
Credit: chesapeakebay.net

 

There are so many neat species on Long Island that we may not be able to see for much longer.  These animals are part of what makes our island such a unique place to live.  Help protect these remarkable creatures by avoiding animals while you are driving, using natural alternatives to pesticides, and being more aware of the environment around you.  Consider becoming a volunteer in your local community to support the recovery of the populations of these species.

 


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7494.html

https://guides.nynhp.org/hessels-hairstreak/

https://guides.nynhp.org/pine-barrens-bluet/

Cover photo: A group of piping plovers on the beach. Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Earth Day: Its Origin and Significance

Every year, the world celebrates Earth Day, a day that demonstrates support for the protection of our amazing planet and raises awareness of environmental issues.  Earth Day is the most widely-celebrated non-religious annual event held worldwide.

Its origin dates back six decades.  During the 1960s, the American public was starting to realize how pollution was negatively affecting the environment.  A big part of that newfound awareness was attributed to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which was published in 1962 and documented the harmful effects of the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) on nature and human health.  Carson’s bestselling book is credited as initiating the modern environmental movement in the United States.  Another major event that led to an increase in environmental activism was the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 due to decades of industrial pollution.  That caught the attention of many Americans and encouraged them to join the fight to save the planet.

One of the leaders of this fight, Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin, came up with the idea for Earth Day in 1969.  His goal was to force the federal government to address the environmental problems that were plaguing the country.  What was his inspiration?  Anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were being held on college campuses.  Nelson hoped to mirror these teach-ins through a large-scale, grassroots environmental demonstration to raise public and government awareness of pollution.

The first Earth Day on Long Island, 1970.
Credit: Newsday

And who was tasked with organizing this national effort, you might ask?  A young activist named Denis Hayes dropped out of Harvard to become the national coordinator of the first Earth Day.  On April 22, 1970, rallies were held all over the country to help focus national attention on environmental issues.  In New York City, a section of Fifth Avenue was closed off, and Mayor John Lindsay gave a speech at a rally in Union Square.

So, did it work?  Of course!  The first Earth Day transformed the American public’s attitude toward the environment.  Only a few years before, the majority of the country’s population wasn’t concerned with the state of the planet.  However, after April 22, 1970, the U.S. public was much more interested in protecting nature.  And, in the decade after Earth Day, the federal government went on to establish several crucial pieces of environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Forest Management Act to name a few.  In December 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed.

President Richard Nixon signing the Clean Air Act.
Credit: Associated Press

And the Long Island Pine Barrens Society was not that far behind in the environmental movement.  Founded in 1977 by three environmental science students, our non-profit organization has grown from a small group focused on educational awareness to a team continuing to build an active preservation campaign.  We created the Pine Barrens Preservation Initiative in November 1989, five months before the 20th anniversary of Earth Day.  Our hard work paid off four years later when the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act was passed, preserving more than 100,000 acres of land.

LIPBS Founders with former New York State Governor George Pataki. Order from left: John Turner, Bob McGrath, John Cryan, George Pataki.
Credit: Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Today, Earth Day is celebrated by more than 180 countries around the world.  And although there has been a lot of progress made in the last 50 years, there is still more to be done in order to protect our planet’s natural resources.  This April 22, think about ways you can help make a difference for the environment, such as limiting your water usage, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, recycling, using less paper, or composting.  Check out this list of tips from EarthDay.org and start incorporating these simple actions in your daily life to help the planet.  Need help knowing what and where to recycle?  Visit this website to search for recycling facilities in your area and what materials they accept.  Want to know how much you are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions?  Calculate your carbon footprint with EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator.

As you can see, there are many ways you can help support the protection of our environment.  Earth Day is an important day that reminds us to celebrate the planet that does so much for us and inspires us to safeguard it for the next 100 years and thereafter.  Start making a difference for our environment today!


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day

https://awesomeearthkind.com/podcasts/from-earth-day-everywhere-to-proving-the-possible/

https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-tips/

 

Cover Photo: Shoreham-Wading River Coastal Forest

How do flowers know to bloom in the spring?

As the weather gets warmer and the sun starts shining, you may be starting to see some flower buds opening up to greet you this spring season.  Have you ever wondered how flowers know when to bloom?  The answer lies in their genes.

Spring buds

The blooming process is initiated by just one protein!  As the days start getting longer, and the number of daylight hours begins to increase, a plant protein called “CONSTANS” (“CO”) is activated within the plant.  Next, CO triggers another protein known as “Flowering Locus T”, or simply “FT.”  Plants produce more FT with warmer temperatures.  FT causes the plant to start producing a gene called “APETALA1,” which in turn produces the APETALA1 protein.  This protein then activates more than 1,000 other genes involved in the flowering process.  For example, it signals genes that are responsible for leaf growth to stop producing leaves, and instead start producing flowers.

Wow!  Who knew how much was involved in the flower blooming process?  There are even more plant components that participate in this system – we’ve only discussed the primary ones!

Native wildflower Eastern Purple Bladderwort

So, now that we figured out the general process for how plants bloom, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, not all plants flower at the same time.”  And, you would be right!

Different plants blossom at different times in order to further their survival.  Once a flower blooms, it is pollinated by insects, such as bees or butterflies.  These pollinators help transfer pollen from one flower to another, which fertilizes the plants and leads to seed production.  The seeds are then dispersed from the plants by forces like wind or birds, and they eventually germinate and grow into other plants.

If all flowers bloomed at the same time, the bees and butterflies would not be able to pollinate all of them, which would mean that many flowers would not produce seeds.  This would pose a problem because the growth of new plants would stop, and ultimately, you would not see as many different types of plants.  Thus, different plants bloom at different times of the year in order to give themselves the best chance of survival.  We are lucky that this is the case because we get to see a large variety of flowers throughout the spring, summer, and even fall seasons!

Native plant Butterfly Milkweed
Image: Wildflower.org

So, the next time you find yourself enjoying the weather on your front porch or in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate the hidden complexity of the flowers blooming in your garden, and be grateful for the variety of plants that exist in our natural world!


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/32529-how-do-flowers-know-when-to-bloom.html

https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/blog/detail/biopgh-blog-how-do-buds-know-when-to-bloom

https://jakesnatureblog.com/2015/06/01/why-do-flowers-bloom-at-different-times-of-the-year/

Resolutions to Start in 2022

It’s that time of year again when we all reflect on the past year and start planning for the year ahead.  The new year is always a great time to start out fresh and think about adopting some new habits.  In this blog, we’ll outline some New Year resolutions for you to consider!

Take more walks

The mental and physical benefits of moving your body and getting out into nature are well-documented.  The Long Island Pine Barrens is filled with beautiful natural spaces for you to explore.  Whether you’re looking for a quick 30-minute power walk or an extensive several miles-long hike, the Pine Barrens has you covered! Check out our recreation guides to help you get started.  Or check out one of our past blog posts that outlines our Top 5 Favorite Pine Barrens Hiking Spots.

Make the switch to reusable products          

It’s no secret that we have a global waste issue that is greatly impacting our environment.  Making the switch to reusable products can greatly reduce your waste and save you some money! Here are some great, easy switches to make: reusable water bottles (instead of individual plastic bottles); hand towels (instead of paper towels); rechargeable batteries; reusable grocery bags; reusable straws; reusable k-cups or tea strainers; or glass storage containers (instead of plastic wrap or sandwich bags).  The possibilities are endless!

Learn more about Long Island’s natural environment

Long Island’s natural environment is a fascinating subject to study, filled with geology, ecology and history lessons! How was Long Island formed? What kind of plants and animals can you find on Long Island? Did you know we have a globally-rare ecosystem on Long Island? Why can wildfire be a good thing? These are just some of the questions that you can work to find the answers to!

Here is some suggested reading from our website to help you get started in your learning quest:

Learn more about Long Island’s water and how you can help protect it

When you turn on your faucet in the morning to brush your teeth, where does that water come from?  Long Island is a very special place in that it is a Federally-designated Sole Source Aquifer Region.  This means that 100% of the drinking water for 2.8 million Long Islanders comes from a series of aquifers right beneath our feet! This also means that we have to take special care to make sure our water supply is protected.  Everything we do on land has the potential to impact our water quality.

Learn more about our water supply and how you can protect it at home by checking out these resources:

Whether it’s January 1st or sometime later in the year, the time is always right to work to protect and enjoy Long Island’s environment!


By: Katie Muether Brown, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Spooky Creatures in the Pine Barrens

Spooky Creatures in the Pine Barrens

If you’re like me, you look forward to the Fall all year. The temperature finally drops, you can find pumpkin spice treats everywhere, and the best part…Halloween! By now, porches and lawns are decorated with fake spider webs, bats or other “scary” critters. Many of these typical scary Halloween critters are actually not scary at all! In fact, many of these creatures inhabit the Pine Barrens. In fact, they carry out vital functions to maintain a healthy ecosystem! Once you get to know these spooky creatures, you’ll look at them in a different light.

 

Big Brown Bats

Big Brown Bat
pc: Fyn Kynd

Arguably one of the most well known symbols of Halloween is a bat. Often associated with vampires, bats gained the unfortunate reputation of being a blood-sucking monster. According to a study conducted by Brookhaven National Lab, Big Brown bats are the dominant bat species on Long Island. These bats mostly feed on pests like beetles, moths and, best of all, mosquitoes (the real blood-sucking monsters!). 

 

Black and Yellow Spider 

Black & Yellow Spider
pc: F Delventhal

Another creepy creature that not only represents Halloween, but is a worst fear for many is a spider. The list of spider species found on Long Island goes on and on. However, it only felt right to hone in on the physically largest native spider species. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to host a black and yellow garden spider in your yard, you’ll know how massive and beautiful its webs can become. (Although it’s all fun and games until you accidentally run through one.) These circular webs act as traps for flying insects. The spider will usually hang from a web until the vibration of successful trapping signals the spider that dinner is ready.

 

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
pc: J.N. Stuart

This next spooky critter can give someone the creeps just by making eye contact. Great Horned owls live in many areas across the country, including Long Island. Their intimidating appearance, along with their stealth and precision makes them a top predator. In fact they’re so powerful that they sometimes even harm smaller endangered birds. Their impact on other bird populations is the scariest thing about them…at least from a human standpoint.

Hopefully these creatures haven’t given you too much of a spook. Maybe you’ll even take on the challenge of spotting one in nature! In the past we’ve even covered more spooky sights to look out for in our Pine Barrens! So, start your exploration and have a very fun Halloween season!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

http://www.nebwg.org/AnnualMeetings/2013/2013presentations/FishmanBatLongIsland.pdf

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Yellow-Garden-Spider

https://www.fireislandandbeyond.com/long-island-wildlife-bird-of-the-week-great-horned-owl/

Cover Photo: Tristian Chambers, Flickr CC

Where are all the Fireflies?

Where are all the Fireflies?

Firefly
pc: Judy Gallaghar – Flickr cc

Who can deny their love for the little beetles that light up our nighttime skies?  Perhaps you call them fireflies, moon bugs, or lightning bugs. These insects earned their names from their bioluminescence. Bioluminescence results from a chemical reaction — when oxygen combines with the chemical compound, luciferin, and creates light. As a child, I was infatuated by these critters. I used to catch them in my hands, name them, and release them. However, recently I’ve noticed the lack of these glowing bugs in the sky. So I’m left with one question: Where are all the fireflies?

Poor habitat conditions

Firefly beetles consist of over 2,000 species. You can find these species in eight different geographic locations: North America, Central America, Mexico, Europe, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Of the 2,000 species, 125 species can be found in the United States. Fireflies favor humid climate regions, swamps or wetlands. Some species even live in microhabitats found in deserts.  Fireflies rely on their habitats to survive.  Unfortunately, poor habitat conditions threatens the survival our fireflies. Habitats are destroyed through urbanization or for agricultural purposes. They also face threats when people spray pesticides in hopes of eradicating mosquitos.

Interference in Mating 

Fireflies don’t just light up for our enjoyment! Their bioluminescence plays a crucial part in the mating process. Fireflies light up to attract a mate, but with increased light pollution, potential mates can miss mating signals. Light pollution comes from street lights, commercial signs, sports arenas and more. As land development continues, the risk of light pollution only increases. When fireflies struggle to find mates, they cannot produce enough offspring to sustain their population. We cannot fix the light pollution problem overnight, but after becoming aware of this issue we can make changes in our own homes to help our firefly populations. Some of these changes include turning off outdoor lights when unnecessary, choosing outdoor lighting fixtures that point toward the ground rather than lighting up the general area, and installing motion sensor lights that only turn on when needed. While these efforts may not completely solve the issue of declining firefly populations, it’s a great way to start!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com

https://www.pbs.org/

https://xerces.org