The reservoir's historic structures & ecosystems are an opportunity to create a unique environmental education center for our children & their future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Habitat Protection for Endangered Species

The following article published in the "Times Union"  is relevant to the Ridgewood Reservoir's habitats because several species of endangered, threatened and special concern designation have been identified within the basins.

Habitat Protection New Possibility for Endangered Species
By Brian Nearing - Staff Writer

ALBANY -- For the first time, the state is spelling out rules that would treat a potential threat to an endangered species' habitat as if it were a direct threat to the animal itself.

State rules have long protected endangered animals from being killed or harassed due to new development. A proposal released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Conservation would formally extend that protection to lands that such animals rely upon to live, feed and reproduce.

There are 53 endangered species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insect and mollusks in the state. Some are well-known, like the Karner blue butterfly and the peregrine falcon; others remain obscure, like the bog buckmoth and gilt darter fish. Another 35 species are considered threatened.

DEC intends to create a new process, which would produce an "incidental taking permit," to consider potential habitat damage that might harm these animals before deciding whether development can go forward.

"With this proposal, we are codifying practices that had been in place for several years as a result of court decisions over the past decade," DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in a statement. "While improving the protection of rare species, these revisions also will benefit landowners, developers, local planners and others by providing clear guidance and predictability in planning and designing projects."

"This is a positive step," said John Kostyack, director of wildlife and global warming for the National Wildlife Federation. "Endangered species laws are evolving around the country to recognize that (a threat) is not just pulling out a gun and shooting an animal, but also destroying its habitat."

Chris Amato, DEC's assistant commissioner for natural resources, said the agency has been considering habitat impacts for endangered or threatened species on a case-by-case basis since 2007, but had no formal rules in place.

"People have been confused over what the requirements for endangered and threatened species were -- whether they needed a permit and how to get one," he said. "These regulations are designed to inform the public exactly what the process is."

Amato said that the permit will depend on a "biological judgment call" of whether land was an occupied habitat of a particular species. That area would have to fulfill an "essential behavior," including "breeding, hibernation, reproduction, feeding, sheltering, migration, movement and overwintering," according to the proposed rules.

Developers could choose to either steer around such lands, or get a permit that would also require a mitigation plan, such as acquiring other suitable habitat elsewhere for conservation purposes.

"The overriding purpose of these rules is to protect these species' survival and foster their recovery, so they can be taken off the lists," Amato said.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by e-mail at nearing [AT]

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