New York DEC Conservation Council Report

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
2007-09-12
2007 Fall Convention of Conservation Council

Dear New York State Conservation Council Members:

It gives me great pleasure to deliver to you the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) 2007 Report to the Fall Convention of the New York State Conservation Council. This report highlights DEC’s many important accomplishments that have helped make New York one of the premier places to hunt, fish, trap and enjoy the outdoors. You may have noticed that the report is a little thinner than in the past. In keeping with the Department’s mission of environmental conservation and conserving resources, this year’s printed report is a brief executive summary highlighting key accomplishments of the Department. The full report can be found on the Department’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/about/37709.html.

As an avid outdoorsman and someone who cares deeply about environmental protection and natural resource conservation, I was delighted when Governor Spitzer nominated me to be Commissioner of DEC. To play an integral role in creating the programs and policies that shape the environmental future of New York State is a great honor and responsibility. There is much work to do, and good progress has already been made. Governor Spitzer added 109 new staff to DEC to better enforce environmental laws to protect air, land and water, including six who will promote fishing and land stewardship, and nine who will enhance protection of freshwater and tidal wetlands. I am also working with the Governor to boost outdoor recreational activities and stimulate upstate economic revitalization. Specific initiatives include using increased funds from an expanded bottle bill to create new fishing sites, boat launches and hiking trails; working with hunting and fishing groups to reverse the trend of declining hunting and fishing license sales; and upgrading existing DEC fish hatcheries. I look forward to reporting great progress on these initiatives in next year’s report to you.

Conserving New York’s natural resources is a tall challenge. Rest assured DEC’s dedicated and capable work force is up to that critical job. With your continued support, we can create a healthier, better environment across New York State.

Sincerely,

Pete Grannis

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Goal: Develop and implement initiatives to accelerate the protection of air, land and water quality.

The quality of our lives rests on the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that sustains us. DEC has achieved demonstrable improvements in environmental quality by focusing on the largest or most obvious sources of many environmental problems, establishing and enforcing requirements and monitoring the outcomes. We plan to continue to build on our past successes by developing new strategies rooted in our understanding of the causes of environmental problems and by continuing proven approaches.

Objective: Minimize creation of waste and pollutants.

  • In support of the requirements of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the Governor’s Executive Order No. 111 for light duty vehicles, DEC purchased 52 flex-fueled vehicles and 36 hybrid vehicles for 2007.

Compliance

  • At the beginning of fiscal year 2007, in the annual environmental audit of the Department's nearly 2,000 facilities, Operations identified a total of 18 new or uncorrected environmental violations, including 5 violations where a third party was responsible. This is the same number of violations as from the previous fiscal year. No new instances of non-compliance were identified. At the same time, the Department corrected 5 violations. Those completed included petroleum bulk storage upgrades at the Stony Brook Regional Office and the Schenectady Regional Office; a hazardous waste removal at the Montery field headquarters in Region 8; an old dump debris cleanup at Golden Beach campground in Region 5 and a major remedial cleanup at the Summit site in Region 4. The Department spent nearly $2,414,000 at these cleanups including nearly $2,350,000 at Summit. Furthermore, in the past year, the Department has continued to work on the remaining audit violation projects and multiple environmental emergency interim remedial repairs at the McGregor dam in Region 5 for a total value for all compliance work at DEC facilities of more than $2,814,000.
  • Construction is underway to replace the deficient Dam at the Colgate Lake in the Blackhead Range Wild Forest valued at $1.53 Million dollars and at Meacham Lake Campground to replace failing sewage systems valued at $435,000. Design has been completed for the replacement of the deficient Little Pond Campground Dam and the bid process will be started when regulatory approval is granted.
  • New York State’s Climate Change Program - A newly established office in DEC will play a key role in carrying out the state’s program to reduce climate-changing emissions, and to adapt where warming is unavoidable.

Most scientists today agree that the earth’s temperature is growing warmer, that this warming is most likely caused by burning fossil fuels, and that the climate changes from the increased temperatures threaten our resources and our way of life.

In the Northeastern United States, scientists have documented a rise in the average annual temperature of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, with average winter temperatures up as much as 4.4 degrees in the past 30 years.

Much of the Northeast has already seen a change in the winter season, with Adirondack snowfall down by 40 to 60 inches per year and an average of 20 fewer days with snow on the ground in some parts of the state. Lake Champlain now freezes over, on average, 11 days later than in the early 1800s, and also thaws earlier in the spring. Later ice-in dates appear to be feeding more intense “lake effect” winter storms in the Great Lakes region.

Growing seasons are lengthening, as shown by the earlier bloom dates of many common plants. More of the summer is expected to be hot and dry, with periodic heavy rainfalls. An increase in hurricanes and other strong storms fed by rising ocean temperatures also is expected.

These changes are likely to affect the types of species that survive in New York. In particular, New York’s fisheries may undergo significant change. Our traditional mix of cold and warm/temperate marine species, as well as populations of coldwater species like trout and salmon in our fresh waters, could be at risk as waters grow warmer.

Significant change in our climate also threatens New Yorkers’ economy and lifestyle. For this reason, Governor Elliot Spitzer has assigned urgent priority to understanding and mitigating global climate change, as well as to taking actions needed to accommodate warming that cannot be avoided. He has set an ambitious 2015 goal of reducing electricity use by 15 percent through improved efficiency, along with greater use of clean and renewable energy sources.

Other elements of the Governor’s program include:

  • Promoting the development of renewable energy sources through the Lieutenant Governor’s State Task Force on Renewable Energy and the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.
  • Using the market to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through the cap- and-trade program developed by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI aims to cap emissions at 2009 levels, then reduce them by 10 percent in the next decade. Currently, the ten northeastern states participating in RGGI states expected to have regulations in place by the startup date of January 1, 2009. RGGI, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, will provide technical support and guidance as states make rules and implement a cohesive regional program.
  • Adopting California’s strict vehicle emission standards to reduce passenger vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases by 30 percent.
  • Establishing in DEC the New York State Climate Change Office to help governments and institutions respond effectively to climate change, through reduced emissions and adaptations to unavoidable warming.

Objective: Develop and implement an integrated approach to achieve compliance with the Department’s regulatory programs, utilizing community outreach, education, technical assistance, oversight and enforcement.

Outreach

  • Division of Public Affairs and Education (DPAE) coordinated the organization and staffing of DEC exhibits for public officials, planners, consultants and interest groups at professional conferences. Information was exchanged on topics related to fish and wildlife management programs, state Superfund refinancing, funding opportunities for environmental projects, open space protection, urban and community forestry and others.

Enforcement 

  • During the last year there has been significant reorganization of the command structure of the Division of Law Enforcement, as well as a large turnover of the personnel in the command positions. Both Director Bob Lucas and Assistant Director Les Wilson retired this year. They were replaced by Director Peter Fanelli and Assistant Director Walt Heinrich, who between them have over fifty years of experience in the Division.  Supervision of the nine Regional captains and the Marine Enforcement Unit Captain is now split between two District Majors instead of three. Major Tim Duffy is supervising the Captains in the Southern District. Major Charles Johncox is in a new position coordinating the efforts of our investigative units in the nine regions. The Northern District Major position is currently vacant. The Regional Captains in Regions 2, 5, 8, and 9 have all been appointed in the past three months.
  • 2006 was our busiest enforcement year ever - Nearly twenty-four thousand Environmental Conservation Law offenses were cited, a 16% increase over the previous year, 41% higher than the average of the previous five years. Apprehensions in Article 13, Marine and Coastal Resources, were up 51%, validation of the extra focus being put on this area of enforcement by the expanded Marine Enforcement Unit. Apprehensions in Article 17, Water Quality, tripled. This was largely the result of a focused enforcement initiative on the bulk storage of petroleum products.

Forty-eight percent of all tickets written were in the thirteen categories of fish and wildlife enforcement that we track statistically. Fishing without a license continues to be the most frequent offense, with just over four thousand tickets written. Number two was the possession of loaded firearms in motor vehicles.

Seventeen trainees graduated from our Basic School on July 13, briefly maintaining the Division at full strength. However, the large numbers of ECOs hired in the early 1980s have reached retirement eligibility and are creating vacancies almost weekly. We are beginning the process of identifying our next class of recruits, in hopes of running another Basic School in 2008.

In addition to graduating new human recruits, the Division of Law Enforcement also graduated three canine recruits. For the first time in many years, there is now a K-9 unit in each of the upstate Regions, 3 through 9. We have expanded the skill set for our dogs, who have traditionally been trained to detect venison. Now, based on geographic need, three dogs are certified in bear meat detection, two in trout detection, and one in wild turkey detection.

As responsiveness to the needs of the citizens is arguably the primary mission of any government entity, the greatest success of the Division of Law Enforcement in 2006 may have been the 24 hour dispatch center in Raybrook. Not only does it serve as a lifeline for our men and women in the filed, but it also continues to grow in its role as a place for “one stop shopping” for complaints from the public. With the transfer of the Turn in Poachers and Polluters TIPP line from the Conservation Council office in Ilion to the Raybrook Dispatch, it has been rediscovered by the public. TIPP complains grew from 182 in 2005 to 876 in 2006. Overall complaints to Division grew to almost fourteen thousand, an increase of 33% over the previous year.

  • One of the key components in achieving compliance with the department’s regulatory programs is swift and effective enforcement against violators of state laws and regulations. The DLE is often asked what the most common charges cited on Environmental Conservation Appearance

Tickets (ECATs) are. The following table shows that Article 11, or fish and wildlife violations, are written most often. Many charges are related to safety, such as carrying a loaded gun in a vehicle or discharging a gun across a highway or within 500 feet of a house.

Description

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

 

fishing w/o license

 

4313

 

3658

 

3442

 

3356

 

3722

fail to carry license

378

338

354

329

396

loaded gun in MV

521

541

462

474

518

illegal poss/tag deer

329

413

448

422

459

trespass

437

522

496

587

595

fishing out season/undsize

468

458

361

334

395

illegal disp solid waste

455

405

371

352

364

fishing other than angling

278

207

183

195

216

shooting across highway

218

234

190

196

177

shooting within 500 feet

235

238

204

188

183

taking illegal doe

116

134

114

86

67

game no season/excess

203

109

132

117

107

unwholesome substance

554

576

327

308

281

uncovered solid waste

578

547

596

636

512

illegal poss of wildlife

126

161

145

139

98

idling diesel over 5 min

365

346

281

301

242

Totals

9574

8887

8106

8020

8332

 

  • The following chart displays the number of tickets written for violations of the ECL over the last 5 years by the Division of Law Enforcement and the corresponding articles of law.

 

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

Lands & Forests

1067

946

1027

702

1286

Fish & Wildlife

11603

10692

9423

8994

9985

Marine & Costal

2483

1640

1364

984

1522

Water Resources

193

262

234

299

205

Flood Control

42

14

18

12

21

Water Pollution

1652

559

421

549

407

Air Polution

1946

1695

858

815

987

Mineral Resources

233

380

115

133

112

Freshwater Wetlands

279

249

215

382

174

Tidal Wetlands

223

182

142

136

128

Solid & Haz Waste

2616

2065

1805

1600

1995

Pesticides

534

436

176

157

187

Enforcement/Prohibitions

1064

996

689

806

677

Total                                    23935        20116        16487        15569        17686

  • In addition to enforcing Environmental Conservation Law, the DLE also enforces all other state laws, including vehicle and traffic laws, navigation, recreation, and penal laws. See below for the number of tickets issued over the last 5 years. (Most Vehicle & Traffic tickets are for offenses associated with illegal ATV operation.)

Year

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

Vehicle & Traffic

4380

4708

5326

5030

4550

PR-Snowmobile

601

1858

2618

2112

2059

PR - Navation

1073

1006

1548

1316

1589

Penal Law/Other

1275

1912

1051

910

938

Total

7329

9484

10543

9368

9136

 

  • The Division of Law Enforcement’s (DLE) Marine Enforcement Unit (MEU) consists of eight ECOs and one Investigator. They are supervised by a Lieutenant and a Captain supervises the Unit. They work in concert with regional ECOs. These teams have been trained and equipped exclusively to conduct marine patrols within the marine district of New York. Enforcement focus is to ensure compliance with state and federal fishing regulations. Patrol focus for this enforcement activity is centered on the waters of the Great South Bay, the North Shore, the East Forks, Jamaica Bay, Raritan Bay and the NY Harbor. In 2006, MEU teams responded to 465 complaints/incidents, performed 539 vessel checks, conducted 1944 on-shore checks and issued or assisted ECOs in issuing 924 tickets. The MEU maintains a close working relationship with NYC and Long Island marine units and the US Coast Guard and is ready to assist other police units in emergencies including boating accidents, airplane crashes and other law enforcement situations requiring specialized capabilities.
  • The DLE also operates the Marine and Off Road Enforcement (MORE) teams. Eight MORE teams, each consisting of 2 officers, are assigned primarily in upstate regions of the state. MORE teams conduct freshwater marine patrols of the Great Lakes and other inland lakes and rivers of New York. The teams are equipped and trained to conduct both target specific and general enforcement patrols off-road on ATVs and snowmobiles. During 2006, these teams conducted 1,758 checks and wrote or assisted in the issuance of 2,648 tickets.
  • MORE and MEU teams, by virtue of their non-sector-specific assignments, can be quickly deployed and realigned to provide both personnel and equipment augmentation. MORE teams are used to assist local officers during the deer season. In the fall, they are assigned to the salmon runs. The MORE team’s ATV capabilities have been used to assist local police for crowd control and medical evacuations and have been instrumental during winter emergencies when local emergency services could not get through on the roads to provide basic public safety needs.
  • Another important enforcement unit within the DLE is the Bureau of Environmental Conservation Investigations (BECI). Each Region has one supervisor and three investigators who are integrated into the operation of each regional law enforcement office. BECI’s assignment priorities are directed toward the development of major cases involving companies whose operations put the safety of citizens and the environment at risk. They also take the lead in investigating cases involving the illegal commercialization of fish and wildlife. The pursuit of enforcement assignments of this type often requires the use of specialized techniques to develop a case for prosecution.

 

Goal: Become better stewards of our land, infrastructure and natural resources.

Stewardship of the environment is a key element in DEC’s philosophy and practice. Using our natural resources in a sustainable manner, while maintaining a vibrant economy, requires us to manage resources and respond to changes in the environment, climate and resource use in ways that will provide a natural environment that is attractive, healthy, diversified and livable in every way.

Objective: Develop management plans for all of the state’s public lands and implement the core recommendations of such plans.

  • The construction of Phase 2 of the new Scaroon Manor Campground is expected to begin in the fall of 2007, with completion by Summer 2008.
  • The UMP for the Ausable Point Campground has been approved. With the approval of the plan, shoreline stabilization, road resurfacing and construction of a new playground can now proceed.
  • Forest Stewardship - From 2000 until 2005 New York’s State Forests were green certified by the Smartwood Program of the Rainforest Alliance as being “sustainably managed” under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) criteria. The Department is now moving forward with joint certification on 720,000 acres of State Forest from NSF International Strategic Registrations (NSF-ISR) and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) for an assessment under both FSC and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) criteria.  In May 2007 NSF-ISR and SCS completed an audit incorporating the criteria from both certification organizations. The NSF-ISR/SCS audit team included input from biologists, foresters and ecologists to insure that our State Forests are properly managed in a sustainable manner. New York’s State Forests will once again become green certified under the new joint certification through FSC and SFI by Fall 2007.
  • Unit Management Planning -The Department of Environmental Conservation develops Unit Management Plans (UMPs) for all public lands managed by the Department. These lands include State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, Campgrounds, Environmental Education Centers and as well as Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Unit Management Plan development includes inventories of natural, cultural and historic resources, and discusses past and future management strategies. Their preparation provides for public input to insure that social aspects are properly considered in the decision making process. The Department’s management planning teams include Foresters, Wildlife Biologists, Fisheries Biologists, Forest Rangers, and Operations (Construction and Maintenance) staff. In the Adirondacks, UMPs are developed by DEC planners in consultation with Adirondack Park Agency (APA) staff. The APA has responsibility for assuring plans are in compliance with Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) guidelines for management of forest preserve lands inside the Adirondack Park. In the Catskills, UMPs are developed in compliance with Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP) guidelines. UMPs for all land units receive their final approval from the Commissioner of the Department.

Over the past year progress has been made in the adoption of the following Unit Management Plans:

<    Tioga UMP - Fairfield, Jenksville, Oakley Corners, and Ketchumville State Forests in Tioga County

<    Stewart UMP - Stewart State Forest in Orange County

<    Zoar UMP - Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area in Erie and Cattaraugus Counties

<    White Hill Wild Forest UMP - St. Lawrence County

<    Raquette Boreal Wild Forest UMP - St. Lawrence County

Currently, the Department is continuing to work on drafting the following UMPs:

<    Debar Mtn. Wild Forest Draft UMP - Franklin County

<    Ferris Lake Wild Forest Draft UMP - Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer Counties

<    Grass River Wild Forest Draft UMP - St. Lawrence County

<    Lake George Wild Forest Draft UMP - Warren, Washington and Essex Counties

<    Moose River Plains Wild Forest Draft UMP - Hamilton and Herkimer Counties

<    Watsons East Triangle Wild Forest Draft UMP - Lewis County

<    West Canada Lakes Wilderness Draft UMP - Herkimer and Hamilton Counties

<    Wilcox Lake Wild Forest Draft UMP - Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga and Warren Counties

<    Charleston UMP - Charleston, Rural Grove, Yatesville Falls, Lost Valley and Featherstonhaugh State Forests in Montgomery and Schenectady Counties

<    Erwin UMP - McCarthy Hill and Erwin Mountain State Forests and Erwin Wildlife Management Area in Steuben County

<    Five Streams UMP - Five Streams, Balsam Swamp and Red Brook State Forests in Chenango County

<    Tioughnioga UMP - DeRuyter, Morrow Mountain and Stoney Pond State Forests and Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area in Madison County

<    Southern Staten Island UMP - Mount Loretto, Lemon Creek, Blosser’s Pond and Arden Heights Unique Areas in Richmond County

<    Brasher UMP - Brasher and Bombay State Forests in St. Lawrence County

<    Chenango Trails UMP - Coventry State Forest, Bobell Hill State Forest, Beaver Flow State Forest, Bumps Creek State Forest, and Oak Ridge State Forest in Chenango County.

<    Virgil Mountain UMP - James D. Kennedy Memorial State Forest and Tuller Hill State Forest in Cortland County

<    Muller Hill UMP - Muller Hill, Mariposa and Three Springs State Forests in Madison and Cheneango Counties.

<    46 Corners UMP - Big Brook, Cobb Brook, Fall Brook, Florence Hill, Furnace Creek, Mad River, Swancott Hill and Tri-County State Forests located mostly in northwestern Oneida County.

<    Keuka Lowlands UMP - Mount Washington, Birdseye Hollow and Moss Hill State Forests and Waneta-Lamoka and Cold Brook WMAs in Steuben County.

  • The Snowmobile Plan for the Adirondack Park GEIS was approved in October 2006 by then Commissioner’s Denise Sheehan (DEC) and Bernadette Castro (OPRHP). The Plan GEIS is a supplement of the State of New York Snowmobile Trail Plan (Statewide Snowmobile Plan), adopted by OPRHP in 1989. It describes concepts for establishing a comprehensive and integrated Adirondack Park snowmobile system and standards for developing and maintaining trails on DEC owned lands in the Park, consistent with Article XIV of the State Constitution and respecting the rights and interests of private landowners.
  • DEC is finalizing an ATV policy for Forest Preserve, State Forest, and Conservation Easement lands.
  • Substantial construction of the Day Use Area portion for the new Scaroon Manor Campground on Schroon Lake has been completed. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on July 6, 2006. The construction of the Phase 2 campground portion is expected to begin in the spring of 2007.
  • The Marine Habitat Protection Section continues to implement priority actions of the Peconic Estuary Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. These include identifying and implementing priority habitat restoration projects, and supporting natural resource protection efforts. Notable projects include an evaluation of a formerly connected tidal wetlands site in Indian Island County Park for restoration of tidal flow, continued implementation of the final phase of the Cassidy Preserve Salt Marsh Restoration project and the development of a draft eel- grass management plan for the Peconic estuary. The program to remove the invasive water primrose (Ludwigia peploides) from large portions of the Peconic River continued for the second year. In Long Island Sound, the department continues to address hypoxia through upgrades to sewage treatment plants to reduce nitrogen inputs and is developing a habitat restoration strategy. The Department continues to investigate wetlands loss in Long Island Sound wetlands. A watershed restoration and stewardship plan is being developed for the Nissequogue River. As part of the implementation of the Harbor Estuary Plan, DEC has been working with partners to restore tidal wetlands habitat in Jamaica Bay and continues to work with New York City to reduce nitrogen inputs from sewage treatment plants and combined sewer overflows. The Department is working with the Harbor Estuary Program and the Hudson River Foundation to develop restoration strategies for habitat and key species. As part of the South Shore Estuary Reserve Program, the DEC has continued to participate in the Forge River Task Force and the Western Bays Water Quality Committee to address issues related to excessive nitrogen inputs, oxygen depletion and fish kills. Both sites were added to the state’s list of impaired waters. DEC is working with DOS and The Nature Conservancy on a demonstration of Ecosystem-Based Management for Great South Bay. Habitat Protection staff spent a significant amount of effort in review of alternative energy proposals and proposals for pipelines, cables and natural gas facilities.

Objective: Develop the Department’s Maintenance Management System (MMS) and use it to identify and implement needed maintenance of Department facilities.

A key element in the behind the scenes activities of stewardship, is being able to know what assets you have and their condition. The MMS assists Department management in planning, organizing, directing, controlling and budgeting for operation and maintenance, including the tracking of energy usage, of almost 2,000 DEC facilities spread across over 4.7 million acres of land. Additional efforts by the Division of Lands & Forests will enable GIS data to be directly linked with MMS asset records, enhancing the management and functional utilization of each data component.

This past year the Division of Operations completed over 6,000 work orders for the repair and maintenance of the Department’s facilities, as well as over 14,000 work orders for the repair and maintenance of the Department’s vehicles and motorized equipment. This system is also being used to track usage of all vehicles.

The focus recently has been on implementing the utility portion of the system. This module replaces many independent systems used to track the Department’s energy usage at all of its facilities. Almost 800 separate accounts are now being tracked in the system. This data is important in tracking DEC’s continuing efforts to comply with Executive Order #111 to reduce the Department’s energy usage.

 

Objective: Develop and implement programs to improve the sustainability of the state’s natural resources.

 

  • Trail Supporter Patch - The Division created the first Trial Supporter Patch, available for a cost of $5 each. Patch proceeds will be deposited in the Conservation Fund's Outdoor Recreation, Trail Maintenance, and Development Account, and will help maintain and enhance non- motorized trails throughout New York State.

 

  • Mapping Resources - State Recreational Lands Interactive Mapper - This interactive mapper has been running on the public website for the last few years. This project has received many positive responses and it is a great improvement to our public website. The Lands and Forests interactive mapper shows seven types of recreational trails, parking lots and access points statewide. Starting from the State view, this application enables users to search on a town, county, address or state land name. Zooming to a closer scale, the user can view the different types of recreational trails that are available, as well as, state parks, roads and water. Additionally, users can identify an individual state land unit to view a more detailed description page where they exist. Topographic maps can be printed for many areas as well as the custom view created by the user. Please note that the trails shown are DEC officially recognized trails on lands managed by the Division of Lands and Forests, mainly on state forests and forest preserve lands. We have been and will continue improving existing data and working towards including trails located on wildlife management areas, state environmental education centers and state campgrounds. The latest endeavor is to improve this interactive mapper for ease of use, a better look and feel and to employ the latest software technology. A new product should be out for public use mid-2008.

Resource Management Plans 

Conservation of high quality resources via private forest landowner education - The Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) was established through the 1990 Farm Bill and encourages private forest landowners to manage their lands using professionally-prepared forest stewardship plans. These plans integrate forest resources, wildlife and fish, water, aesthetics, recreation, etc., to meet landowner objectives. The recent introduction of the FSP Spatial Analysis Project (SAP) has provided a methodology to spatially display lands with important stewardship potential.

These lands can be compared to actual stewardship planning accomplishments. Evaluation of Forest Stewardship planning efforts in FFY 07 shows that 72 % of the 67,099 total acres for which plans were developed, have been on lands demonstrating a high or moderate stewardship potential.

Implementation of sustainable land management practices - The federally supported Forest Land Enhancement Program administered through NYS DEC, has provided opportunities for forest landowners to receive financial support to implement sustainable management practices on their lands detailed in their Forest Stewardship plans. This cost share incentive program, cooperatively implemented by NYS DEC, New York Forest Owners Association and Cornell Cooperative Extension, will terminate upon conclusion of FFY 07 per authorization language of the 2002 Farm Bill. During FFY 07, $133,488 was provided as partial cost reimbursement to landowners that completed sustainable practices that improved 853 acres of forest, protected 630 acres of watershed, enhanced 2,403 acres of fish & wildlife habitat, addressed forest health problems on 379 acres and controlled invasive species on 39 acres. Over 1,870 acres of Stewardship planning was also supported with these funds.

During the life of the program some selected accomplishments in response to over 1,000 requests for assistance included the preparation of Forest Stewardship Plans on 23,906 acres, tree planting and establishment of natural regeneration on 84 acres, forest improvement work on 6,081 acres and fish and wildlife habitat work that impacted 11,471 acres.  These selected sustainable forestry activities were underwritten with $792,915 of FLEP program funds.

Non-native and Invasive Species

Invasive Species implementation plan initiated - A total of $3.25 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has been appropriated for implementing the recommendations of the New York State Invasive Species Task Force. Developments include:

-          Creation of a Research Institute, where Cornell University has been approved as a single source for this resource and a contract is in process. The Eradication Grants received about a third more (in dollar terms) requests than the program could fund. DFWMR and Lands&Forests developed a system for equitably sharing the $2 M available with $1,420,000 going to the aquatic program and $580,000 to the terrestrial program. The final review is taking place and grants are anticipated to be awarded in early September 07.

-          Dissemination of invasive and nuisance species information via web and internet. Updates and general information about gypsy moth caterpillars, tent caterpillars, friendly fly, Asian long-horned beetle, emerald ash borer, sirex woodwasp and hemlock woolly adelgid were made available to the public via the DEC website. A “Don’t Move Firewood” promotional campaign began this year in partnership with Division of Operations and their campsite reservations contractor, Reserve America. The goal of this effort is to reduce/prevent the expansion of invasive species through the movement of firewood.

Grassland Restoration in St. Lawrence Valley - Ducks Unlimited is partnering with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to implement a habitat restoration program on private lands with a goal to protect, restore and enhance at least 100 acres of grassland habitat in the St. Lawrence River Valley. Private land agreements with appropriate management plans will be developed between landowners and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. Ten potential grassland sites totaling 470 acres were visited and evaluated for grassland potential. Thus far five agreements have been signed with landowners totaling 186 acres. Habitat work has begun on these five parcels and DU is working with the remaining 5 landowners to get them enrolled in the program.

Monitoring Wild Birds to Support the National Effort to Detect Avian Influenza - Avian influenza, also called bird flu, is a disease of birds that is found primarily in wild waterfowl such as ducks and geese. Sometimes, this disease can also spread from wild birds into domestic poultry. There are many strains or types of bird flu. Right now there is a type of bird flu called Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) type H5N1 (also called H5N1 bird flu) that has made many birds, and a few people, sick elsewhere in the world. Other strains of bird flu are commonly found in wild waterfowl in the United States, but usually affect small numbers of birds and generally do not cause obvious illness. These other types of bird flu are not a considered a human health risk.

DEC is working with other state agencies and the federal government (especially USDA Wildlife Services) to monitor the occurrence of HPAI. During 2006-07, DEC and USDA staff collected samples from 1,600 live wild birds (e.g., mostly waterfowl, water/shore birds) and approximately 200 game-farm hatched pheasants. Wild birds were sampled during routing banding operations and by contacting hunters in the field. Hunters were asked to voluntarily allow DEC to take a small cloacal swab from ducks and geese to be tested. All birds tested negative for the highly pathogenic form of the H5N1 virus. Two mallards from Niagara County tested positive for a low pathogenic form of H5N1, but this poses no threat to humans and generally has little effect on the bird carrying the virus. DEC and USDA plan to sample another 1,500 live wild birds during 2007-2008.

Hunters Provide Input to Waterfowl Season-Setting - Bureau of Wildlife staff continued the successful use of Waterfowl Hunter Task Forces to decide waterfowl hunting season dates for 2006-07. Task forces have been used since the late 1990s to decide duck hunting seasons in the Western and Southeastern Zones, and we established a task force for the Northeastern Zone in 2003. A task force was established in spring 2007 for the Long Island Zone. A recent duck hunter survey conducted by the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University showed very strong support for the Task Force approach to season-setting. The survey also provided information on season date preferences of more than 1,500 duck hunters from across the state, which we provided to Task Force members for their consideration in 2007. Waterfowl season recommendations from each of the task forces were accepted and put into place for 2007-08.

Mute Swan Study Continues - The mute swan is a non-native invasive species that was introduced to New York State from Europe and Asia in the late1800s and early 1900s. Surveys conducted since the 1980s have shown a dramatic population increase in New York to more than 2,500 birds. There are concerns that the presence of mute swans may affect habitat for native species, as well as water quality for drinking, swimming, and shellfishing. Mute swans are also known to be aggressive, especially while nesting and raising young, which may also impact native waterfowl and other waterbirds.

DEC, in cooperation with the New York State Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University, began a study in 2004 to determine population trends, identify habitat uses, assess the impacts swans are having on submerged aquatic vegetation, and identify interactions with other waterfowl and waterbirds. This research continued in 2006-07. To date, more than 100 nesting pairs have been monitored, and more approximately 100 adult swans were neck-banded to estimate annual production and survival and then calculate population growth rates. Results of this study will be summarized in a final report during 2007-08, and DEC plans to review and update its mute swan management policy to reflect some of the research findings.

Monitoring Waterfowl Populations Through Banding Efforts - Waterfowl banding is a cooperative effort by state, provincial, and federal agencies to determine harvest rates and distribution, and survival rates for populations sampled. Banding data also provides information on relative abundance (birds captured per unit effort) and annual productivity (number of young per adults banded).

During summer and fall 2006, more than 6,000 waterfowl were banded in New York State, including 2,758 ducks and 3,275 Canada geese. Mallards (1,419 banded) and wood ducks (952 banded) were the most common ducks banded. During winter 2006-07, several hundred additional waterfowl were banded, primarily mallards and Atlantic brant. A more complete summary of 2006-07 banding data is available upon request.

Population Ecology of American Marten in New York State - The Department completed the second year of a 4-year research project investigating the ecology of American martens in the Adirondacks of northern New York. During the fall of 2006, a large mast crop was produced by American beech. From our ongoing research, we have learned that beech mast cycles and fluctuations in small mammal populations have a significant impact on the vulnerability of martens to trapping. As a result of increased prey availability, we increased our live-trapping efforts during the winter of 2006-2007 to approximately 600 trap-nights. This trapping effort resulted in the recapture of 2 adult males that we radio-collared the previous winter. In comparison, we live-trapped a total of 173 trap-nights and captured 15 martens during the winter of 2005-2006 (which followed a fall with a mast failure). We continue to monitor radio-collared martens and collect location data using fixed-wing aircraft. These data will be used to estimate home ranges and determine habitat selection. Additionally, we added a second study area in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. We will attempt to radio-collar 15-20 animals in this area for comparison with our collared animals in the southwestern Adirondacks. Lastly, we completed marten surveys using photographic bait stations (trail cameras) in several wilderness areas of the northwestern Adirondacks. We detected few martens in this region. Other detections included fisher, mink, bobcat, and weasel.

August 2006 Turkey Sighting Survey - The Department conducts a special survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the state. This index allows us to gauge reproductive success in a given year and allows us to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

In 2006, the number of flocks reported was lower than in 2005, and the average number of poults per hen was down 27% from 2005 (2.7 vs 3.7 in 2005). This was well below the 10-year average (1996-2005) of 3.3 for this index. Spring and early summer 2006 were cool and relatively wet in most of the state, and results of the August survey indicated production was down from last year, probably due to those adverse weather conditions.

Wild Turkey Winter Flock Survey - We launched a pilot study to assess the feasibility of monitoring turkey populations using winter flock counts. The study will continue for 3 years, after which we hope to continue on a long-term basis. A statewide news release in December generated dozens of calls and e-mails from every region of the state, so we are optimistic that we will have a good sample to work from. The mild weather has not been conducive to flock counts (or trapping) but we would encourage NWTF members to continue submitting any additional locations that they observe over the course of the winter.

During winter 2006-07 we received over 1,000 reports on over 600 flocks from all counties except Schuyler County in western NY and the counties that comprise NYC.

Wild Turkey Survival Study - In January 2006, DEC began a 4-year wild turkey banding project designed to estimate harvest and survival rates of male wild turkeys ("gobblers") in New York. This study is being done in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, researchers from Pennsylvania State University, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

In winter 2007, DEC staff and volunteers banded another 383 gobblers, far exceeding the annual statewide goal of 300 birds. During the spring season, 120 bands were recovered (109 hunter-harvest birds, 11 non-hunting mortalities). This includes bands from 41 birds that were banded during winter 2006 and 79 banded during winter 2007. Whereas last year we recovered bands from about 27% of the gobblers banded (81 of 296 gobblers), this year the recovery rate dropped to about 21% (79 of 383 gobblers). In either case, recovery rates have thus far been similar to rates observed in banding studies conducted elsewhere.

Wildlife Damage Focus Area - Management of wildlife damage is a high priority. Populations of several nuisance species, such as deer, raccoon, beaver, Canada geese and double-crested cormorants are high. Also, public surveys show that New Yorkers expect to be protected from the negative and harmful effects of wildlife. The Department’s Wildlife Damage Management Unit focuses on these issues. This unit is responsible for training field personnel in solving wildlife nuisance problems, monitoring wildlife damage trends, understanding the needs of New Yorkers and developing state-of-the-art methods for controlling damage.

The Department is currently implementing a new law that became effective January 1, 2003. The law creates a new Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) license and also establishes a $50.00 annual fee. The Department collaborated with Cornell University to develop a new training program, centered on the comprehensive nuisance wildlife control manual. The entire manual was posted at www.nwco.net The Department has established a statewide team to implement this new program, including establishing regulations on licensing and reporting.

Other activities of the new Wildlife Damage Management Unit include: 

-  Emerging wildlife disease and health issues are being monitored to assess potential management actions needed to mitigate harmful effects in New York. This includes Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza, Chronic Wasting Disease and Exotic Newcastle Disease.

-  The new Unit is developing systems for monitoring regional wildlife damage permitting activities and complaint load. The existing monitoring systems for deer, bear, beaver, and migratory bird complaints/permitting is being assessed.

-  The Unit is currently working with the regional deer biologists to reform and improve practices concerning deer damage response and permitting. The effort is focusing on establishing statewide standard conditions for permit issuance. A draft general permit was developed and implemented. A system currently in use in Region 8 was evaluated for possible implementation statewide.

-  All Department campground managers received training on nuisance wildlife abatement techniques.

Chronic Wasting Disease - Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a slow and progressive disease of the central nervous system of free ranging and captive deer and elk that leads to the eventual death of the animal. The mode of transmission of the disease continues to not be fully understood making its management a challenge.

The DEC has been conducting routine testing for CWD in wild deer throughout the state since the fall of 2002. Since that time, New York has conducted testing programs and enacted measures aimed at preventing the importation and spread of the disease. New York’s regulations include prohibitions on the import of live deer and elk except for those enrolled in the herd health program of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM), the importation of certain carcasses and carcass parts from many states and Canadian provinces, the release of deer and elk into the wild, and the feeding of wild deer.

In the spring of 2005, chronic wasting disease was discovered in Oneida County at two captive deer facilities and in two deer in the surrounding wild herd. In response to these findings, a CWD containment area surrounding all known and suspected cases was established to minimize the spread of CWD into other parts of the state. Regulations have been enacted within the CWD containment area that require the registration and testing of all deer taken during the hunting season, prohibit the movement of high risk body parts out of the area, prohibit the rehabilitation and release of all deer within the area, prohibit the possession and sale of deer and elk urine taken from animals within the area, and prohibit the possession of all deer killed by motor vehicles. Successful hunters in the containment area are given the option to bring either only the deer head or the entire field dressed carcass to the newly completed containment area Deer Check Station. These hunters may also check the results of their harvest via a toll free call or though accessing the DEC website. Specific guidelines can be found in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide and on our DEC website. Regulations remain in effect statewide which prohibit the retail sale of all feed labeled for use for wild white-tailed deer, require taxidermists engaged in mounting of deer to maintain accurate records of deer and elk specimens and file annual reports to the DEC, and prohibit the possession of live wild deer by anyone who possesses captive deer and elk.

In 2006, efforts continued with CWD surveillance through sampling of hunter killed deer statewide and mandatory deer check in the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area. Despite testing over 7,900 deer, including 1,800 deer from the CWD Containment Area in 2006, no new cases were detected. Since 2002, over 18,700 samples have been collected throughout the state, including 3,900 samples from the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area. The DEC will continue enhanced testing throughout the state this fall, and continue mandatory checking of all hunter-harvested deer in the Oneida and Madison counties containment area. In addition, work continues in the SUNY ESF on-going research on deer behavior and movement within containment area and a second (control) area in central New York.

Moose Assessment in New York - The review of the history of moose in New York State indicates that after being absent since the 1860s, they began to enter the state on a continuous basis during the early1980s. The Department has collected reports of sightings from 1980 to present as an informal way of monitoring changes in moose population status.

New York's moose population is now large enough (300-500) that it is believed to be secure and firmly established with sightings of bulls, cows and calves in many areas of the northern part of the state.

To better monitor the population that exists in the state, the Department will continue to collect information on moose-vehicle collisions, mortality factors (brainworm, liver flukes etc), yearly aerial surveys, various hunter surveys and diary/logs, and opportunistic radio collarings. These monitoring protocols, though not constituting a rigorous scientific survey, would provide to be adequate for the general purpose of monitoring population expansion. Over time, the collection and analysis of the data obtained from these may give us a better estimate of moose population and movement. These data would allow us to provide estimates that could serve as a base population estimate to assist in the reduction of human-caused conflicts with moose or in the case of an eventual moose season.

Black Bear Management Planning - A new emphasis of black bear management planning has begun in 2007 to address the accomplishments, needs and objectives of black bear management on a broad scale in NY. It includes amendments to the map of known bear range and creation of a new maps outlining the most current management activities and identification of bear impact areas on a regional basis. These maps will then be displayed through outreach and public meetings to get input from interested citizens during the fall of 2007. This input could result in the formation of new Stakeholder Input Groups in locales where specific impacts need to be addressed, or new management objectives where broad support is identified.

Catskill Bear Population Estimate - During the summer of 2006, DEC staff tested techniques for marking bears using baits containing capsules of tetracycline, a common antibiotic used for treating livestock. When ingested, trace elements of tetracycline are deposited in the tooth annuli and bone material of the animal. This provides an opportunity for non-invasive marking of bears that may later be detected following harvest during routine cross-sectioning of bear teeth for aging purposes. Using the ratio of marked bears to recovered detections, DEC may be able to generate a population estimate for the Catskill Bear Range.

Initial results of the trial baiting without tetracycline were promising with 34 of 88 baits taken by bears. DEC intends to expand the project in May and June 2007 by placing roughly 400 baits throughout the Catskill Region in attempt to mark approximately 150 bears.

 

Environmental Monitoring

  • Marine Crustaceans:

American Lobster

Landings Compilation - Lobster landings data are collected by an annual recall survey when lobster fishers renew their permit. The objective of this project is to enter the annual lobster landings and effort data onto computer database. This information is used to estimate New York lobster landings by area and gear for assessment purposes. During 2006, 965,223 lobster were reported landed by NY resident lobster permit holders.

Sea Sampling - Department staff accompany volunteer lobster fishers aboard their vessels to collect information on lobster catch and harvest. Environmental and bycatch information are also collected. This information is used to characterize NY’s lobster harvest for ASMFC stock assessment.

Five sea sampling trips were completed on commercial lobster boats for 2006. One thousand two hundred and ninety-five traps were sampled from one hundred and ninety-five trawls. One thousand two hundred and fifty lobsters were measured during 2006 sea sampling trips, of these, 638 were legal size. Fifty three percent of all lobsters measured were female, however only 40% of legal size lobsters were female. Only 14 lobsters were observed with shell disease, mainly those in ELIS. It should be noted that areas where shell disease was most present in the past (east end and south shore) were not sampled in 2006.

Western Long Island Trap Survey - NYSDEC staff have been sampling the lobster population in Western Long Island Sound (WLIS), an area that has experienced major die- offs. The objectives of the survey are to (1) - provide detailed information on relative abundance of lobster in Western Long Island Sound (WLIS) and link changes to environmental data, (2) - collect information on short-term indices of abundance of other species caught in lobster pots which may provide further information on unfavorable environmental conditions, (3) & (4) - through tagging and recapture, document mortality, growth, and movements of lobsters and estimate how often they re-enter traps. This survey is important to document environmental effects on lobsters in WLIS. NY landings in WLIS have declined since 1998. The most recent lobster die-offs occurred in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

The third year of the western Long Island Sound trap survey was conducted during 2006. Seventy-five, five trap trawls (375 traps) are sampled weekly from mid to late June through late November.

Department staff completed 66 sampling trips in Long Island Sound during the period of June 1, 2006 through November 30, 2006. Eight thousand and five hundred traps were hauled. Eight thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine lobsters were captured, 1,709 were legal. The catch per trap haul of lobsters averaged 1.04 for all lobsters and 0.20 for legal lobsters. Nineteen percent of all lobsters sampled were legal. Lobsters ranged in size from 24 - 106 mm carapace length (CL). Twenty four percent of the sub-legal size females were egg bearing while only 18% of the legal sized females had eggs.

YOY Survey - The objective of this project is to develop a sampling program for YOY or juvenile lobster. Indices of YOY or juvenile abundance may be useful as indicators of future recruitment. The project has been modified since it’s initiation in 2002. The sites and trap placement used in 2006 were similar to those used in the latter part of the 2005 sampling season. Deep (~30 meters) and shallow (~10 meters) sites located off of Crane Neck and Herod Point were fished with four strings of traps each for a total of 16 strings. Each 3-pot string contained 1 YOY PVC collector, 1 small mesh trap, and either an eel pot or a juvenile trap.

Four hundred and thirty-three lobster were collected during the 2006 YOY trap survey with an average carapace length of 68.6 mm. Four hundred and six of the lobsters (93.8%) were collected from deep trap strings while only 27 lobster were caught in shallow traps. The smallest lobster (10 mm CL) was collected in a YOY collector from a deep site at Crane Neck. One hundred percent of the lobster caught in YOY collectors (6 individuals) were juvenile lobster, followed by juvenile traps (77%, 24 lobster), eel pots (36%, 27 lobster), and small mesh traps (7.2%, 23 lobster). All 6 lobsters caught in the YOY collectors were <20 mm and can be considered young of the year. No lobsters <20 mm were caught in any other trap type. Eighty juvenile lobster (< 57 mm CL) were caught during the survey and their size distribution varied with trap type.

Coastwide Ventless Trap Survey - This project addresses the need for improved coastwide data for American lobster, identified in the 2005 peer reviewed assessment. One of the strongest recommendations of the peer review report was that the data quality needs to be upgraded significantly. This upgrade is particularly important for the spatial distribution of lobster length frequency. To address the need to develop a robust time series of relative abundance, a cooperative random stratified ventless trap survey was designed to generate accurate estimates of lobster relative abundance and recruitment while attempting to eliminate the biases identified in conventional surveys. A fishery-independent survey where scientists and contracted fishers cooperatively collect the data provides greater control over the sampling design and data quality necessary to maintain a stratified sampling approach.

During 2006, sampling was conducted in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk County at nine sites during September, October, and November. Each site was sampled two times each month. The sites ranged from Huntington NY to Herod Pt. NY and up to the CT shore. Eastern Long Island Sound sites were not sampled in 2006 due to the inability to find any lobster fishers interested in conducting the survey in that area. The data was summarized for the Lobster Research Forum in Halifax Canada. A staff member from Maine DNR presented a summary of the coastwide landings. A total of 1,338 lobsters were captured, 1,189 in the ventless traps and 149 in the vented traps. Catch rates ranged from 1.4 – 16.9 for the ventless traps and 0.0 – 1.8 for the vented traps.

Horseshoe Crab

Landings compilation - Horseshoe crab landings data are collected by monthly/weekly reports required by permitted horseshoe crab fishers. The objective of this project is to enter these reports in a timely manner and compare harvest with quota thresholds. This information is needed to allow New York to manage the fishery and assure that New York does not exceed its Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) mandated quota. During 2006, 172,381 horseshoe crabs were reported landed by NY horseshoe crab permit holders.

Spawning Survey - The primary benefit of this program is the development of a survey design to monitor horseshoe crab spawning activity. This information is necessary to conduct stock assessment and to determine trends in spawning in the Marine District of New York. In addition: the study will map potential spawning sites for a spawning habitat assessment, collect biological information on spawning crabs, and determine localized movements through tag release and recapture and monitoring of combined radio / acoustic tags. This will add to our local knowledge of horseshoe crab life history and behavior.

The 2006 horseshoe crab spawning survey was conducted in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk County during May and June. Seven sites were sampled which spanned Long Island from Plum Beach in Brooklyn in the west to New Suffolk in Southold and Pikes Beach in West Hampton in the east. Several of the sites were modified from 2005 due to access or sampling concerns. Six thousand one hundred sixty seven horseshoe crabs were counted during the survey. The majority (52%) were counted at Plum Beach in Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn. Pikes Beach in West Hampton had the next highest counts. Both of these beaches are on the south shore of Long Island.

Blue Crab

Landings Compilation - Crab landings data are collected by an annual recall survey when crab fishers renew their permit. The objective of this project is to enter the annual crab landings and effort data onto computer database. This information is used to estimate New York blue crab landings by area and gear for assessment purposes. During 2006, 796,267 blue crabs were reported landed by NY resident crab permit holders.

Habitat and Resource Management

Freshwater Mussels - Two major survey efforts for mussels within the Allegheny and Susquehanna River drainages funded under initial federal State Wildlife Grant (SWG) funding. The Allegheny Basin survey is underway. Considerable requests for information on presence and status of freshwater mussels in New York waters, especially where projects proposed which may impact, such as highway construction, hence much mussel work involves project review. There is considerable concern for these species rangewide as gross and illegal collections in many places for grinding up and use in the cultured pearl trade. Many of these species are both federally and NYS listed species.
Odonates - The Endangered Species Unit (ESU) developed, proposed and received initial funding for an inventory of damselflies and dragonflies of NYS and initiated and oversee a contract with our Natural Heritage Program who is now implementing; effort is in year 3 of 4. Several species are both federally and NYS listed. A high quality final publication of Odonates of NYS anticipated.

Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail (COAS) - The Endangered Species Unit leads the federal recovery effort of this species, headed up the Recovery Team and virtually single-handedly wrote the federal Recovery Plan, which we have been executing for over 20 years. The ESU has annually monitored the single, worldwide population in central NYS, initiated captive breeding programs, numerous graduate studies, and research into this species and others it shares habitat with. Currently, ESU is assisting with planning and conducting surveys of COAS to determine their response to major rock fall that occurred in 2006 that impacted significant portions of their habitat.

Bats and Windpower - The ESU reviews all wind project proposals and reports as they relate to bats. There are about 50 projects in some state of review at this time. In addition to review of projects and results of survey work, significant amounts of time are requested by both in-house (DEC Permit and Habitat staff) and outside wind-power project consultants to provide bat information and expertise as well as to request assistance in developing pre- and post-project operation bat studies.

ESU staff receive requests from consultants to process all turbine killed bats. Staff confirm species, sex, and reproductive condition. Staff also collect hair and tissue samples for genetic and stable isotope analysis. Most projects will have mortality assessments that will result in our receiving hundreds of bats per project per year. ESU has determined that bats are likely to be killed by the tens of thousands, with most mortalities being among the least common species.

Aside from our generic concerns about the taking of state resources, the significance of these mortalities to the overall populations needs to be determined. Current research projects under development include stable isotope and genetic assessments of range-wide population size and distribution. A baseline statewide acoustical survey is being developed by the unit. Staff are developing a study to determine what portion of a summer population can expected to be killed at turbines. To help minimize bat mortalities at wind power sites, staff are developing projects to understand the migratory behavior of the tree bat species so that we can avoid placing turbines in high risk areas. This includes radio tracking migrating bats and conducting broad scale acoustical surveys.

Residential and Commercial Development Review Regarding Indiana Bats - Projects that occur in areas known to be occupied by Indiana bats (federally endangered) are continually being brought to the attention of the Department for review and comment. Considerable staff time has been spent over the past 5 years attempting to address critical data collection needs, including winter hibernacula surveys, but more recently and more importantly, summer habitat locations through labor intensive radio-tracking of bats as they leave their hibernaculum. The Department is working to determine the summer distribution of Indiana bats as it relates to development. NYSDEC is using spring emergence tracking to determine the summer distribution of Indiana bats. Staff are in the process of developing acoustical surveys to further refine the relationship between development density and the presence of Indiana bats.

Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project - This 10-year field project to determine distribution of all amphibians and reptiles in NYS is coming to conclusion with the final Atlas publication pending. Analysis of data and preparation of manuscript on the results of the Herp Atlas is being completed. Approximately 59,000 records were collected during the Atlas period and an additional 30,000 museum and field records were also compiled into Atlas format creating a comprehensive database of distribution of all amphibians and reptiles found in the wild in New York State.

Bald Eagle - ESU recently completed a 3-year study of bald eagles of the Hudson River, which identified the most critical habitats along the river and provided significant information on contaminants for the on-going Natural Resources Damage Assessment involving this river.

In 2005 we launched a cooperative study with the National Park Service to delineate essential bald eagle habitats along the Upper Delaware River and provide management recommendations. In 2006 we completed a major mercury study of bald eagles in NYS, in cooperation with the Biodiversity Research Institute (ME); a report is pending. And, for the 12th consecutive year we have participated in a real-time educational effort with over 1,200 grade schools across North America through the Journey North program, where we have provided on-going research data on bald eagle movements for students to follow via the web.

Bird Conservation Areas - New York’s Bird Conservation Area Program, the first of its kind in the United States, protects bird populations and their habitats by integrating bird conservation into agency planning, management, and research. Bird Conservation Areas (BCAs) are state- owned lands and waters designated to safeguard and enhance birds in New York. BCAs provide important habitats for birds. In spring and summer, many birds rely on these areas for breeding, food, and shelter. In addition, some bird species winter at BCAs, while others use BCAs as resting and feeding areas during migration.

BCAs are designated because they support one or more of the following:

<    An unusually high diversity of bird species

<    Large concentrations of one or more bird species

<    Endangered, threatened, or rare bird species

<    An exceptional or rare bird habitat

The Bird Conservation Area Program has made great strides this year. Numerous sites have been designated, including the first site on New York State Canal Corporation property. Recent additions to the ever-growing list of BCA sites include:

Vischer Ferry (Canal Corp.)

Crown Point (OPRHP)

Minnewaska (OPRHP)

Tivoli Bays (DEC)

Caumsett (OPRHP)

Bear Swamp (DEC)

Three Mile Bay (DEC)

Point Peninsula (DEC)

Valcour Island (DEC)

Black Creek Marsh (DEC)

Carlton Hill (DEC)

Lake Shore Marshes (DEC)

Selkirk Shores (OPRHP)

Letchworth (OPRHP)

Keaney Swamp (DEC)

Peconic Headwaters (DEC)

Three Rivers (DEC)

Moreau Lake (OPRHP)

 In addition to the designation of sites as BCAs, and the preparation of the management guidance summaries, other program accomplishments include: the development of interpretive kiosks at 29 BCAs; the establishment of bird monitoring programs, including annual breeding bird and secretive marsh-breeding bird surveys, at several BCAs; and providing assistance for habitat restoration work, such as invasive species management, mowing of grasslands, wetland impoundment management, and selective cutting in targeted forest habitats. The BCA program also provides support for the development of outreach materials and public venues such as the new Montezuma Nature Center.

To date, 49 BCAs have been designated throughout the state by the state agencies with management jurisdiction for those lands. Currently, program staff are developing recommendations and support materials for the designation of several additional BCAs, completing management guidance summaries for each BCA, and drafting interpretive education materials to provide on-site outreach for the visiting public. Expanded avian monitoring and habitat restoration work is planned at a number of BCAs for future years.

Breeding Bird Atlas Project - The NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Project documented the distribution of birds breeding in the state in 2000-05. The finalized Breeding Bird Atlas database contains over 380,000 records on breeding birds in New York State. This new database and the database from New York’s first Breeding Bird Atlas effort (1980-85), provide a large and valuable resource for researchers, land managers, and the public unlike any other.

The publication resulting from the second Atlas effort will provide new maps that show the current distribution of the 251 bird species that breed in the state. Change Maps will show areas of increase or decline for each species since the first Atlas. Introductory chapters will provide an in-depth assessment of land use changes in the past twenty years and bird conservation in the state, as well as a summary of ornithological research in New York and a comprehensive description of the state’s natural communities. Also included will be an updated table of known breeding dates for species in New York, a resource that was originally assembled for the first Atlas.

Staff is on schedule to submit the manuscript to Cornell University Press in August 2007. The final publication will be available in late 2008. 

Marshbird Research - Marsh bird species face a variety of threats including: the loss of habitat to development; the replacement of hemi marshes with dense monocultures (cattail, etc.); and the invasion of nonnative plant species, such as purple loosestrife and Phragmites. Due to their secretive nature and the dense breeding habitat of some marsh nesting species, knowledge of their biology, habitat use, distribution, and abundance is limited and monitoring is difficult. In 2004, the NYSDEC initiated a three-year project to assess marsh bird abundance and distribution throughout NYS.

Surveys were conducted in NYS freshwater emergent marshes during May and June 2004, 2005 and 2006. All sites were surveyed 3 times according to the Standardized North American Marsh Bird Monitoring Protocol. At each survey point observers recorded detections of marsh bird species during a 5-minute passive listening period followed by a 6-minute broadcast period. We used an MP3 game caller to broadcast vocalizations of the Least Bittern, Sora, Virginia Rail, King Rail, American Bittern and the Pied-billed Grebe. We accessed survey points by walking or by a non-motorized canoe. These points were selected based on relative ease of access and a desire to provide even coverage throughout available emergent marsh habitat. Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates of each survey point were recorded using hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) units. This information was used to plot the points on aerial photos and topographical maps using ArcView GIS version 3.3.

We conducted broadcasts at 570 survey points at 57 sites in 7 regions of NYS. We detected: 448 Virginia Rails at 46 sites; 168 American Bitterns at 29 sites; 136 Pied-billed Grebes at 15 sites; 56 Soras at 12 sites; 32 Least Bitterns at 50 sites; and 0 King Rails. This research is statewide in scope, with a focus on large state-owned freshwater emergent marshes throughout New York State.

Wetland loss, especially palustrine and riverine, is the greatest continent-wide threat to Rallidae populations. These losses are due to the draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes and urban, industrial and reservoir development. A management plan for conservation of NYS marsh birds must include: a variety of actions including preservation and enhancement of current breeding habitat; increased knowledge of breeding and feeding biology of the species; increased understanding of vegetative needs and water levels needed for optimal habitat; investigation of the effects of and prevalence of invasive species; determining the effects of pesticides and contaminants; obtaining reliable data of population status; determining critical migration stopover points and their management needs; and improving and standardizing the call-response survey protocol to yield the most reliable and productive results.

Black Tern Statewide Survey - Black tern are a state listed endangered species. A series of 8 censuses of known breeding sites, throughout New York State, revealed a decline in the number of breeding pair from a high of 284 in 1991 to a low of 155 pair in 2001. The preliminary 2007 survey results indicate that approximately 11 sites support 205 pair of this intriguing marsh dweller.

During 2006, New York Natural Heritage staff analyzed the monitoring data collected to date using simple linear regression, power analyses, and spatial auto-correlation to elucidate population dynamics and highlight potential areas for conservation and management. Black terns statewide have experienced a 56% decline since 1989, at a significant (R2 = 0.73, p = 0.014) annual rate of -3.4% and would become extirpated from the state by 2027 if this trend were to continue unabated. A power analysis showed that the monitoring program had sufficient power (α = 0.05; β= .80) to detect this level of decline. Since Black tern s are known to move between nesting marshes we performed pair-wise cross correlations on abundance to see if we could detect source/sink (i.e., meta-population) dynamics. The overall correlation of all pair-wise comparisons was nearly 0 (mean R = 0.077) inferring a very high degree movement among breeding sites. In particular, 6 marshes appear to be acting as (meta) population sources and severe declines at two of them could account for much of the decline observed in the state over the past 15 years. Marsh sites determined to be functioning as source populations deserve special conservation and management status in order to protect the statewide population of this important species.

In an effort to augment these findings, an aerial photo analysis of select habitat within the 15 focus sites is currently underway, 2006-08. A detailed proposal was developed and submitted to grant administrators for approval. Hemi- mash, or the interspersion of open water and emergent marsh, is a preferred nesting habitat for Black tern . A number of sources now suggest that lake level stabilization since the 1960s has led to less drastic water level changes, which historically flushed sediments from shoreline wetland and prevented large dense vegetative communities from developing. The request for additional funds was approved. We worked with SUNY Albany Department of Geography during 2006 to secure interns to search agency files for suitable historic aerial photography depicting the state of the 15 focus wetlands prior to the construction of the Robert Moses Dam. During fall 2006 we contracted with SUNY ESF staff to identify available aerial photography for priority sites within the time frame described, delineate available habitat as depicted on photos, and conduct a vegetation change analysis to detect differences in available Black tern nesting habitat over time. Expected results include photography of breeding habitat for multiple time periods, habitat delineations via GIS, and a habitat change analysis by the end of the contract in spring 2008.

The primary region of focus for this project is the New York State portion of Bird Conservation Region 13, the Lower Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence River. Habitat data analysis were conducted by DEC staff out of the Albany central office. The staff for data analysis and report preparation were housed in Albany, New York, with oversight by Nongame and Habitat Unit staff.

Common Tern Research - The Common Tern is listed as a threatened species in New York State. Significant nesting populations of Common Terns, with several hundred pairs each, occur in three areas of upstate New York: Niagara River and Buffalo Harbor; Oneida Lake; and the St. Lawrence River. Most nesting occurs on artificial structures (e.g., piers, navigation structures, etc.) and nearly all require intensive annual management to ensure successful nesting. Management activities include maintenance of nesting substrate (gravel) on structures, installation of deterrents (e.g., grid wires) or removal to eliminate competing or predator species (e.g., gulls, cormorants), and placement of fencing or shelters to protect unfledged young.

Factors affecting nesting success include avian and mammalian predators, adverse weather and high water levels, and human disturbances. Common tern populations and productivity have been monitored in all three areas for more than 20 years, but data are not collected uniformly. All three populations have remained stable or increased as a result of this intensive management program. However, long term conservation of Common Terns in upstate New York warrants a comprehensive long-term plan that establishes population goals for each region, standardizes monitoring procedures, and identifies habitat improvements needed to make management more lasting and cost-effective.

Via contract/ seasonal staff annual reports and published literature relating to the survey, management, and conservation of Common tern colonies in the St. Lawrence River, Oneida Lake, and Niagara Frontier regions of upstate New York were compiled. Data were tabulated pertaining to population numbers and productivity when available. This involved the review and synthesis of 20+ years of data and reports for each region, and meetings with the principal investigators who have overseen Common tern management at each site to determine the most efficient and useful monitoring protocol. Other historical and project-related data was also obtained from these and other sources and compiled.

A database of Common tern population and productivity information was developed using Access procedures. This computer retrievable database was configured to produce reports for individual colony sites, specific water bodies, and larger upstate Common tern nesting areas. The database includes sites for all upstate New York sites, as well as Canadian sites on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River, and Vermont sites on Lake Champlain.

Project history tables were prepared for the three upstate project areas, including costs, source of funding, and fiscal information for the following periods of active New York survey and management efforts: St. Lawrence River (1982-2007), Oneida Lake (1979-2007), Niagara Frontier (1986-2007). Lists of unpublished reports (annual contract reports, mostly) and published articles for these project areas were also prepared. Additionally, a preliminary outline of a protocol for surveying and monitoring at Common tern colonies in New York was completed.

A contract was developed and implemented to compile all data collected to date and prepare a draft Status Assessment and Conservation Plan for the Great Lakes Common tern population. A conference call and meeting were held with key researchers to collaborate efforts on this important job. Preliminary data summaries were developed to facilitate further discussion at the fall meeting of the Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Working Group. Additional meetings will be held as needed to facilitate information transfer and data analysis.

Common Loon Research - The common loon is found breeding throughout the Adirondack Park region of New York State. Several surveys and censuses have been undertaken to assess the abundance and distribution of loons summering in the Park.

The Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program (ACLP), a partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, BioDiversity Research Institute, and the Audubon Society of New York, is using the common loon as an indicator species to assess the mercury exposure and risk in aquatic ecosystems in New York’s Adirondack Park. As part of a long-term study examining loon survival and reproductive success in relation to mercury, abiotic (water and sediment) and biotic (loon, prey fish, crayfish, and zooplankton) samples were collected from 44 lakes in the Park from 2003-2004. During 2006 an additional 15 loons were sampled on 11 lakes, of these 13 were adults and 2 juveniles. Mercury analysis of these samples is used to develop a mercury exposure profile to evaluate the ecological risk that mercury deposition poses to Adirondack waterbodies. Ecological risk will be quantitatively assessed using a formula for a wildlife criterion value to determine if the water column mercury value is protective of wildlife at the population level in the Adirondack Park. The differences in reproductive success and survival in common loons in relation to their mercury exposure is used to develop a mercury hazard profile. A population model will also be developed to determine if mercury contamination is affecting the population growth rate of loons in the Adirondacks. Results of this project will provide a scientific basis for regulatory agencies and policy makers in New York State to make informed decisions regarding the regulation of airborne pollutants and the management of wildlife species and freshwater ecosystems.

Preliminary results indicate that average loon blood mercury risk categories varied on lakes throughout the Adirondack Park. Average male loon blood mercury levels were higher than that of female loons; average adult loon blood mercury levels were higher than that of juvenile loons; water, sediment, and zooplankton total and methyl mercury levels were typical of Adirondack and Northeastern lakes; analysis of crayfish and fish mercury levels is pending. Results will be further analyzed to develop an exposure profile evaluating the relationships between mercury concentrations at different levels of the food web. A population model will be developed to determine if mercury contamination is affecting the growth rate of the Adirondack loon population. A wildlife criterion value will be used to assess the ecological risk mercury contamination poses to wildlife at the population level in the Adirondack Park.

Another project of the ACLP partnership is to document the timing and patterns of migration and wintering range of the breeding Common loon population. An on-going outbreak of type E botulism on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario poses serious risk for migrating Common Loons. One objective of this study was to determine if New York’s breeding population use the great lakes during migration and therefore, may be impacted by type E botulism.

Two adult Common Loons were implanted with refurbished PTT-100 satellite transmitters during the 2005 field season, bringing the total number of birds tagged during this study to 10. Six adult loons were tagged with implantable satellite transmitters during the 2004 field season, and during the summer of 2003 two Common Loons, one adult and one juvenile, were tagged. The sealed units were surgically inserted subcutaneously on the backs of the birds. Each platform was configured to transmit on a schedule based on the anticipated pattern of biological activities of loons in the northeastern United States. The duty cycle was configured to 8 hours on, 72 hours off during the breeding season, 8 hours on, 48 hours off during migration, and 6 hours on, 96 hours off while on the wintering area. All data were received electronically within 24 hours of active data acquisition.

Adult loons marked in the Adirondack Park wintered along the coasts of Massachusetts (414km), Rhode Island (362km), and Southern New Jersey (527km). It appears that several of the adult loons migrated to the coast non-stop from breeding lakes as they had completed migration within the 48 hours between consecutive transmission cycles. Two adults utilized neighboring lakes or reservoirs prior to migration. One of the adults staged twice on Lake Champlain before moving to the Massachusetts coast. The single juvenile loon that we tracked, stopped at five large water bodies en route and took 51 days to reach its presumed wintering ground in Long Island Sound. Most wintering loons were within 5km of a coastal land mass.

Based on our observations during the 2003, 2004 and 2005 field seasons, the on-going outbreaks of type E botulism on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario do not appear to pose a great risk to the breeding Adirondack Park Common loon population, although the sample size for this study was small.

Type E Botulism Surveys - DEC staff are familiar with outbreaks of type C botulism, which periodically causes heavy mortality. Type E botulism, and its devastating effect on migrating waterbirds, is a new phenomenon. The first observed outbreak in the eastern basin of Lake Erie occurred November 2000. To monitor and evaluate the impact of type E botulism on waterbirds, thirteen 500-meter transects were surveyed along the Lake Erie shoreline. This survey was replicated during fall 2001 through 2006. During 2002 through 2006, surveys were also conducted along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Forty-seven transects were monitored during the peak of common loon migration, 16 October to 14 November. Predicted mortality for the Lake Erie shoreline was calculated. During 2000 through 2006 an estimated 5,415, 2,862, 17,301, 3,008, 5,943 2,297 and 4,375 waterbirds died from type E botulism. Waterbird mortality was first documented on Lake Ontario during 2002. Predicted waterbird mortality on Lake Ontario for 2002 through 2006 was estimated to be 1,046, 1,529, 1,693, 1,193 and 4,933. The single waterbird species with the greatest mortality differed each year. Red-breasted merganser had a predicted mortality of 2,479 in 2000; common loon 1,149 during 2001; long-tailed duck 13,291 in 2002; in 2003 common loon predicted mortality was 2,101, in 2004 2,915, in 2005 1,808 and in 2006 7,878.

During 2006 and 2007 significant type E botulism related waterbird mortality was documented on Little Galloo Island, Lake Ontario during late July and early August. Over 800 Caspian tern individuals were impacted in 2006 and 250+ in 2007. Other species impacted included ring-billed gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, Canada goose, semi-palmated sandpiper.

Hudson River Birding Trail - The Hudson River Birding Trail is a planned highway based trail along the east and west shores of the Hudson River connecting a number of aquatic and upland birding sites along the Hudson River in New York State. It will be modeled after similar birding trails along the Niagara River and Lake Champlain. The goals of the project are to make the Hudson River and surrounding communities a premier birding destination, and to convey the value of conservation and recreation to community leaders and landowners. Initial project efforts focused on the development of a site list and interpretive materials, including a brochure, bird list and kiosk panels. The Hudson River Birding Trail is being developed in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Hudson River Estuary Program, local birding clubs, and regional community tourism boards.

Double-crested Cormorant - Double-crested cormorants are colonial nesting waterbirds which often nest in mixed colonies with great egret, great blue heron, black-crowned night-heron, and other wading birds. This species was protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1972. Passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, along with an increase in the number of aquiculture facilities on their wintering grounds, have facilitated a dramatic increase in the number of nesting cormorants along the Great Lakes, and nearby waters. This dramatic increase, over a short period of time, has lead to several management conflicts including: impacts on important recreational fisheries, degradation of vegetation on breeding colonies, and competition with other colonial waterbirds for nesting resources. Beginning in 2004, the Department increased management at several of the large double-crested cormorant colonies under a new USFWS Public Resource Depredation Order. During the 2006 field season 1,815 Double-crested cormorants were taken by lethal means by DEC staff in New York State. In addition, oiling of 29,525 eggs occurred in 11,184 nests and 2,860 nests were destroyed.

Double-crested cormorants currently attempt to nest on four islands in the New York waters of eastern Lake Ontario. Since 1994 cormorant nesting has been restricted to Little Galloo Island. In 2006, there were an estimated 2,919 pair on Little Galloo Island, down from a peak of 8,410 in 1996. During 2006 staff took 620 cormorants on Little Galloo Island by shooting. 200 additional cormorants were taken on Bass, Calf and Gull Islands. A population goal of 1,500 pairs of double-crested cormorants on Little Galloo Island was established through a public involvement process in 1999. Cormorants also nest on the St. Lawrence River and Black Lake. During 2006 2,856 pair nested on 15 sites, primarily in Canadian water. Department staff took 16 cormorants by shooting in 2006. Existing colonies in US waters were managed by nest removal or oiling of eggs.

Since 1998, nest removal techniques have been used to control the growing number of cormorants in Lake Erie/ Niagara River colonies in an effort to minimize negative impacts to so- occurring common tern, great egret, great blue heron and black-crowned night-heron. In 2006 staff took 959 cormorants by shooting at Motor and Strawberry Islands. The stomach contents of these birds will be examined by Cornell University biologists to determine diet. Thirty nesting adult and 16 juvenile cormorants on Lake Erie were banded with color leg bands. Following banding, eggs in 320 nests were oiled to prevent hatching and 303 nests destroyed.

On Oneida Lake, double-crested cormorants nest on islands causing impacts to vegetation. They also compete with other waterbirds, such as ring-billed gull and common tern, for prime nesting habitat. In addition, thousands of cormorants stop over at Oneida Lake during fall migration. Concerns about their effect on ecologically and economically important fisheries have lead to a management objective for both nesting and migrating cormorants. During 2006 48 cormorants were taken by shooting (USDA) on Oneida Lake and 37 on Onondaga Lake. In addition, 49,464 cormorants were harassed on Oneida Lake and 70,756 on Onondaga Lake (persistent birds harassed multiple times). Department staff currently participating in a series of double-crested cormorant studies and management activities with our counterparts in USDA and Cornell University.

Venison Donation - The Venison Donation program continues to grow, now with 122 cooperating venison processors in 50 counties. Since 2000 the Venison Donation Coalition has assisted sportsmen to collect, process and distribute over 1.5 million servings of ground venison to those of need. During 2005 approximately 80,000 pounds of venison were processed by contributing meat cutters. Legislation passed in 2004 that empowered DEC to collect monies donated to the Venison Donation program via DECALS, and $23,500 was collected in 2006 to support the Venison Donation program.

Changes to DECALS and Licensing- Beginning with the 2007-2008 license year, the Department will change colors of all license stock every year. This year, we are using a yellow color. In the future, we will alternate between a grayish color and the original green. In every case, we intend to select color shades that provide for maximum contrast between the background color and the black lettering. Additionally, the Department is using a new type of coating for the license material that is easier to write on in cold or wet conditions. The Department is also examining the overall design of the tag sets, and we may change to a different format to further enhance readability. Overall license revenue increased between 2004-05 and 2005-06 ($39,901,965 versus $41,124,460).

New Format for the Annual Guide - Beginning with the 2007-2008 license year, the Department is using a magazine style format for the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide, including advertising. This change was made to improve the quality and readability of the Guide, and to save money. Each year, the Department produces about 900,000 guides for distribution to license buyers. Last year's guide cost the Department $121,000. This year's guide, because of the advertising, only cost $98,000. Next year's guide will be even less expensive, costing only $89,000. The Department expects the cost of the guide to be reduced even further, as advertising revenues improve and the publisher is able to print the guide at an even lower cost to the State.

Proposal Reviews - Approximately 85 project/policy proposals were reviewed and commented on which included: proposed state and federal legislation and regulations affecting fish habitat; invasive species; watershed management plans for the Nissequogue River and the Forge River, an estuary experiencing severe hypoxia; environmental impact statements; dredging and disposal windows; federal and private beach re-nourishment projects, SPDES discharge permit applications; power plant operations; offshore wind energy proposals; tidal energy proposals; cable and pipeline crossings; water quality reclassifications; state and marine indicators; habitat restoration plans; embayment habitat strategies; review of all state tidal wetlands regulations and policies: and vessel no discharge zones. Determined effects of such proposals on marine finfish habitat and provided recommendations to minimize or eliminate adverse impact. Completed review of a proposal for a liquid natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound. Completed review of the Suffolk County Vector Control EIS for their Open Marsh Water Management (OMWM), pesticide program and Wetlands Long-Term Management Plan, including demonstration projects at the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge; monitoring/sampling protocols. Participation on the Suffolk County Wetlands steering Committee to review projects and criteria for wetlands restoration. Significant time was spent on reviewing projects for the Long Island Sound Restoration Act, the Long Island Sound futures Fund and Environmental Protection Fund grant applications in conjunction with sister agencies and regional and central staff relative to habitat restoration and water quality improvement issues for projects in Long Island Sound, Peconic Estuary and the South Shore Bays. Continued participation on the South Shore Estuary Reserve sub-committee on nutrient and eutrification issues in the western south shore bays to developed actions to address water quality problems. The Nissequogue Watershed Plan is continues to address water quality, habitat restoration, public access, education and stewardship. Significant progress has been made in compiling data and developing management plans through sub-committees. A draft eel-grass management plan for the Peconic estuary has been developed. Significant time was spent reviewing tidal energy proposals in relation to impacts on fish and wildlife and use conflicts.

NY/NJ Harbor - DEC participated in new habitat restoration initiatives for NY/NJ Harbor (Target Ecological Characteristics) and the South Shore Estuary Reserve (Great South Bay Ecosystem-Based Management demonstration), both designed to develop management actions to preserve and restore marine species and habitat. Both initiative focus on “Key” species as surrogates for ecological function.

National Estuary Programs - DEC provided technical recommendations to National Estuary Programs in New York State (Long Island Sound, NY-NJ Harbor and Peconic Bay) and State Estuary programs (Hudson River and the South Shore Estuary Reserve); worked on implementation of the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, the Harbor Estuary Program Management Plan; and the Peconic Estuary Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Participated on the habitat work group for the Harbor Estuary Program for the nomination of sites for acquisition and restoration, the development of a key species list for the harbor and comments on the US Army Corps Hudson/Raritan Estuary Study. In addition, we worked on the development of a Long Island Sound Stewardship System and a Critical Lands Protection Strategy for Peconic Estuary; and continued work with the Bluepoints Bottomland Council to develop a management plan for 13,000 acres of Great South Bay.

Long Island Sound - Long Island Sound was designated under the National Estuary Program through a partnership of New York, Connecticut and USEPA in 1988. DEC has represented New York State on the Long Island Sound Study since 1986, when it was initiated. While the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources/Bureau of Marine Resources is the lead program, the Bureau works jointly with the Division of Water on implementation of this program. The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) was approved in 1994 and reaffirmed in the 1996 Long Island Sound Agreement. In 2003, the LISS Policy Committee signed the Long Island Sound Agreement of 2003 which again reconfirmed our commitment to the implementation of the CCMP and further identified and prioritized targets and time frames for implementation.

LISS identified six major problems in the Sound: low dissolved oxygen (hypoxia, the priority); toxic contamination; pathogen contamination (closure of shellfish beds and bathing beaches); floatable debris; health of the resources and their habitats; and land use. During the summertime, over one-half of the Sound’s bottom waters experience dissolved oxygen below the state standard of 5 mg/L and greatly stresses marine organisms. Through research and monitoring/modeling, excessive nitrogen was deemed the cause of the summertime hypoxia.

Some fish and wildlife are contaminated with PCBs and consumption advisories are in place to protect public health. Elevated levels of contaminants in sediment cause impairments to resources and dredged material disposal. Beaches are periodically closed and 73% of New York’s productive shellfish beds are closed due to pathogens. A Bi-State Habitat Restoration Initiative is underway to identify and restore twelve different habitat types. A Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative is also underway that is a public/private partnership formed by the Long Island Sound Study to identify, protect, and enhance special places throughout the Sound.

The NYS Clean Water /Clean Air Bond Act provided $200 million for LIS water quality improvement and habitat restoration projects. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was approved in 2001 to reduce nitrogen loadings to the Sound by 58.5% over a 15-year time period. A framework is being developed for reassessing the TMDL. A new LIS Habitat Restoration MOU is under development to renew agency’s support of habitat restoration efforts and to restore an additional 300 acres of coastal habitat and to open up 50 additional miles of riverine migratory corridor. A Draft Unit Management Plan for the Flax pond wetlands was developed. Sites for Surface Elevation Tables to evaluate potential for wetlands accretion or loss were chosen. Staff developed a Dam Safety and Fish Passage workshop to be held in May 2007.

Research on the historical extent of eelgrass in Long island sound was conducted. The Nissequogue River Stewardship and Restoration Plan has continued to meet regularly and sub- committees are developing management actions for habitat preservation and restoration, water quality, public participation and land use. A Stewardship Plan for Long Island Sound was developed. The LISS provides funding for the Long Island Sound Futures Fund (managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) to support implementation projects. All of these actions will be serve to improve the habitat quality of Long Island Sound and meet the stated objectives in the WB-Study 2 agreement.

Peconic Estuary Program - In 1993, the Peconic Estuary became the 20th estuary in the nation to receive the designation as an “Estuary of National Significance” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As part of the National Estuary Program, the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) continues to implement its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) to guide watershed and ecosystem-based management, conservation and restoration efforts. The PEP study area includes the entire estuary (Flanders Bay, Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Shelter Island Sound, Gardiner’s Bay), the Peconic River, and their groundwater contributing areas. Priority CCMP management topics include Brown Tide, nutrients, habitat and living resources, pathogens, toxic, and critical lands protection. The Peconic Estuary Program is an innovative and collaborative partnership of federal, state, county and local governments, citizen and environmental groups, industries and academic institutions. GNOSTIC has made special $200,000 Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocations to implement priority CCMP actions.

The PEP CCMP was officially adopted in 2001. Over $15 million in NYS Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act funds have been allocated to projects in the Peconic Estuary. Recently funded projects include an advanced water purification system at the Riverhead WWTF, whose effluent will irrigate an adjacent golf course, various stormwater abatement projects, and habitat expansion for diadromous fish in the Peconic River. A Pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) has been finalized for shellfishing waters within the Peconic Estuary. A Draft Nitrogen TMDL for the western Peconics to address low DO has been developed and will be finalized after comments. Habitat restoration projects continue, as well as invasive species eradication and diadromous fish passage efforts. Approximately 60 cubic yards of the invasive water primrose(Ludwigia) was removed from the Peconic river and tributaries. Sub-watershed management plans were developed for 4 areas. A pathogen control workshop was held for municipal officials. Work is continuing to finalize the Peconic Estuary Eelgrass Management Plan. An seagrass experts workshop was designed and scheduled for February 2007 (postponed until May). Habitat restoration work at Cassidy Preserve was initiated. Various  grants fro habitat restoration were received through the NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program and the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. These actions collectively will to serve to improve the habitat quality of the Peconic Estuary and meet the stated objectives in the WB-Study 2 agreement.

New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) - In 1988, the HEP was designated under the National Estuary Program as a partnership of New York, New Jersey and USEPA. Congress also required the preparation of a restoration plan for the New York Bight, and the two efforts were joined. The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) was approved in 1997. The study area includes the waters of New York Harbor and the tidally influenced portions of all rivers and streams that empty into the Harbor and the entire New York Bight.

The plan focuses on five major issues: habitat loss and degradation (the highest priority), toxic contamination /dredged material management, pathogen contamination, floatable debris, and nutrient/organic enrichment. Major habitat actions include identification and implementation of habitat restoration and acquisition projects, geographically targeting critical areas for special protection, and developing a bi-state habitat protection strategy. Toxic contamination causes restrictions on consumption of fish and on port dredging. There is a major effort to track down and clean up significant discharges of organic chemicals. CSOs and inadequately treated sewage cause the closure of shellfish beds and bathing beaches. The Bight Apex, the Lower Bay Complex, Jamaica Bay and the western end of the Sound were identified as priority areas for recovering bathing and shellfishing uses. Floatable debris problems have caused injury to marine resources and created navigational hazards. CSO, stormwater and solid waste handling measures have been recommended. Low levels of oxygen, caused in part by elevated nitrogen levels, have reduced habitat for fish and shellfish. Long-term trend analyses reveal that dissolved oxygen levels have improved in the highly polluted waterways and inner Harbor areas and declined in the relatively cleaner bays and outer reaches of the Harbor.

In 2004, HEP developed a Targets and Goals document to further prioritize the CCMP actions. The Targets and Goals include actions to increase the area of the harbor that is Fishable/Swimmable based on pathogens, toxics and nutrients; restoration (1500 acres) and acquisition (2700 acres) of habitat on the HEP Priority List; increased public access; reduced sediment contamination and increased stewardship. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) are being developed for pathogens, toxics and nutrients to address priority water quality concerns. DEC is working with New York City on sewage treatment plant upgrades and combined sewer overflow abatement. Water quality sampling in the harbor has shown a marked improvement in water quality. Significant funding from the 1996 Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act were used for STP upgrades, CSO controls and aquatic habitat restoration projects. The HEP adopted the US Army Corps Hudson/Raritan Estuary study as the habitat restoration plan for the harbor. As part of this effort, the Hudson River Foundation is coordinating efforts by HEP partners in developing “Target Ecological Characteristics” to devise management actions to restore habitat for fish and other species. designed to These actions collectively will serve to improve the habitat quality of the New York- New Jersey Harbor Estuary and meet the objectives stated in the WB-Study 2 agreement.

South Shore Estuary Reserve (SSER) - The State Executive Law was amended in 1993 to establish the SSER. The legislation required the following: to protect and manage the system as a single integrated estuary; to establish a Council to create the SSER; and to prepare a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). The study area encompasses the South Shore Estuary (Hempstead Bay to Shinnecock Bay) and its watershed. The SSER is administered by the Department of State.

The CMP focuses on non-point source remediation, water quality monitoring, biological studies, Brown Tide, habitat restoration and shellfish restoration. The major impairments to the SSER include: habitat degradation, closed shellfish beds (approximately 20% closed), and reduced populations of hard clams and scallops. There has been an historic loss of locally significant species in this estuary. There have been great fluctuations in eelgrass populations and the causes are unclear. Habitats have been degraded by nutrient enrichment, hardening of the shoreline, dredging, changes in freshwater flows and exchanges between the ocean and the bay, runoff, and extensive development of low-lying areas. Since the 1976 peak hard clam landings, when the south shore estuary produced around 50% of the east coast catch, landings have plummeted and the growth rate has decreased. The cause is unknown.

The CMP and associated technical reports were completed by DOS and released to the public by Governor Pataki in June 2001. DEC participates on the Council and the Technical Advisory Committees. Recent activities by the SSER Office have focused on public access and stewardship issues such as the South Shore Bayway, a listing of sites for access, enjoyment and education. Work continues on coordinated efforts to address water quality in Hempstead Bay, at the western end of the SSER. The Western Bay Complex has been added to the state’s impaired waterbody list (303d). The Bluepoints Bottomland Council is developing a restoration plan for about 13,000 acres of Great South Bay, initially targeting shellfish and eelgrass, and is actively planting shellfish is spawner sanctuaries to help rebuild stocks. The Forge River Task Force is addressing problems related to low dissolved oxygen, including fish kills, and is be working with the Town of Brookhaven on a management plan funded by the Environmental Protection Fund.

High nutrient levels appear to be related to groundwater inputs due to heavily developed and low-lying areas. The Forge River has been listed on NY State’s impaired waterbody list (303d). Great South Bay has been chosen as a demonstration site for NY State’s Ecosystem-Based Management Initiative. The EBM initiative will develop management actions for fish, wetlands, eelgrass and other key species. These actions collectively will improve the habitat quality of the South Shore Estuary and meet the stated objectives in the WB-Study 2 agreement.

Research & Monitoring

Mercury Posters Presented at International Conference - Bureau of Habitat biologists presented posters at the Eighth International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant held recently in Madison, Wisconsin. Over 1200 posters and 800 talks were presented over the 5 day conference covering all aspects of the mercury problem. The posters dealt with the impacts of mercury on fish and wildlife in New York State. Specifically, the topics included water chemistry and watershed variables associated with mercury uptake by fish; the Adirondack loon monitoring program and mercury uptake through the food chain; and mercury in aquatic and terrestrial (songbirds and bats) biota of the Catskill Mountains. Mercury is an environmental issue globally, and many interesting presentations were made by leading researchers. Several scientists discussed the role of selenium in both reducing mercury uptake by fish and possibly protecting humans from adverse mercury impacts. Differences in selenium may explain the differences in two important human health studies conducted in the Faroe Islands and Seychelle Islands. Another group of talks discussed gold-mining, which is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s mercury emissions. Other major discussion areas included the recovery of mercury- contaminated fisheries and societal consequences of mercury pollution.

Toxicity of Rodeo®- DEC conducted a caged fish study of a formulation of glyphosate in Sodus Bay of Lake Ontario, Wayne County. The study was conducted with the assistance of the staff from Region 7 and the Pesticide Lab at the SUNY Albany East Campus. The study provides toxicity information for Rodeo® (a formulation of glyphosate which has a new 2EE registration for the control of water chestnut). A 10-acre plot of the invasive water chestnut in Sodus Bay was treated according 2EE registration. We found that this glyphosate formulation showed little toxic effect on fathead minnows held in three treated sites as compared with two untreated reference sites. We also found dissolved oxygen levels in the area covered with water chestnut were very low. Water chestnut, once it forms dense mats, provides very poor fish habitat due to low oxygen levels. ATRU is conducting laboratory toxicity tests of glyphosate. Brown trout toxicity tests indicate that glyphosate has a low toxicity to trout. We will be conducting additional laboratory toxicity studies, so that we can better understand the risk to fish from the use of glyphosate to control water chestnut in lakes.

Symposium on Atmospheric Pollutants Organized for Fisheries Conference - At the recent American Fisheries Society Conference held in Lake Placid, a DEC staffer co-chaired a symposium “Atmospheric Pollutants: Linkages Across Air, Land, and Water and Their Impacts on Aquatic and Forest Ecosystems.” He served as moderator and also presented a paper discussing “Trends in mercury concentrations in fish, and options for fisheries management.” A total of over 30 papers were presented in the symposium, dealing with acidic deposition, atmospheric processes, impacts on soils, mercury pathways and stream biota. The overall conference was very well attended and resulted in many valuable conversations with other researchers and natural resource managers. Valuable information was gained from both the informal discussions and the formal presentations. DEC and the New York Chapter of the American Fisheries Society did an excellent job in co-sponsoring and hosting the conference.

Acid Rain Research Papers Recently Published - DEC worked cooperatively with U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists and is a co-author of two papers which will help in our identification and quanification of the impacts of acidic deposition. The first paper was published in the January issue of Environmental Science and Technology and is titled, “Acid Rain Effects on Aluminum Mobilization Clarified by Inclusion of Strong Organic Acids.”  This paper explains the usefulness of a new base-cation surplus measurement instead of the standard acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) as a measure of lake or stream sensitivity to acidification. Aluminum is the primary toxicant in acidic waters, and ‘base-cation surplus’ is more closely correlated with aluminum toxicity than ANC. The second article was published in the first 2007 issue of the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, and is titled, “Persistent Mortality of Brook Trout in Episodically Acidified Streams of the Southwestern Adirondack Mountains, New York.” In this paper DEC bioassay results from the past 20 years are presented along with recent bioassay data, and additional analyses clarify the thresholds of aluminum toxicity to brook trout. These papers will be important in the development of an Acid Rain TMDL by EPA and New York State, and also important in our efforts to further reduce acidic deposition, which continues to impact fish populations.

Adirondack Research Consortium Conference - Staff attended the recent Adirondack conference held at the new Wild Center (Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks) in Tupper Lake, NY. This 14th annual conference focused on “Sustainability, Climate Change, and Protected Areas” and attracted over 150 people. An impressive list of speakers well versed in climate change research presented numerous talks on the subject. Issues discussed included the decline of sugar maple in the Adirondacks; increasing winter temperatures and rising ocean levels; northward movement of plants and animals; biofuels and the fact that NYS is currently about 63% forest land; and ‘nature-deficit disorder’ - the impact of declining human contact with healthy natural ecosystems. The museum facility was open to conference attendees and provided excellent space for three concurrent sessions during part of the agenda. Several mercury presentations included DEC data and mention of our Statewide Strategic Mercury Monitoring project. Informal discussions with other researchers attending the conference were valuable.

Grant Received to study Mercury and PCBs in fish in Long Island Sound - The Bureau of Habitat has been awarded a $151,000 USEPA grant to examine PCB and mercury residues in striped bass and bluefish from Long Island Sound. The two year project will update information for the two species last obtained in 1994 for striped bass and 1984-85 for bluefish, and to provide for temporal assessment of PCBs. The presence of mercury has not received adequate attention in marine fish in the past. An application has also been made for additional funds to extend the project to study lobster, weakfish and American eels, each a species with a propensity for accumulating environmental contaminants.

Two Contaminant Track-down Studies Completed - During Fall 2005, following the Division's research and monitoring strategies, DEC staff conducted two contaminant track-down studies using passive in-situ concentration/ extraction samplers (PISCES). Reports for the two studies were recently submitted.

The first, for the upper West Branch Delaware River (Delaware Co.), was prompted by elevated PCBs in blood plasma of river otter captured in 1999 and 2000 for transfer. Some plasma PCB levels were alarmingly higher than for otter from the Hudson River Basin which has been reported to have some of this country's highest PCB levels. The 2005 PISCES study was unable to locate a contaminant source and PCB amounts in PISCES were low. In the interim years between otter capture and the PISCES study, a landfill suspected as the source was remediated. Post remedial monitoring of contaminant levels in sediment and fish, now in planning stages, will determine if cleanup efforts were successful. Our PISCES study may be the first data to show improvement.

The second PISCES study was for upper Cayuga Creek in Niagara County, and was prompted primarily by elevated levels of PCBs and mirex in young-of-year (yoy) fish collected in 1997 and 2003 below the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base. The 2005 data report for PISCES and young fish, which is in final draft, unexpectedly found decreasing amounts of contaminants at upstream sites on the air base. This contaminant pattern is atypical for PISCES studies.

Shortly after our PISCES field work, the literature reported a 2005 upper Niagara River backwash study based on ten years of flow data which showed that extremely high water levels can affect Cayuga Creek for over two miles. This implies that it may be feasible for elevated PCB and mirex in yoy fish and PISCES to be from hazardous waste sites located downstream rather than from the upstream air base property as originally suspected.

Hudson River Tree Swallow Monitoring and Banding - The survival and reproductive success of tree swallows were monitored for the second consecutive year as part of the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment (HRNRDA). One of the goals of the HRNRDA is to document injuries to fish, wildlife, and habitat resulting from General Electric (GE)’s release of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that contaminated the Hudson River, and DEC monitored several established tree swallow nesting colonies along the Hudson River in the vicinity of General Electric’s Ft. Edward and former Hudson Falls plants to assist in this on-going tree swallow injury study. After a family feud erupted over access to our former reference colony on Great Sacandaga Lake, a new colony was established this April at the Cobleskill Reservoir to serve as a reference site for the study. Female tree swallows nesting at the new location were monitored and banded so that their survival can be assessed in the future.

Tree swallow eggs from both the Upper Hudson locations and the reference site were transported to the University of Maryland to be hatched and analyzed for PCB related impacts, such as embryo mortality and heart deformities. Prior to transport, University of Maryland researchers, Meredith Barton and Kimya Davani, injected eggs from Cobleskill with varying concentrations of PCBs. A new technique was used this year in which eggs were injected in the field during early incubation and then collected for transport during late incubation in an attempt to improve hatching success for the injected eggs.Sauquoit Creek PCB Mystery (one step closer toward being solved) - In late October and early November, fish and crayfish were collected from Sauquoit Creek for contaminant analysis as part of the Remedial Investigation of the Madden Property Hazardous Waste Site in New Hartford, Oneida County. Both forage- and edible-sized fish, as well as crayfish were collected from areas upstream, adjacent to, and downstream from the Madden Property. Also included in the investigation was an unnamed tributary that flows past and through the site. Preliminary data obtained during the Phase I investigations have identified the unnamed tributary as a likely source of PCBs to Sauquoit Creek. During the Remedial Investigation, PCB concentrations in fish and invertebrate tissues will be analyzed in conjunction with sediments and surface water data to pinpoint the source of PCBs and better understand the extent of impacts to local fish and wildlife resources. This information will, in turn, be key in developing a remedy that is protective of ecological resources.

Identifying the Madden Property as a source of PCBs to Sauquoit Creek was no easy task. Historically, PCBs have been the cause of a health advisory for brown trout in Sauquoit Creek. This prompted PISCES work, followed by a contaminant trackdown study, which were instrumental in identifying the Madden Property as a possible source of PCBs to the Creek.

Sauquoit Creek PCB Update - Last October and early November, fish and crayfish were collected from Sauquoit Creek for contaminant analysis as part of the Remedial Investigation (RI) of the Oneida Street hazardous waste site (formerly Madden Property) in New Hartford, Oneida County.DEC collected both forage- and edible-sized fish, as well as crayfish were collected from areas upstream, adjacent to, and downstream from the Oneida Street Property. Also included in the investigation was an unnamed tributary that flows past and through the site. Preliminary data obtained during the Phase I investigations had identified the unnamed tributary as a likely source of PCBs to Sauquoit Creek.

By far, the highest concentrations of PCBs in both fish and crayfish are from the on-site tributary, the highest of which is a jaw dropping 670 ppm. This value is among the highest ever seen in the state, even among historic Hudson River concentrations, and far exceeds the fish flesh criteria for the protection of piscivorus wildlife of 0.1 ppm. No other locations from this investigation produced biota with PCB concentrations as high as those from the small tributary. The fish and crayfish with the next highest concentrations of PCBs were found in Sauquoit Creek, in the two areas adjacent to the site and fed, in-part, by the tributary. PCBs were also found in fish and crayfish further downstream, but at much lower concentrations. The lowest concentrations of all were found upstream of the Oneida Street Site. In all locations, the primary component of total PCB’s was aroclor 1254, one of the more heavily chlorinated and persistent of the aroclors.

DFWMR is still awaiting the completed RI report which will contain additional data including surface water and sediment PCB concentrations. In the meantime, both DER and DFWMR are working toward pinpointing the source further. If a point source can be located, the chances are good that it can be removed in the near future through an interim remedial measure (IRM), while a final remedy will certainly be more extensive and require additional time to develop. In either case, the Hazardous Waste Site Evaluation Unit will be bolstered by the return of biologist Rebecca Quail, and will be poised to clean up and restore this ecological resource. It should be noted that an “eat none” advisory already exists for brown trout in Sauquoit Creek due to PCB contamination and no edible-sized fish were found in the small unnamed tributary.

Wappinger Creek Fish Collection Completed for Contaminant Analysis - In early May, fish were collected from Wappinger Creek for contaminant analysis as part of the Remedial Investigation (RI) of the Three Star Anodizing hazardous waste site in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County.

DEC collected both forage- and edible-sized fish from distinct sampling areas within the tidal portion of the creek. Fish tissue analysis was determined to be necessary after sediments were found to contain elevated levels of several metals. Of particular concern, mercury was found at concentrations as high as 186 ppm, substantially exceeding the New York State sediment criteria of 0.15 ppm. Since the discovery of contaminated sediments in Wappinger Creek, Bureau of Habitat staff have been working cooperatively with the Division of Environmental Remediation to get the fish sampling plan implemented. Once the results of the contaminant analysis are received, the data will be used in conjunction with sediment data to better understand the extent of impacts to local fish and wildlife resources. This information will be key in developing a remedy that is protective of fish and wildlife and restoring this magnificent natural resource.

Contaminants in Fish Tissue Indicate Continued PCB Impact in Sanders Creek - Sanders Creek is a small stream that runs through Carrier Circle in Syracuse, NY. In 2002, the Stream Biomonitoring Unit (Division of Water) sampled crayfish in Sanders Creek around the Carrier plant and found elevated PCBs (up to 5.9 ppm) in crayfish adjacent to and downstream of the site. The Division of Solid Waste and Hazardous Materials requested the HWSEU to review a site investigation plan for the Carrier site specifically related to a cleanup for PCBs. PCBs from a transformer yard and landfill on-site were discharged to Sanders Creek through stormwater culverts. Cleanup of the site soils and the on-site culverts was completed in 2004. Based on the crayfish results, the HWSEU requested sediment and fish tissue sampling adjacent and downstream of the plant. Carrier had hoped that the fish tissue sampling would define the extent of PCB impact in Sanders Creek and perhaps indicate no cleanup would be needed.

The fish sampling results indicate a significant PCB impact in Sanders Creek across the entire study site. The average fish tissue concentration of 4.2 ppm (ranging from 1.4 to 8.8 ppm) greatly exceeds the NYSDEC PCB concentration for protection of piscivorous wildlife of 0.1 ppm. PCB concentrations in fish do not decrease with distance downstream and the entire impact has not been defined. Sediment concentrations of PCBs appear to generally decrease with distance from the plant, although not enough samples were collected to determine this definitively. It is unclear from the results if the sediments are the primary source of PCBs to the fish and HWSEU suspects a continuing source of PCBs in the water column. Clearly, sediment remediation will be necessary at this site, however HWSEU recommended a PISCES investigation first to determine if the land-based site cleanup has actually eliminated all continuing sources of PCBs to Sanders Creek.

Resource Inventory ~ New York Natural Heritage Program

New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey finds new species for New York - The New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey recorded the addition of a new odonate species to New York State. The Horned Clubtail (Arigomphus cornutus) was recorded at Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area in St. Lawrence County in July. It was expected that this species would be found in northern New York as it occurs in nearby southern Ontario. A new dragonfly species to New York State was also discovered last year, the first year of the Survey.

Three training workshops were held in July for the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey, attended by a total of 51 volunteers. A workshop was held at the Adirondack Visitor Information Center in Newcomb, at the Palisades Interstate Park League of Naturalists, and at SUNY Potsdam led a workshop at SUNY Canton for volunteers in the northwestern part of the state.

The New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey is funded by a State Wildlife Grant.

NY Natural Heritage Inventories State Forests in Region 5 and 6 - As part of a five-year biodiversity inventory of State Reforestation Areas, Forest Preserve lands, and other lands managed by the Division of Lands and Forests, Natural Heritage biologists have been in the field in Regions 5 and 6 (Jadwin State Forest) this summer, and will continue fieldwork through October. Here are a few highlights of the summer’s fieldwork to date:

Heritage zoologists confirmed that 2 young peregrine falcon (listed as Endangered in NYS) were successfully fledged from Knob Mountain in Essex County, a breeding cliff first documented in 2005, and partially contained in a disjunct parcel of Hammond Pond Wild Forest. Bicknells' thrushes (listed as Special Concern in NYS) were documented on Wakely Mountain (Blue Ridge Wilderness), Vanderwhacker Mountain (Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest), Snowy Mountain (Jessup River Wild Forest), and Hamilton Mountain (Silver Lake Wilderness Area). Hooker's orchid (Platanthera hookeri, listed as Endangered in NYS) was rediscovered on Valcour Island in Lake Champlain. The last reported sighting of this plant on Valcour was in 1943. Balsam willow (Salix pyrifolia, listed as Threatened in NYS) was discovered at a Forest Preserve detached parcel in Clinton Mills in Clinton County. High-quality examples of the following ecological community types were documented: riverside ice meadow in Lake George Wild Forest, dwarf shrub bog in Burnt Hill State Forest, and sandstone pavement barrens at a Forest Preserve detached parcel in Clinton County.

New York Natural Heritage Database Now Includes More Than 11,600 Mapped Locations - New York Natural Heritage’s database of locations of rare animals, rare plants, and significant ecological communities now includes 11,607 mapped locations. New to the database are records from the Hudson Highlands region of worm snake (Carphophis amoenus), which New York Natural Heritage has just added to its list of actively-inventoried species. Also just added to the list is Eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus holbrooki), records for which will be added to the database soon. Central Office staff can currently access the most recent version of New York Natural Heritage records on DEC’s Master Habitat DataBank; Regional Offices will next be updated in October.

New York Natural Heritage Collaborates on Habitat Model for New England Cottontail - A Natural Heritage scientist co-authored a poster, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists, titled Habitat Model for New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) in New York State. Because the New England cottontail (New England cottontail) is a rare species with a poorly known distribution, it has been designated a "species of special concern" in New York State. Declines of the New England cottontail in the more northern portions of their range have been tied to the loss of early-successional forest habitats, but no similar analysis has been made for southern portions of their range, such as in New York. Part of the reason their status is poorly known is that field surveys are especially challenging. Because their external morphology is so similar to that of the Eastern Cottontail, confident identifications can only come from examining either characteristics of the skull or genetic makeup. Location records were examined for 36 New England cottontails and 837 eastern cottontails (EC, Sylvilagus floridanus) in New York that could be unambiguously identified to species, from four sources: historic museum records; recent specimens collected by rabbit hunters; targeted live- trapping, tissue sampling, and genetic tests; and fecal surveys followed by fecal DNA analyses. Habitat modeling was conducted, wherein each location was attributed with 36 different environmental layers, and then analyzed with the multi-variate statistical technique known as Random Forest to evaluate the relationships among the environmental attributes associated with each location in order to produce a model of suitable New England cottontail habitat at a 30- meter resolution statewide. A distribution model and validation statistics for New England cottontail throughout New York State were presented. Further refinement of the habitat model for the area of New York east of the Hudson River, where New York’s New England cottontail population is centered, is on-going.

NY Natural Heritage conducts vegetation mapping at National Park Units - The New York Natural Heritage Program, working under contracts with the National Park Service, has been conducting vegetation mapping of the following National Park Units in New York State: Gateway National Recreation Area, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Saratoga National Historical Park, the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, and the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Field surveys and remote imagery interpretation were used to assign every area within these units to one of the ecological community types in New York’s community classification, and to a plant association in the National Vegetation Classification. This field season, accuracy assessments of the draft vegetation mapping was conducted. Accuracy assessment points were generated using a stratified random sampling scheme. Field surveys at these points characterized the dominant vegetation in order to verify the identification of the plant association.

These projects involve collaboration with our sister Heritage Programs in New Jersey, for work on Gateway NRA, and in Pennsylvania, for work on the Upper Delaware. In addition to the vegetation maps, Pennsylvania and New York Natural Heritage completed a vegetation key for the Upper Delaware, to enable on-the-ground identification of community types.

Notable finds during field work at Gateway NRA included the maritime dunes at Breezy Point, and the state-rare plants side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) at Great Kills Park, seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) at Jacob Riis Park, Schweinitz’s flatsedge (Cyperus schweinitzii) at Big Egg Marsh and Fort Tilden, and willow oak (Quercus phellos) at Canarsie Pier (although this last species may have been planted here). Notable finds at Saratoga National Historical Park include vernal pools, floodplain forest, and successional fern meadow. At the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, significant oak-tulip tree forest, red cedar rocky summit, and freshwater tidal marsh were surveyed.

Report on Vegetation Mapping of Gateway National Recreation Area Completed - A NY Natural Heritage team completed a report for the National Park Service (NPS) on the vegetation associations (communities) of Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey. NPS is interested in current and accurate baseline information for effective, long-term management of the park’s natural resources. The goal of the vegetation mapping effort was to produce an up-to-date digital geospatial vegetation database for the park and to provide a vascular plant species list, a dichotomous key for vegetation associations, and descriptions of the vegetation associations in the park.

Thirty-five vegetation associations that occur within the park were identified and described in detail. A 2003 preliminary map and a final 2007 post-accuracy assessment map were created, following the USGS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program protocols. All map polygons, vegetation sampling plots, and accuracy assessment sampling points were labeled with the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) vegetation association code, NY Natural Heritage ecological community name, and Anderson level II land cover class and code. A detailed appendix was created with global and local descriptions and other relevant information for each NVC association surveyed or mapped at the park. A dichotomous field key was developed for these vegetation associations to assist with field recognition and classification. A CD with all plot and accuracy assessment point photographs taken during this project was compiled. In addition, a separate map of palustrine and estuarine wetlands of the park was created from the final vegetation association map.

Despite the degraded landscape and developed areas in and around the park, Gateway National Recreation Area has several vegetation associations with biodiversity significance at the state and global level. The rarest association in the park is the maritime holly forest in the Sandy Hook Unit, New Jersey. At 231 acres it is the largest one of only two known occurrences in the world, with the other located at Sunken Forest on Fire Island National Seashore, New York. The low salt marsh in Jamaica Bay is currently the largest (1,237 acres) example in the state documented by NY Natural Heritage, and the maritime dunes at Breezy Point are of good quality and considered significant from a statewide perspective. All of the vegetation associations at the park provide habitat for a wide array of species and present numerous opportunities for nature study and recreation for visitors.

NY Natural Heritage discovers two rare plants in the Shawangunks - Specimens of two very unusual grasses were collected from the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest in Ulster County while conducting inventories for the Southern Shawangunk Ridge Mapping project. These specimens were so unlike anything ever seen in eastern New York that they were sent to experts to definitively identify the species.

They sent one specimen to Dr. Paul Peterson, Curator of Grasses at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian, who identified the specimen as wood reedgrass (Calamagrostis perplexa). This is only the second confirmed location in the world of this species, and the other location is also in New York, in Tompkins County on private land. This newly discovered population on state land offers the wood reedgrass, which is listed as Endangered by NYS, an additional cushion from possible extinction. (There is also a report, which needs confirmation, of another location in Columbia County.)

The second specimen went to Dr. Julian Campbell, Botanist with The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky and an expert on the genus Elymus. Dr. Campbell confirmed that we have smooth wild rye (Elymus glaucus ssp glaucus). This species is common in the west and is also known from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ontario, but has been collected from only one previous location in New York, in Monroe County. New York botanists have to this point considered the Monroe County collection as a 'waif', a non-native species that arrived in the state accidentally and is not expected to persist. Dr. Campbell is more inclined to think that this new locality is a “good” population, perhaps a remnant of a larger persistent population. More time and research is needed to finalize the status of smooth wild rye in New York.

Rare Tiger Beetle is Rediscovered in New York - As part of a State Wildlife Grants project to determine the status of several rare tiger beetle species in New York. Sam’s Point Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County was surveyed for several days in 2006. At several locations on the Preserve, they found Northern barrens tiger beetles (Cicindela patruela patruela), a globally uncommon species. One individual of this species was documented in 2004 and in 2005 at one location in the Preserve, and these surveys documented that these individuals were part of a large and extensive population. Before 2004, this species had been known in New York only from historical records from Plattsburgh, Peekskill and other locations, but there had been no records from the Shawangunks. Sam’s Point Preserve, managed by The Nature Conservancy, is now the only current location for Northern barrens tiger beetle known in New York.

New York Natural Heritage’s Database Now Includes Records for New England Cottontail - For the first time, NY Natural Heritage’s database of locations of rare animals, rare plants, and significant ecological communities includes the New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis), a rare mammal in New York State and listed as Special Concern. Twelve location records were identified for New England Cottontail: 8 recent records from Dutchess, Columbia, Putnam, and Westchester Counties; and 4 historical records from Rensselaer and Warren Counties. The information came from a database provided by Roland Kays of the New York State Museum. This database includes data on museum specimens, on live animals trapped by DEC Wildlife staff for tissue DNA analysis, and on pellets collected by DEC Wildlife staff for DNA analysis. The DNA analysis was conducted as part of a project to further understand the distribution and status of New England Cottontail in New York. It appears that its distribution has been shrinking in recent years, and that it is being displaced by the more common Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus).

Article on New York Rare Plants Published - Published in the latest issue of the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society, a peer-reviewed botanical journal, the article, Noteworthy plants reported from the Torrey range - 2004 and 2005, reports on significant and interesting finds of rare and newly reported plants in the greater New York City metropolitan area in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York, including Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties.

Among the plants discussed was the globally rare species Torrey’s mountain mint (Pycnanthemum torrei, listed as Endangered in New York). A new population of this plant was located on Staten Island in 2003. Approximately 200 individuals grew along a natural roadside of a busy highway adjacent to a large natural area extending south from Clay Pit Ponds State Park. Since 2003, the roadside area has been developed into a large shopping center, but the mountain mint population has been protected by the establishment of a small buffer region, and the plants were still thriving in 2005. A monitoring and restoration project has been developed and implemented by the Natural Resources Group of the New York City Parks Department to provide further long-term protection.

Other new locations for rare plants discussed in the article include pale duckweed (Lemna valdiviana, Endangered), considered historical in New York until it was rediscovered by Steve in 2004 in a pond at a golf course in North Hempstead, Nassau County, and at Alley Pond Park in Queens; a new population of climbing fern (Lygodium palmatum, Endangered) on Staten Island; the only known current population in Nassau County of small floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiatai, Threatened); and new populations in Nassau County, in New York State Parks, of persimmon (Diospyros virginiana, Threatened) and weak rush (Juncus deblis, Endangered).

New Rare Plant Discoveries - During fieldwork , a botanist found the state's largest population of the globally uncommon Schweinitz's sedge (Carex schweinitzii, NYS-listed as Threatened) at a site in Oneida County. He counted hundreds of thousands of plants at the site. He also found the state rare Michigan lily (Lilium michiganense, Endangered) at the same site, the first time it has been documented in Oneida County. He also discovered several new locations of big shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa, Threatened) in Erie County.

First Known Location in New York for Federally Listed Mussel Among Many New Records Now in Natural Heritage Database - Clubshell (Pleurobema clava) is a freshwater mussel listed by the federal government as Endangered, and ranked as globally imperiled (G2) by the Natural Heritage network. Until 2005, clubshell was known to currently occur in only 12 streams and rivers in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. In New York it was known only from historical reports from the Allegany drainage, and was believed to be possibly extirpated from the state. In 2005, field staff working for The Nature Conservancy discovered two live individual and three weathered shells of clubshell in Cassadaga Creek in Chautauqua County. A record was created for this new and only NY location in Natural Heritage’s tabular and GIS databases.

Staff also revised the status of golden-winged skimmer (Libellula auripennis), a rare dragonfly, in New York from historical to currently occurring based on three recent observations in Suffolk and Orange Counties.

During the first three months of 2007, staff completed new records for 103 locations of rare animals. Included in this set are 24 new bald eagle nests discovered in 2006, 22 locations for Bicknell’s thrush in the Adirondacks, 10 locations for common loon, 6 locations for piping plover, and 7 locations for timber rattlesnake. In addition, 380 animal records already in the Natural Heritage databases were updated with new data, including the most recent survey results for least tern and peregrine falcon. This database work was supported with funds from State Wildlife Grants, Federal Aid, Return a Gift to Wildlife, and the Biodiversity Research Institute.

State Lands Biodiversity Inventory Highlights - NY Natural Heritage is conducting inventories over five years for rare plants and animals and for rare or significant natural communities on NYS DEC State Forest and Forest Preserve lands. The 2006 field season focused on Region 5, and Natural Heritage’s State Lands team spent last quarter processing the results of that field work, and entering and updating the following records in the Heritage database:

Rare Plants:181 records processed, including 14 new locations and 167 updates to existing records. Highlights include including 2 new and 138 updated records for rare plants in the High Peaks, and 2 new and 20 updated records at Valcour Island.

Rare Animals: 40 records processed, including 29 new locations and 11 updates to existing records. Highlights include four new rattlesnake den sites and 22 newly documented locations for Bicknell’s thrush.

Natural Communities: 27 records processed, including 4 new locations and 23 updates to existing records. Highlights include updates to three forest communities that were first documented in the 1800’s (mountain fir forest and pine-northern hardwood forest) and updates to five alpine communities in the High Peaks, including alpine meadow and alpine krummholz.

One tool that we’ve been using every year to prioritize and track our work on State lands is a database of Lands & Forests properties in our target region. This year, we dramatically improved the database by more efficiently linking each State Forest or Forest Preserve parcel to the Natural Heritage database, producing a table of existing Heritage records associated with each property.

Rare Fish Records Updated in Natural Heritage Databases - In collaboration with the Bureau of Fisheries, NY Natural Heritage is mining BOF’s database of its fish surveys for records of rare and listed fish species. As part of this effort, a report of fish records already in the Heritage database was created, then reviewed, and eight existing Heritage database records were identified, representing six rare fish species, that were actually misidentifications by the original surveyors. For example, streamline chub, a Special Concern species, was misidentified as bigeye chub, an unlisted species. The Heritage databases were corrected to reflect the revised identifications. Doug will continue to review the Heritage database report to identify records in BOF’s database and files that need to be provided to Heritage.

Natural Heritage Hosts Annual Rare Plant Status Meeting - New York Natural Heritage held the annual meeting to assess the status of New York’s native plants at the State Museum on April 4th. The meeting was attended by eight other botanists and plant enthusiasts from around the state with additional comments by e-mail. The results of the meeting included three scientific name changes, three changes to state-rarity ranks, three species being added to the list of rare species actively inventoried by Natural Heritage, and three species being removed from this active list to the watch list. The watch list includes those plants which are considered rare, uncommon, or declining in numbers and need continued monitoring to decide if they should be actively inventoried, or are expected to increase in numbers over time. A lengthy discussion took place about the relevance of the watch list and how to improve the criteria and protection of plants on this list. About 25 species will undergo more analysis and field work to understand their current status and whether they should remain on the watch list.

Vegetation Mapping Project begins at two National Wildlife Refuges - New York Natural Heritage has received funding to map the natural communities at Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuges in western New York. Preliminary vegetation types were delineated using aerial photograph interpretation, and have been reviewed by National Wildlife Refuge staff biologists. Staff visited the refuges in early April to gain feedback on the preliminary maps, and to obtain logistics information. The next step will be to conduct field surveys and collect plant community plot data to support and refine the vegetation maps. The extensive natural community inventories will take place between May and October. The product of the study will be a seamless map showing natural communities of the two refuges with emphasis on any rare or significant natural communities found. This natural community map will help guide conservation and management efforts at the two refuges.

In addition, a qualitative invasive plant assessment will be conducted at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. The purpose of this study is to show areas of the refuge where invasive plants are currently causing problems or could become a management concern in the future, with emphasis on early detection.

NY Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey Annual Report Completed - Highlight results for April, 2006 through March 2007 include:

  • NYDDS received data submissions from approximately 30 staff, contractors, and volunteers for the 2006 field season. More data submissions are expected to arrive in mid-April from Audubon staff and volunteers. The number of registered participants reached 248.
  • A total of 408 survey sites were visited by NYDDS participants in 2005 and 2006, many of them visited more than once. The following counties not surveyed in 2005, were surveyed in 2006: Cortland, Genesee, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tompkins.
  • Approximately 1,600 vouchers (specimens, photos, or both) are in the NYDDS database as of March 31, 2007.
  • 148 new county records have been entered into the NYDDS database as of March 31, 2007, representing 90 different species.

New location records for the following 12 Species of Greatest Conservation Need were documented in 2006 field season:

  • Rapids Clubtail at Newcomb, Essex County
  • Arrowhead Spiketail at Landis Arboretum in Montgomery County, and in Ulster County
  • Needham’s Skimmer at Manitou Marsh and Constitution Marsh in Putnam County
  • Needham’s Skimmer and Tiger Spiketail at Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County
  • in Suffolk County, Scarlet Bluet (listed as Threatened) and Comet Darner at three sites each; Pine Barrens Bluet (Threatened), New England Bluet, and Golden-winged Skimmer at two sites each; and Common Sanddragon (Special Concern) and Rambur’s Forktail at one new location each.
  • These records will be entered into the Natural Heritage database as well as the NYDDS database.

Resource Monitoring

Northeast States Receive Two Grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

-      The NFWF recently awarded Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funds for projects that develop and implement regional (multi-state) or national conservation approaches based on the State Wildlife Conservation Strategies (CWCSs) via the State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Support Program. The Northeast Region recently applied for two projects; both were awarded funds (quite an accomplishment in a national competitive program).

The first project will develop regional habitat maps to provide a foundation for collaborative habitat-based conservation efforts. This project will produce current, consistent terrestrial and aquatic habitat classification systems and geographic information system datasets and maps. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is serving as the project lead.

The second project will develop a regional monitoring framework to provide a foundation for performance measurement and reporting required by Congress via the CWCSs. Indicators and measures will be developed to monitor the health or condition of Species of Greatest Conservation Need, critical habitats, threats to the resource, and effectiveness of conservation actions at a landscape scale. The NYSDEC is the lead for the northeast on this project.

Species of Greatest Conservation Need - The first of two workshops was held June 26-27 in Albany, where draft indicators and measures were developed by state personnel and partner organizations to monitor the health or condition of Species of Greatest Conservation Need, critical habitats, threats to the resource, and effectiveness of conservation actions at a landscape scale. Over 40 people, representing 12 northeast states, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, USFWS, NPS, Cornell University, NY and PA Natural Heritage Programs, American Bird Conservancy, Wildlife Management Institute, and The Nature Conservancy, were in attendance. Considering the difficulty of measuring the performance of conservation actions, this workshop was a successful first step in developing a regional monitoring and reporting framework.

Division of Water Statewide Monitoring Work Group Update - The Division of Water assembled a work group in August 2006 to examine, integrate, and improve the efficiency of its monitoring and assessment programs within a USEPA monitoring and reporting framework delivered to the states in 2003. To date, the group has drafted a monitoring program strategy and monitoring objectives, and is currently developing core and supplemental water quality indicators. Given the monitoring requirement for species of greatest conservation need and the habitats that support them, this is an opportune time to discuss current aquatic monitoring programs, identify overlap, and cooperatively monitor resources across divisions when possible.

The Nature Conservancy Holds New York Forest Monitoring Workshop - The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted a workshop in March 2007 to develop indicators for evaluating forest condition and effectiveness of conservation actions in New York. Participants included TNC, United States Forest Service (USFS), Cornell University, School of Environmental Science and Forestry, Mt. Holyoke College, and DEC staff. A draft list of indicators was developed based on cost-effectiveness, feasibility, and measurability. Existing datasets were identified (USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis, Cornell Birds in Forested Landscapes, FRAGSTAT analysis of land cover, etc.), as well as major threats to New York’s forest resources, and elements of a monitoring strategy. The work done by TNC and partners will greatly assist the Northeast states develop a forest habitat monitoring program, and possibly lead to cooperative monitoring efforts.

Environmental Cleanups

A Step in the Right Direction for a Hudson River Waste Site - In a moment of cooperation, HWSEU, DER, and General Motors (GM) agreed to a work plan for further sediment studies in the Hudson River adjacent to the former GM assembly plant in Sleepy Hollow. The Hudson’s legacy of industrial, municipal, and non-point source pollution has left the sediments a motley slew of contaminants, and companies often balk at detailed sediment studies, arguing that teasing out site-related contamination from background contamination is futile or too costly. GM, with some gentle nudging from HWSEU, is building upon its previous investigation of metal concentrations and adding several subsurface sediment borings and sediment geochronology samples designed to better understand the sediment dynamics and depositional history of the area.

An even more exciting breakthrough involves GM’s proposed use of acid-volatile sulfide (AVS) to assess the toxicity of metals and establish sediment benchmarks at the site. AVS is becoming a popular approach for consultants and responsible parties because it eliminates the need for costly and time consuming toxicity tests, but until its effectiveness at hazardous waste sites in NY has been better established, HWSEU does not accept AVS without accompanying toxicity data. After a little give and take, GM agreed to sample AVS along with pore water analysis, benthic community assessment, and 28-day survival, growth and reproduction tests at 28 near-site and 10 background sample locations. In addition, GM will conduct biological tissue sampling for bioaccumulation of metals at 10 near-site and 10 background locations. This work plan, it is hoped, will not only provide better data for determining clean-up boundaries at this site, but also give HWSEU a precedent to point to and the beginnings of a database for assessing the usefulness of AVS in evaluating hazardous waste sites.

Ecotoxicology

Dust Palliatives Reviewed - One of the roles of the Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit is to participate on an interdepartmental Dust Palliative Task Force. The task force was created by MOU between the Departments of Transportation, Health, and Environmental Conservation. The Department of Transportation created an “Approved Materials List”. Only soil stabilizers and dust palliatives that are listed are used by DOT. NYSDOT also recommends but can’t require that municipal highway or public work departments only use listed approved materials. Dust palliatives suppress dust on surfaces such as dirt roads, construction sites, etc. Soil stabilizers hold soil in place and reduce erosion.

A manufacturer submitted two products for review, one dust palliative (DP) “Durasoil”, and one dust palliative/soil stabilizer (DPSS) “Soiltac”. The Task Force MOU requires applicants to submit chemical, toxicity, and environmental fate data very similar to that required for pesticide registration. This applicant was initially reluctant to submit information regarding the chemical composition of the products, but eventually did on a separate, confidential memorandum. Durasoil is insoluble and lighter than water. Although it was unlikely to cause toxicity, it could be harmful to aquatic life if spilled or allowed to run off. It could form a layer on the surface of still or slow-moving waters that could reduce or prevent atmospheric oxygen from diffusing into the water. For that reason, the Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit recommended that Durasoil be placed on the Approved Materials List, but that a condition was added stating that Durasoil could not be used within 100 feet of a waterbody or wetland.

Soiltac was proposed for use as a dust palliative/soil stabilizer. Its composition was not confidential; the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) identified it as a vinyl polymer. The last product reviewed by the Dust Palliative Task Force in 2004 was also a vinyl acrylic polymer. In these products, a monomer (in the case of Soiltac - vinyl acetate), is diluted and applied along with a copolymer/macroinitiator. As the slurry dries, the monomers combine to form very long chain, branched molecules. These long chains create a matrix with and around soil particles.

They also trap and hold moisture. Once cured, the polymers are inert, insoluble, and non-toxic. They remain in place until physically broken down by traffic, weathering, and microbial degradation. The Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit recommended that Soiltac be placed on the approved materials list. For a quick, colorful, interesting introduction to polymer science, check out http://pslc.ws/macrog/index.htm .

New Aquatic Life Guidance Values for VOCs Prepared - The Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit prepared fact sheets to support ambient water quality guidance values (AWQGVs) for three Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); carbon tetrachloride, dichloroethenes, and tetrachloroethanes. AWQGVs are derived in the same manner as ambient water quality standards, except they have not been adopted into regulation. Guidance values are published in the Division of Water’s Technical Operational Guidance Series (TOGS) 1.1.1. These compounds are proposed as guidance values because the Division of Water is currently finalizing an update to the Water Quality Regulations that was begun several years ago. These guidance values will probably be updated to standards the next time the Water Quality Regulations are updated.

VOCs are not typically used as industrial solvents, metal cleaners, and dry cleaning liquids. They are not thought of as being water quality problems because they are seldom discharged, and they volatilize out of the water fairly rapidly. So why is there a need for guidance values? Quite frequently, VOCs are detected in groundwater, probably from spills. These compounds are not readily degraded, and they move through soil along with groundwater. The plumes intersect rivers and ponds, and VOCs are detected in the sediments. The Division of Remediation and DFWMR regional biologists have frequently contacted the Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit requesting to know if concentrations of VOCs detected in sediment are harmful to aquatic life, and how much remediation is required. Sediment quality values are easily derived from water quality standards and guidance values, so the publication of these guidance values will allow for the derivation of consistent and protective sediment cleanup objectives. In the next few months, AWQGVs will be prepared for three additional VOCs; tetrachloroethene, trichloroethane, and trichloroethene.

What to do With Arsenic - Several years ago, the EPA changed their assessment of the safe level of arsenic in drinking water at the tap from 25 ppb to 10 ppb. As a result, numerous public drinking water treatment facilities, primarily those with groundwater sources, have to remove additional arsenic from public water supplies. Removing the arsenic is not difficult. Arsenic is precipitated by a chemical process and the precipitate, an iron/arsenic/oxide/hydroxide complex (FeOOHAs), is filtered from the finished water. The precipitate is then periodically backwashed from the filter. The question then arises, what do you do with the arsenic?

Region 8 contacted the Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit to get an opinion on one proposal. One facility proposed to create two sand lagoons, roughly 30' x 50' in size. The finished drinking water used to backflush the filters would be released into the sand lagoons where the water would filter through the sand back into the groundwater aquifer from which it came, and the arsenic would be trapped on the sand where it could be removed periodically. The region wanted to know if this presented any risk to wildlife.

The finding was that the sand lagoons would not pose an attractive nuisance for wildlife, as the lagoons are part of the treatment facility and do not offer any desirable habitat to birds or wildlife. What is an important concern, however, is how is the arsenic disposed of and what happens to it then? Several studies have shown that the iron/arsenic/oxide/hydroxide precipitate is not thermodynamically stable. Any number of environmental changes such as changes in pH or redox potential, or microbial action can resolubilize the arsenic from the precipitate. The Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit recommended that the arsenic precipitate be disposed of only in a landfill designed to hold hazardous waste.

Oil Dispersants Forum - DEC staff attended a two day symposium on oil dispersants in Red Bank, New Jersey. The symposium was put on by NOAA and the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center (CRRC). Oil dispersants are chemicals that break up an oil spill and allow it to disperse through the water column. The benefit of these compounds is that they very rapidly eliminate the mass of floating oil so it cannot coat things like birds and shorelines with oil. The danger is that once in the water column, the oil/dispersant mixture can be toxic to marine life. New York state currently prohibits the use of dispersants in freshwater or within three miles of shore. Outside the three mile limit, dispersants can be used.

The purpose of the symposium was to bring together representatives of state and federal governments, academia, and industry to review the most current information available on the use of dispersants. It also provided an opportunity for representatives from New York and New Jersey to discuss mutual concerns, and meet with counterpart staff from California and Louisiana who have more advanced policies and risk assessment experience regarding the use of oil dispersants.

Last fall, the Department created a workgroup to review whether or not there were any circumstances under which the use of dispersants could be considered for use in New York waters within the three mile boundary zone. The information gained from the symposium will greatly assist the effort to address that issue.

Water Quality Guidance Values for VOC’s Proposed - In August 2006, the Division of Water (DoW) identified six volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for which they needed aquatic life guidance values. A guidance value is the concentration of a particular compound that can occur in water without harming aquatic life. Guidance values are derived in accordance with the methodologies described in 6NYCRR Part 706.1, and differ from water quality standards only in that they have not gone through the regulatory review process. Guidance values are published in DoW’s TOGS (Technical Operational Guidance Series) 1.1.1, and are usually upgraded to standards during the water quality regulations triennial review. If sufficient data are available, acute and chronic guidance values are developed for fresh and salt water. Acute standards and guidance values are applied to Class D waters, and chronic standards and guidance values are applied to waters in all other classifications. During March 2007, the Ecotoxicology and Standards completed work on two new aquatic life ambient water quality guidance values for the Division of Water, tetrachloroethene, (AKA perchloroethene, PCE, or PERC) and trichloroethane. Originally, DoW requested guidance values for the two trichloroethane isomers, 1,1,1- and 1,1,2-trichloroethane, but an examination of the data available suggested that deriving a single set of values for either isomer or a mixture of both would be abetter approach. Normally, one does not think of a volatile chemical as being a water quality problem, as VOCs evaporate relatively quickly from water. VOCs are frequently found near industrial areas. Spills of VOCs are often trapped in groundwater, and are conveyed along with the groundwater to locations where they seep into surface waterbodies including rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

New Draft Sediment Guidance Prepared - The first edition of the “Technical Guidance for Screening Contaminated Sediment” was printed in November 1993. Since that time, it has been reprinted three times with minor revisions (July 1994, March 1998, and January 1999). For the first time since 1999, the Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit has prepared a significantly revised draft of the “Technical Guidance for Screening Contaminated Sediment.” The draft has been sent out to selected individuals in DFWMR and Division of Water for review. Ultimately, the current “Technical Guidance . . .” document will be replaced by three separate documents: A general document that discusses concepts and issues of contaminated sediment assessment and management; a document with numerical “Sediment Guidance Values” that identify risk thresholds and clean up objectives when additional information is lacking; and a document on site specific sediment studies. The draft document prepared this month is the second of the three described above. After review, this document will supersede Tables 1 and 2 of the current Technical Guidance. The numerical values contained therein represent a mix of values derived by equilibrium partitioning for most non-polar organic contaminants, and empirically-derived values for metals and some organics, such as mixtures of PAHs. The new document differs most distinctly from its predecessor in that it contains a single guidance value rather than a number of values for different toxicological impacts (e.g., benthic acute, benthic chronic, human health, lowest effect level, severe effect level). While the previous version provided more information, it tended to confuse users, particularly in regards to which value best protected ecological resources.

Habitat Protection

Generic Natural Resource Concerns with Barrier Mitigation Drafted - An on-going interest in the mitigation, particularly removal, of man-made barriers in New York watersheds requires, in part, that natural resource concerns be incorporated into the decision-making process. A series of generic natural resource concerns has been drafted for consideration by decision- makers/stakeholders involved in the construction, repair, and , in some instances, the removal of dams, weirs, bridges, culverts and other forms of potential natural resource barriers within a watershed. The document is intended to provide natural resource staff as well as other agency staff with an informational checklist of resource concerns which should be considered from a fish management, wildlife management, sediment transport, wetlands/water table, and water quality and quantity perspective in the development of recommendations for a proposed action. The draft document is now being circulated to DFWMR staff for review and comment.

New York Natural Heritage Biodiversity Data Distributed to Local Officials - New York Natural Heritage participated in a workshop sponsored by the Hudson River Estuary Program for representatives of Orange County municipalities, conservation advisory committees, planning officials, and consultants. At the workshop, maps of Natural Heritage Important Areas were presented. Important Areas are lands and waters around known populations of rare animals and rare plants, and around documented examples of rare and/or high-quality ecological communities. The lands and waters in Important Areas include the populations and communities, their associated habitat, and other adjacent land that could be necessary for their continued presence and quality. Natural Heritage staff gave a presentation on the Natural Heritage Program and the Important Areas at the workshop. Several towns in Orange County currently engaged in comprehensive, open space, or natural resource planning expressed interest in receiving digital datasets of the Important Areas in their town; Natural Heritage staff are currently preparing these datasets for distribution.

New York Natural Heritage Reviewed Almost 2000 Project Sites for Impacts on Rare and Listed Animals and Plants and Significant Natural Communities- The New York Natural Heritage Program screens the sites of proposed projects and activities for rare animals, rare plants, and significant natural communities (habitat types). During the last quarter of FY 06-07, NY Natural Heritage reviewed 487 project sites, bringing the total for all of FY 06-07 to 1,982 sites. The reports and maps we provide enhance the ability of municipalities, state agencies, regulators, planners, developers, and landowners to make decisions which minimize deleterious impacts on, or which have benefits for, New York’s imperiled plants and animals and its significant ecosystems.

Recommendations Provided For 401 Water Quality Certifications of USACE Nationwide Permits - On the12th of March, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced the re- issuance of all existing Nationwide Permits (NWPs), general conditions, and definitions with some modifications (for the period 2007-2012) to become effective on the 19th of March, 2007. At the same time, the Buffalo District provided their regional NWP conditions. Since that time, Bureau staff have worked with other Divisional staff and the Division of Environmental Permits on the conditions that would be incorporated into the 401 Water Quality Certifications for these NWPs. In addition to the 9 nationwide permits which do not require a 401 Water Quality Certification (as they are issued pursuant to Section 10), Bureau staff have recommended the denial of certification for16 permits and the certification of the remaining 25 permits as written or with specific conditions. This re-authorization of the Nationwide Permits represents a significant step forward in the protection of New York’s natural resources with the recognition that the design and installation of road crossings, particularly those involving culverts, must consider the movements of fish and wildlife within the stream corridor and the need to minimize or eliminate encroachment into the littoral areas associated with vertical walls or bulkheads.

Freshwater Wetlands

Wetland Receives Protection - A whopping 430-acre wetland recently received protection as it was proposed for addition to the wetland maps. The wetland is being added to not one but four Erie County wetland maps. This wetland, characterized as deciduous swamp and wet meadow, provides habitat for many plants and wildlife, not least of which are spring peepers and spotted jewelweed, as seen here. The wetland is classified as Class 1 due to the presence of a NYS listed threatened species, the Henslow’s sparrow... a population of which is nesting in the wetland.

Wetlands Receive Protection through Mapping - Thirty-three wetland amendments, affecting two maps in Orange County (Pine Bush and Maybrook), were officially initiated, invoking legal protection, with the placement of notice recently. The amendments affect 550 landowners and include the addition of five new wetlands. This amendment effort, when completed, will result in the addition of 990 acres of regulated wetland to the maps.

The April 25, 2007 official map filing date completes an amendment to the wetland map for the area near Baldwinsville in Onondaga County. The amendment consists of the addition of one new Class III wetland that is 16 acres in total. This wetland has a long history where there has been a serious interest in its protection by dedicated neighboring landowners who contacted the Office of the Attorney General when they did not see adequate protection coming from the Army Corps of Engineers. The filing is the result of two years of hard work.

On April 11th, an information session and hearing was held in the Town of Rochester, Ulster County, to amend the boundaries of NYS freshwater wetlands M-21 and M-22. The two contiguous wetlands were combined and approximately 92 acres of freshwater wetland were proposed to be added to the regulatory maps. The new 150-acre wetland M-21 will also be class I. This change affected nearly 40 landowners. Approximately 25 people attended the proceeding. Incredibly, the groups that petitioned for the wetland amendment (Pace Univ Law Clinic and Riverkeeper) voiced vehement objections to the proposed changes, while most impacted landowners had little comment. The objections, rife with personal attacks upon Department staff, seemed to be based upon misunderstanding between a delineation and the depiction of the wetland on the regulatory maps. Staff are now reviewing the substantive comments and field checking the areas in question.

Stream Protection

Oswegatchie River Hydroelectric Projects Gear-up for FERC Relicensing - In 2012, three hydroelectric project’s FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions) licenses to operate will expire. These projects include the Oswegatchie Project (owned and operated by Brookfield Power), Emeryville (owned and operated by Hampshire Paper Company), and Natural Dam (owned and operated by Cellu-Tissue Corporation). Cellu-Tissue and Hampshire Paper Company are currently preparing Pre-Application Documents (PADS) for their projects and are conducting site-visits with the agencies and other stakeholders in November. The licenses for the three projects were issued in 1983, as 30 year licenses. The 401 Water Quality Certificates (401 WQC) for these projects where issued containing very few conditions; lacking most of the standard conditioning the Department has incorporated in recently issued hydroelectric 401WQCs and considers standard conditions. Therefore, the Department will be addressing the deficiencies in the 401 WQCs as part of the relicensing of the Projects as well negotiating resource restoration measures and mitigation for on-going impacts the hydroelectric facilities cause on the Oswegatchie River.

Instream Flow Discussions with Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy - Discussions regarding our State instream flow program have recently brought in experts from Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy. DEC is exploring how we can best utilize the expertise of instream flow practitioners from both regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations in New England to assist in the development of a framework for a formal instream flow program. Recent discussions have involved the Eastern Water Project of Trout Unlimited who are preparing a water report for New York’s streams and rivers. Additional outreach involved the Sustainable Waters Program of the Nature Conservancy which helps protect freshwater ecosystems by advancing water policies and conservation approaches so that human needs for water can be met while sustaining healthy freshwater ecosystems.

International Instream Flow Program Initiative (IIFPI) Survey - The Department is a governing member of the Instream Flow Council (IFC), an organization of state and provincial fish and wildlife management agencies dedicated to improving the effectiveness of their instream flow programs (http://www.instreamflowcouncil.org/). IFC recently initiated a three-year assessment of all state and provincial fish and wildlife agency instream flow programs. The main feature of the IIFPI project involves bringing agency instream flow program representatives together with outside experts to develop strategies for program improvement.

Program team in the survey design will evaluate existing instream flow and related activities, program structure, statutes, regulations, and policies and their effectiveness for protecting and enhancing instream flows, and public involvement. One of the many things the project hopes to bring to light is just how much agencies that are charged with fisheries management are (or aren't) involved with water management decisions and opportunities. Though we all understand the importance of maintaining or restoring good habitat for fish, it seems our agencies often have a difficult time affecting management of the most important fish habitat component of all- water. The initial project survey has been completed by all 50 States and several Canadian Provinces. In the upcoming months DEC will be summarizing state instream flow programs for the northeastern states. A second survey is now being designed to quantify how effective state agencies have been when it comes to restoring, maintaining, or improving conditions of suitable flow for fisheries.

Bureau of Habitat Hosts Interagency Culvert Workshop - On January 18th, the Bureau of Habitat hosted an interagency meeting to discuss the incorporation of ecological, hydrological and geomorphological concerns into the design of road crossings, particularly culverts, for rivers and streams. The twenty-two participants included representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Adirondack Park Agency (APA), Department of Transportation [Environmental Management, Hydraulics, Maintenance and Design Divisions], regional habitat or environmental permit staff (Regions 3, 4, 5 and 9) and central office staff from Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, Water, and Environmental Permits. The meeting began with the agency participants indicating their specific concerns (e.g. environmental, hydrological, engineering, financial and regulatory) associated with road crossings through stream corridors. It was also noted that DEC is interested in the development of a technical guidance document (possibly with the assistance of an intern) which could be used in the design and installation of road crossings at the state, county and town levels as well as by individual property owners. The remainder of the workshop focused on a discussion of the specific conditions for culverts being proposed by the USACE as part of the regional conditions that will accompany re-authorization of their Nationwide Permits. DOT staff provided valuable insight on their engineering design requirements for road crossings, particularly those involving culverts, and the regional biologists and permit staff indicated some of their concerns with closed culvert designs. Resolution was tentatively reached on the issues of grade and embeddedness requirements; however, due to time constraints, no resolution could be reached on the design types and sizing requirements. Participants did agreed to continue the discussions with the USACE staff following the workshop in an effort to reach agreement on the regional conditions for culverts. A followup meeting has been scheduled for February 28th at the DOT central office on Wolf Road.

Stream Workshops - Region 3 Habitat Manager Jack Isaacs was a presenter and panelist in two recent programs designed to provide municipal officials, watershed organizations, CAC's, educators, and the public information regarding streams and flood impacts. Both programs were filled to capacity and well received.

Task Force Workshop - The Orange County Water Authority and Wallkill River Task Force Workshop on Reducing Flood and Erosion Damages and Potential Strategies to Repair Streams was held at the Black Rock Forest Lodge and featured the executive director of the Waterways Institute, author and advisor for the San Francisco regional water quality control board, and the DEC Region 3 Habitat Manager.

The Cornell University Cooperative Extension Dutchess County Stream Workshop - Preventing & Minimizing Floods and Erosion was held at the Dutchess Co. farm and Home Center.

 Fish Protection at Water Intakes

Monitoring Aquatic Impacts at Large Power Plants in Full Swing - Most large power plants in New York are currently undertaking studies to determine existing levels of aquatic impacts and to describe quantitatively the effect installed technologies have on reducing these impacts. Federal and state requirements are driving power plant operators to conduct these studies so that comprehensive reports can be delivered to the Department before the federally-mandated date of 7 January 2008. On-going studies include monitoring current levels of impingement and entrainment, estimating survival of impinged and entrained organisms, and evaluating the effects of offshore intake structures for reducing impingement and entrainment. Data from these studies will be used to support future decisions regarding the Best Technology Available (BTA) for minimizing adverse environmental impact at these power plants. Staff from the Steam Electric Unit has conducted audits of these on-going surveys in preparation of what should be a “hailstorm of binders” that will be dropping on our desks a little over a year from now.

Dramatic Cuts in Aquatic Impacts Proposed for Ravenswood Power Plant - On 20 December 2006 the Department issued a draft State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for the Ravenswood Power Plant in New York City. The permit calls for substantial reductions in the numbers of fish killed by the plant’s cooling water system. While giving KeySpan, the owner of the facility, flexibility in the methods for achieving the reductions, the permit requires a 90% reduction in impingement mortality of fish and a 65% reduction in entrainment of fish eggs and larvae. At a minimum, KeySpan must use the following to achieve these reductions:

-    variable speed pumps to reduce water use,

-    targeted outages to reduce water use, and

-    continuous rotation of existing screening to improve survival of impinged fish.

The Ravenswood Power Plant can produce a maximum of 2,400 megawatts of electricity which is almost 25% of New York City’s electrical generation capacity. To produce this power, the plant withdraws more than 1.3 billion gallons of water each day from the East River and kills more than 149 million aquatic organisms each year. The draft permit requires that, during this permit term, the best technology available (BTA) be implemented to reduce environmental impact at the facility. The Department will accept comments on the draft permit until 9 February 2007, and if all goes smoothly, a final permit is likely in spring of 2007.

Final World Trade Center Water Use Permit Issued - On 15 December 2006 the Department issued a final State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for the redeveloped World Trade Center. The final permit protects all life stages of fish and calls for a 95% reduction in impingement mortality and an 84% reduction in entrainment over pre-9/11 levels. To achieve these high levels of reductions, the redeveloped World Trade Center will include the following measures that reduce cooling water use:

–  closed-cycle cooling or comparable technology for a portion of the redevelopment;

–  variable speed pumps;

–  building designs that incorporate low-water use chillers, air-side and river water economizers, and diversified cooling; and

–  changes to the permitted discharge temperature.

The permit is the culmination of a long collaboration among the Divisions of Environmental Permits; Water; Legal Affairs; and Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources.

Federal Appeals Court Sends Power Plant Regulations Back to EPA - “This is a case about fish and other aquatic organisms.” - so starts the 25 January 2007 decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that remanded many aspects of an Environmental

Protection Agency (EPA) rule governing the protection of aquatic organisms at existing large power plants. The court was charged with reviewing the rule that established national standards for determining the best technology available (BTA) to minimize adverse impacts from cooling water use. In a victory for petitioners, the court found that BTA determinations under the Clean Water Act could not be based on a cost-benefit analysis. The Court found that some provisions contained in the EPA rule were simply not allowed while other provisions required additional clarification and/or public notification. Specifically, the court ruled that the Clean Water Act does not allow:

& Restoration in lieu of reductions in impacts;

& The site-specific “cost-benefit test” contained in the rule where performance standards could be varied if the cost of compliance was significantly greater than the benefits of compliance;

& Setting performance standards as ranges without requiring facilities to achieve the greatest reduction of adverse impacts possible. In addition, the court remanded the following back to EPA for clarification or change:

& The overriding provisions in the rule that established BTA because the record was unclear if EPA gave paramount consideration to an impermissible factor, cost-benefit analysis;

& The site-specific “cost-cost test” contained in the rule where performance standards could be varied if the cost of compliance was significantly greater than the cost considered by EPA in the rulemaking;

& The provisions in the rule that allow for long-term compliance with performance standards to be based on a plan to achieve those standards rather than actually achieving them.

This court case, also known as Surfrider Vs. EPA, was brought by a consortium of states including New York, Environmental Groups lead by Riverkeeper, and various industry groups. While some arguments from each group were accepted and others were rejected, the court decision was clearly a win for the environmental groups, states, and of course . . . the fish. The challenge now before EPA will be to decide if major changes to the rule (beyond the elimination of restoration and the “cost-benefit test”) are necessary or if merely additional clarification and public notice will fulfill the mandate of the court. It appeared, from the wording of the decision, that the court believed the former was likely more appropriate.

EPA to Suspend Regulations Governing Aquatic Impacts at Power Plants - On 20 March 2007, EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles signed a memorandum stating that the Phase II rule should be considered suspended. The Phase II rule established national standards for achieving the best technology available (BTA) to minimize adverse environmental impacts from cooling water use at existing large power plants. The decision to suspend the rule comes on the heels of a court decision that remanded many aspects of the rule back to EPA for correction and clarification. This suspension is important because, without national standards, BTA decisions must again be made using “best professional judgement”. Traditionally, in many states and regions of the country, BTA decisions using best professional judgement have resulted in few impact reductions. The stakes for not acting are high, as individual power plants can kill billions of fish eggs and larvae and millions of juvenile and adult fish each year. Thankfully, New York has its own regulations governing cooling water intake structures (6 NYCRR Part 704.5) and, despite the suspension of the EPA rule, will continue to make BTA determinations and reduce impacts to the public’s aquatic resources.

Restoration

Alcoa Completes Grasse River Remedial Options Pilot Study (ROPS) - In early 2005, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) approved Alcoa’s work plan to conduct a pilot study of several remedial technologies in portions of the Grasse River contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) discharged from its Massena, NY aluminum production plant. The purpose of implementing a pilot with multiple technologies was to gain realtime engineering and feasibility information on each technology before, during and after implementation, and to apply this information to the conceptual site model when developing potential alternatives to actually remediate the river sediments. A previous analysis of alternatives was completed in 2002, but the March 2003 ice jam that caused significant scour in the river and blew out Alcoa’s pilot sand/topsoil cap caused EPA to require collection of additional data.

The pilot study was completed in November 2005 and consisted of dredging the depth of contamination in an area of the main channel, dredging a one-foot depth of sediment in a small plot along the northern shoreline, armored capping in the main channel, and “thin-layer” capping of an area along the southern shoreline. The dredged areas were capped with 12 inches of a sand/topsoil mix to cover any residual contamination. Alcoa has long maintained that dredging is inefficient and costly, cannot achieve the required cleanup levels, and often results in worsening conditions in the environment. The photo shows a split post-capping sediment core with a layer of cap material at the top, a layer of residual contaminated sediment in the middle, and a bottom layer of clean native sediment. As expected, the dredging actions caused measurable discharge of PCBs into the water column, resulting in increased fish tissue concentrations during the main channel dredging. Experience has shown that the increase in fish tissue concentrations will be temporary, and it is likely that post-dredging concentrations will be lower in the long term due to the removal of the nearly 25,000 cubic yards of PCB contaminated sediment.

During 2006 and 2007, Alcoa will monitor surface water, sediment and fish concentrations of PCBs in the ROPS area, as well as PCBs in the cap material, erosion and sedimentation over the caps, habitat recovery and benthic community changes that may have resulted from the ROPS. Contrary to DFWMR’s recommendations to EPA, Alcoa will not be collecting any data to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of each technology at actually decreasing the bioaccumulation of PCBs in biota. A new Proposed Plan for remediation is expected some time in 2007 once the additional information is digested.

Decision Reached on Northeastern Spillway of Cuddebackville Dam Project - On January 11th, Region 3 Natural Resources and Environmental Permit staff and Central Office Dam Safety Unit, Bureau of Habitat, and Endangered Species Unit staff met with representatives from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Orange County Parks Commission (OCPC) to discuss the future of the Cuddebackville Project’s northeastern spillway. With this spillway continuing to deteriorate, the endangered mussel species no longer in the immediate downstream area, and some of the available project funding due to expire, the options available to the spillway owner, Orange County, were outlined by the TNC with the assistance of the Dam Safety Unit. These options were: (1) no action; (2) the removal of the spillway, reshaping the upstream channel (estimated cost: $250,000); (3) the stabilization of the spillway and provision of a ramp for fish passage (estimated cost: $540,000); and (4) the repair of the spillway and provision of a fish passage structure (estimated cost: $1,475,000). It should be noted that no cost estimates were provided for maintaining the water supply for the historic feeder canal which has been a major concern of Orange County. Following this presentation, Orange County Parks Commissioner, clearly indicated that, due to financial and political constraints, the no action option was the only course available to Orange County at this time. Once the spillway fails, the Orange County legislature will have to address the next course of action, particularly as it relates to supplying water to the historic feeder canal.

Stream Protection Order On Consent Signed - An Order on Consent requiring the restoration  of 2.5 miles of stream has been signed by the Town of Callicoon. Following the flooding in late June 2006, the Town of Callicoon, located in western Sullivan County, authorized private contractors to undertake extensive work in the East Branch Callicoon Creek and the Panther Rock Brook. This work resulted in the excavation and channelization of nearly 3 miles of stream, which devastated the biological productivity and ecological integrity of the stream corridors and may severely impact residents and their properties along these areas. Streambanks in the impacted areas were left unstable and unprotected and are subject to accelerated erosion and instability. Downstream areas are exposed to increased flooding and water velocity by the removal of large streambed material and natural sinuosity. As part of the Order, a stream corridor restoration plan to be approved by the Department has been prepared. Stream work is to begin May 1, 2007 and be completed by September 30, 2007, with final grading and revegatation to follow.

Immediately following the June flood a General Permit was issued that allowed the on-site authorization of stream related projects. Region 3 personnel met with various County, Town and private applicants and issued nearly 250 of these authorizations, including many to the Town of Callicoon Highway Department.

Resource Management Plans

Salmon River Natural Resource Assessment Continues - Development of a natural resource assessment of the Salmon River watershed began in 2004 with USFWS funding via Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program dollars. The 173,000-acre watershed on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is in excellent condition, presenting a great opportunity to protect the area’s significant natural resources before they are lost or degraded. There is currently an opportunity to work with large landowners in the watershed and assist their management decisions in the context of the entire watershed’s ecosystem. The Tug Hill Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and the New York Natural Heritage Program are major partners in this effort. A meeting was recently held to identify the primary natural resources (targets) in the watershed to protect, restore, and manage.

Invasive Species

Implementation of Task Force Recommendation Begins - The Final Report of the Invasive Species Task Force, completed in November 2005, included 12 Recommendations. One key principle embodied in the recommendations is that EPF resources will be used to deliver invasive species programs primarily through partners. Also, regional “grass root” public-private partnerships will provide many “on-the-ground” services. The coordination accomplished through the Task Force should be continued in a permanent body and State staff dedicated to invasive species coordination should be hired to support the work of the permanent body. The Report anticipates future year EPF support at $ 5 to $10 million annually and a 4-5 person staff dedicated to invasive species coordination. The Task Force has adopted a plan for SFY 2006- 2007 to implement each of these recommendations; $ 3.25 million in EPF funding is available. Existing staff are administering numerous contracts and grants.

Progress has begun on implementing most of the recommendations from the Final Report of the New York State Invasive Species Task Force. A variety of contracts and grant programs will be employed to administer: establishing a permanent coordinating body; preparing a comprehensive management plan; developing a comprehensive outreach program; expanding an existing information clearinghouse to include all invasive species; developing a comprehensive invasive species database; co-sponsoring the Invasive Plant Council’s 2007 conference; establishing a Center for Invasive Species Research; continuing on-going development of biocontrol for common reed (Phragmites); establishing a pilot program for clean stock and “green certification”; supporting existing and new regional invasive species management partnerships; and administering grants for the eradication of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. Three recommendations will be deferred until sufficient staff can be allocated to invasive species management. Efforts to reviewing and align policies across State agencies, streamline existing regulatory processes, and review and propose legislation will be initiated when staff resources are on board. The Invasive Species Task Force met to review the implementation plan and has adopted it as proposed.

Invasive Species Beware - The Division of Fish and Wildlife hired an Invasive Species Management Coordinator, thus taking a significant step toward implementing recommendations of the Invasive Species Task Force Report. She began work toward forming partnerships with regional invasive species groups and research facilities by participating in meetings with the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP) and a yet-unnamed Hudson valley invasive species group, and is learning the administrative ropes in the contracting process.

Coordinating Partnerships to Manage Invasive Species - DEC will contract with an administrative sponsor to coordinate each of eight Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM). Partnerships are diverse and committed stakeholders including local government and non-governmental organizations that will deliver on- the-ground invasive species management. Several partnerships have progressed in formalizing the partnerships and developing operational guidelines and work plans.

DEC invasive species coordinator participated in the second organizing meeting of the Western NY Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (WNY PRISM), the last partnership to begin organizing.

Invasive Species Management Coordinator also participated in meetings of newly formed and forming Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) to update the groups on NYS Invasive Species program funding and assist PRISM organizing efforts. Eight PRISMs of diverse and committed stakeholders will deliver on- the-ground invasive species management under DEC contract. PRISMs will coordinate partners; develop landscape level invasive species management plans, early detection and rapid response networks and PRISM- specific education and outreach; recruit and train volunteers, implement eradication projects and support research through citizen science.

Invasive Species Task Force progress presented a 2 meetings. Habitat Chief presented updates of the Invasive Species Task Force at an invasive species conference conducted by the American Wildlife Conservation Foundation (AWCF) and at the annual convention of the New York chapters of Ducks Unlimited. The presentations gave a brief recounting of the work of the Task Force and then focused on the implementation of the Task Force recommendations using the available funds. The AWCF conference was supported, in part, with NYS invasive species funds.

Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Panel on Aquatic Invasive Species - DEC attended the fall meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Panel on Aquatic Invasive Species in Annapolis, Maryland from September 13 - 14, 2006. A Regional Panel to address Aquatic Nuisance Species was originally authorized by the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990 for the Great Lakes. Because of their success, the regional panel concept was expanded to the rest of the country in the National Invasive Species Act (NISA) of 1996. New York participates in three regional panels, the Great Lakes, the Northeast Panel, and the Mid-Atlantic Panel (we are looking for someone to represent New York on the Great Lakes Panel, as the original representative, resigned from that role a few years ago). The regional panel meetings provide great opportunities to meet with staff from adjoining regional states and develop and coordinate regional responses to aquatic invasive species problems. The highlight of the Mid-Atlantic Panel meeting was a presentation from Virginia about a successful zebra mussel eradication effort. A dense population of zebra mussels was eradicated from a 12-acre, 93- foot deep abandoned quarry using potassium chloride. A second presentation described the spread of an invasive sand sedge from eastern Asia in New Jersey. The sedge is beneficial in that it forms beds of rhizomes 2-4 feet deep in sand dunes, providing excellent dune stability. However, unlike its growth in its native range, in New Jersey it grows in very thick beds that outcompete natives, creating large areas devoid of any other beach grass or plant. A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to discussions of the recent capture of several Chinese mitten crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, and the effort being undertaken by Maryland and Virginia to determine whether they represent a colonial population, or a few random escapees from an illicit sea food industry. Chinese mitten crabs are banned Federally by the Lacey Act, and in New York State by 6New YorkCRR Part 44.8. For more information on the Mid-Atlantic Panel, visit: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/marp.htm.

Invasive Plan Council Conference - Furthering the recommendations presented in the Invasive Species Task Force Report (Nov. 2005), DEC sponsored the Invasive Plant Council’s invasive plants conference: Invasive Plants on the Horizon & More, held in Albany in early February. This well-attended conference presented an excellent opportunity for new and forming partnerships for invasive species management (PRISMs) to meet with DEC staff to learn more about organizing and funding partnerships and for Invasive Species Management Coordinator Leslie Surprenant to listen and learn much more about what’s happening in the invasive plants arena. (And with some chagrin, she’s developed a list of “gotta go” plants in her own back yard - starting with the Asian bittersweet)

Second Round of Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Grants Announced - The second round of aquatic invasive species eradication grants was announced in April. Concurrent with the announcement of the Aquatic grant program, Division of Lands and Forests simultaneously announced a terrestrial invasive species eradication program. The two programs will share the $2,000,000 allocated in the Environmental Protection Fund for eradication grants ($1 million each from SFY 06-07 and SFY 07-08. This year’s aquatic eradication grant program differs significantly from the 2005 program. The biggest change is the match requirement, which was decreased from 2:1 to 1:1. In other words, the State will now pay half of the total costs for an approved project instead of only one third. The minimum grant size was lowered from $10,000 to $7,500 to encourage smaller, rapid response projects. Also, two additional species were added; Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed infestations are eligible if they occur in a wetland or riparian habitat. The deadline for submitting applications is June 29, 2007.

DEC participated in the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species (NEANS) meeting in Mystic CT in late May. Within days of this meeting, a Chinese Mitten Crab (CMC) was caught in the Hudson River. With its ability to compete with the native crabs, including the blue crab which is at it’s northern distribution limit in the Hudson, and the CMC’s propensity to carve out muddy stream banks, CMC is considered a particularly harmful invasive species. Although Federal and State legislation limit or prohibit possession, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) has requested samples for DNA analysis. The Division of Law Enforcement has agreed to allowing persons capturing CMC and reporting the collection within 48 hours to hold them for to transfer to SERC. Leslie developed a CMC alert for DEC’s website.

DEC wrote articles on invasive species for the Empire State Forest Products Association newsletter “Empire Envoy” and the Family Camping and RV Association newsletter, and contributed to a The Nature Conservancy article for spring-summer 2007 “Nature New York.”

Wildlife & Human Health

Wildlife Protected from Rodenticides - The U.S. EPA announced that it is proposing to make major changes in the registration of rodenticide active ingredients. The most highly toxic, second generation, anticoagulant rodenticides, brodifacoum, bromadialone, and difenthialone, will become “restricted use” pesticides. This change in registration eliminates homeowner uses of products with these active ingredients, and means they can only be applied by certified applicators. This announcement is the culmination of a cooperative effort by the Bureau of Habitat’s (BoH) Wildlife Pathology Unit (WPU) and Ecotoxicology and Standards Unit (ESU), and the Bureau of Pesticide Management (BPM) of the Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials, to bring about this action.

It began when the WPU became aware of an increasingly large number of wildlife that were apparently being poisoned by rodenticides, primarily brodifacoum. The range of species impacted included hawks, owls, squirrels, racoons, deer, and even a dog. By 1997, enough evaluation had been done to know this was a serious problem. BPM did not want to address it only at the New York State level, and proposed to raise the issue with EPA. The vehicle for doing this was the State FIFRA1 Issues Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG), a group composed of the EPA and states for identifying pesticide concerns. In November 1997, BPM identified wildlife poisonings as a major issue at a SFIREG meeting, and EPA concurred the issue warranted further action, or at least further review. In April 1998, the risk assessment of the brodifacoum issue was completed, and copies were provided to EPA. One of the problems that EPA had in acting on the issue was that only one other state, California, identified this problem as a concern. While they had some records of rodenticide toxicity to wildlife, they did not have the extensive wildlife toxicity data that Ward Stone had compiled. Concerns about children eating rodenticide baits had also been raised to the EPA as an issue. In 1999, Ward published his documented case history of wildlife poisonings by rodenticides in the peer reviewed literature, Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

After several false starts, EPA finally committed to conducting a formal risk assessment of rodenticides to non-target wildlife. In response, the industry mobilized by creating the Rodenticide Registrants Task Force (RRTF). The RRTF challenged the validity of the data compiled by both DEC and California, proposed counter-arguments to the findings of the ESU risk assessment, and presented strong opposition to EPA’s proposal to conduct their own risk assessment. Despite their opposition, EPA completed the draft risk assessment in 2002 and released it for public comment. EPA’s draft risk assessment generally found that newer, “second generation” rodenticides did indeed pose a much greater risk of secondary toxicity to wildlife. Secondary toxicity is the term to describe the death of a predator, such as a hawk or an owl, after consuming prey that had consumed a rodenticide (or other toxicant). In 2005 the final version of EPA’s rodenticide risk assessment was released for public comment.

ESU prepared and submitted public comments endorsing both the draft and final versions of EPA’s rodenticide risk assessment. EPA’s risk assessment only evaluated the risks to wildlife from the current labeled use of the products. They did not recommend or advocate any particular regulatory changes. ESU used the opportunity to submit public comments on the draft and final risk assessments, as well as direct letters to EPA, to promote five recommendations for addressing the rodenticide problem. Those proposals were:

  • Segregate indoor homeowner use products and outdoor products. Under current labels, the same product could be used both indoors and outdoors;
  • Make outdoor use products restricted use, that is, they could only be applied by certified applicators;
  • Require stronger, tamper-resistant bait stations. Many homeowner products come in cardboard bait boxes. When placed outside, such boxes are easily torn apart by non target wildlife such as squirrels, voles, and other species, or weakened by weather conditions.
  • Require better label instructions and safe use information on the labels.
  • Reformulate the most toxic product to contain a smaller percentage of active ingredient.

Nothing was heard regarding the status of EPA’s rodenticide risk assessment or any possible regulatory actions until the announcement in the Federal Register on January 17, 2007 that EPA had decided to take action to reduce the risks of rodenticide poisoning of wildlife. In addition to proposing to make all rodenticides with the three most toxic active ingredients (brodifacoum, bromadialone, and difenthialone) restricted use, they are also proposing to require tamper resistant bait stations and better labeling for all rodenticides. Furthermore, homeowner products will only be sold in the tamper resistant bait stations in solid block form instead of pellets or grains. EPA’s proposed actions essentially encompassed four out of five of New York State’s recommendations. They went beyond New York’s recommendations in proposing that all products with the most highly toxic active ingredients be registered only for restricted use rather than segregating them into indoor, homeowner use products and outdoor use products. The only NYSDEC recommendation that was not covered in one form or another by EPA’s proposed regulatory changes was to require reformulation of the product to include a lower dose of active ingredient.

Further information on EPA’s proposal can be found at:

www.epa.gov /pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/rodenticides_fs.htm.

Habitat Management by Water Level Regulation - The water levels of the Stone Mills Pool, located on the Perch River WMA, has been lowered to pre-impoundment elevation for the first time since its dam was rehabilitated in 1989. The Stone Mills Pool was developed in 1975 with the intent of managing it as a shallow marsh impoundment, to thereby create and maintain valuable wetlands wildlife habitat. Since that time, water level control strategies have achieved this goal, with water elevations mainly ranging within limits imposed by seasonal precipitation highs and lows, run-off volume and evaporation losses. It is believed, however, that long periods of flooding has precipitated a decline in this marsh’s productivity.

As a result, the quality of the impoundment as wildlife habitat post draw-down, is expected to be greatly enhanced. The pool remained in its drawn down condition through late summer. After boards were reinstalled in the control structure, fall rains brought the water level back to approximately 50% of its normal pool operating level prior to the beginning of the October waterfowl hunting season. Full operating pool level has now been achieved.

Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) - The Landowner Incentive Program is New York’s premier program for the protection of habitat on private lands and continues to grow in scope and accomplishments. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has withdrawn program funding for 2008, putting this important and unique initiative in danger.

–  Protection of Indiana Bat Wintering Sites:

The Department continues to work towards the protection of large and important privately owned wintering sites.

The next two sites likely to be protected are located near Watertown, Jefferson County, and Mineville, Essex County. The Department is currently engaged in the lengthy Cooperative Agreement process necessary for doing work on private land.

–  Protection and Management of Grassland Habitat:

During fiscal year 2006-2007, we began to implement the LIP for Grasslands Protection and Management. From November 15, 2006 to January 5, 2007, landowners were able to apply for program funding. Over that time, we received over 200 applications from private landowners, showing great interest in the program. Some of these applications are for some of the best grassland habitat in the northeast: several hundred acres of contiguous and interrupted grasslands with many nesting at-risk bird species. Through a rigorous but fair ranking and selection process, we are assuring that the best applications are selected and habitat is protected and managed to benefit at-risk grassland bird species. We expect final selections to be completed in September to October 2007. Total funding for this program is $ 600,000.

-Management and Protection of open-canopy wetlands for bog turtles and other at-risk species.

Bog turtles are our smallest and rarest land turtle. This species needs mineral-rich, open- canopy fens and wet meadows to survive. This type of habitat has become exceedingly scarce in New York, with most of the remaining habitat on private land in heavily- developed Hudson Valley. To aid the continued survival of the bog turtle and co- occurring rare species such as the spotted turtle, the wood turtle, and rare plants, we will work with landowners to manage and protect suitable habitat for these species. Federal funding obligated for this program is $ 150,000.

USFWS Recovery Land Acquisition Grants (RLAG): -The LIP coordinator, working with a major NGO partner, has applied for a RLAG to purchase a key property for bog turtles in Region 3.

Ecology and Management of the Fish Communities in Oneida and Canadarago Lakes - Researchers at the Cornell Biological Field Station at Oneida Lake completed their annual assessment of the fish communities in Oneida and Canadarago Lakes. Funded by a Federal Aid to Sportfish Restoration grant, these monitoring projects are the longest running warmwater fishery assessments in New York State and continue to provide valuable insight on the complex dynamics associated with warmwater fish populations in large northern lakes.

Hempstead Lake Seine Survey - In the summer of 2002, Hempstead Lake completely dried up due to the extreme temperatures and low water levels. The lake was only dry for a month before heavy rains brought it back to nearly full pool. The Fisheries Unit restocked the lake in 2003 with black crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, banded killifish, golden shiner, chain pickerel, brown bullhead and in 2004 with largemouth bass. On August 17th, DEC seined Hempstead Lake to assess the reproductive success of this relatively new fish population. Our findings can be seen in the table below showing results from this year’s survey as well as one conducted in 2005. Noteworthy observations include an increase in young of the year black crappie, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass and common carp. The occurrence of carp is problematic, it was illegally introduced into the lake by an unknown source since the last survey. Prior to 2002, the fish community in Hempstead Lake was dominated by carp and a significant targeted fishery existed. The loss of the fish community appeared to provide an opportunity to restore the fish community with “more desirable” species than carp. Apparently, someone decided to “restore” the carp population on their own.

Historically Hempstead Lake supported very little submersed aquatic vegetation. In 2005, substantial amounts of submersed aquatic vegetation were observed in nearly every seine haul, raising hopes that healthy vegetation beds would develop. Unfortunately, this year very little aquatic vegetation was observed.

Table 1. Species found in Hempstead Lake

SPECIES

2005

2006

 

Golden Shiner

39

0

Brown Bullhead

1

13

Banded Killifish

82

18

Pumpkinseed

13

50

Bluegill

84

10

Largemouth Bass

18

48

Black Crappie

 

14

68

Yellow Perch

123

142

 

Common Carp

0

37

 

Chain Pickerel

7

6

 

Mummichog

0

6

 

Walleye Stocking - Region 1 Fisheries staff continued the annual Lake Ronkonkoma Walleye Stocking Program by releasing 10,000 walleye fingerlings. Ranging in length from 32 to 60 millimeters with an average length of 38 millimeters, these juvenile walleye were reared at the DEC’s South Otselic Fish Hatchery and transported to Long Island by Catskill Hatchery staff. The Walleye Stocking Program was initiated in 1994 and with the goal of controlling the over abundant white perch population in Lake Ronkonkoma. In addition the walleye stocking program has created an exciting new sportfishing opportunity for Long Island anglers.

Meadow Lake, Willow Lake, Queens, NY - Northern snakehead (Channa argus) surveys continued in these two large public freshwater lakes. Nine mature adults, all greater than ten inches, were recovered during this time period. Staff continue to investigate control methods which would not adversely impact the existing fish population or public access. The two lakes are within a major New York City park that hosts a variety of recreational activities.

Progress Towards Three New, North-country Walleye Fisheries - Fern Lake, located in south- central Clinton County, was surveyed to assess the success of a five-year experimental walleye stocking program which was initiated in 2002. The survey replicated a 2001 survey which was conducted prior to the experimental stocking. The survey documented survival of walleye in Fern Lake. Gill netting captured two individuals and anglers captured several on the day of the survey. Night electrofishing along the shoreline showed a decline in the largemouth bass population and a shift towards smallmouth bass. No new species were documented and no black crappies, a fish once common in Fern Lake, were captured. The data will be examined in more detail this coming winter and a decision will be made regarding continued stocking of walleye.

Kiwassa Lake in Franklin County has reportedly provided catches of walleye in recent years. In contrast, the once a popular fishery for cisco, has apparently declined. The lake was surveyed to assess the apparent changes and potential management actions. Six gillnet gangs were set in late July at depths ranging from 5 to 35 feet and water temperatures ranging from 49 to 76 Fahrenheit. A strong thermocline was present from 15-20 feet. Dissolved oxygen levels were low from 35 feet to the maximum depth of 46 feet. No salmonids or cisco were caught. However, three adult walleye ranging from 19-21 inches were netted. Nice-size smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch and brown bullhead were also caught along with numbers of rock bass and pumpkinseed. Kiwassa Lake has a good warmwater community. Walleye in this lake are migrants from stocking efforts made in Lower Saranac Lake. Although there is low dissolved oxygen in the deepest part of the lake, there is a large volume of water from 15-30 feet which would support trout. Age/growth analysis will be done this winter and final stocking decisions will be made. Kiwassa Lake looks like a good stocking candidate for walleye and/or rainbow trout.

A netting survey was conducted on Lake Pleasant near the village of Speculator in Hamilton County to assess its walleye population status. This 1,475 acre lake has had a self-sustaining walleye population since the species was introduced in the 1920s. However, since the emergence of an abundant rainbow smelt population circa 2000, angling success for walleye has decreased greatly. For instance, no walleye have been entered in the annual ice fishing derby for the last three years. Gillnet gangs with meshes ranging from 1.25 to 4.0 inches were set at 10 sites around the lake. Water chemistry sampling found a sharp thermocline at 10-15 feet and that dissolved oxygen levels were good throughout the water column (maximum depth found was 73 feet). Netting done at sites with habitat types ranging from large cobble to sand and along drop- offs near weed beds failed to capture any young walleye. Ultimately, 10 large adult walleye ranging from 20-26 inches in length were caught in 20-25 feet of water. These walleye were eating young-of-year smelt. Smallmouth bass were abundant; nearly 100 were caught. Many of the smallmouth bass were infected with parasitic tapeworms. Other species captured were brown trout, rainbow trout, chain pickerel, yellow perch, fallfish, brown bullhead, rock bass, pumpkinseed, and white sucker. While on the lake, staff investigated a fish kill occurring along the beaches on the eastern (windward) side of the lake. About 20 dead fish were found, but no fish showed sign of VHS. It appears that natural reproduction of walleye is now greatly diminished in the lake due to the presence of rainbow smelt which can prey on emerging walleye fry.

Grass Lake, St. Lawrence County - Grass Lake is located in northern New York on the border of Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties. A centrarchid survey was preformed address concerns raised by Lake Association members concerning the bass fishery and future management. This lake is composed of two distinct basins. The western arm is narrow and shallow (<10 ft), whereas the eastern basin is bowl shaped with waters >50 ft. in depth. In general a warmwater fish assemblage dominates this water body. Fish collected include: largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, bluegill, yellow perch, brown bullhead and black crappie.

Walleye and tiger muskellunge have been actively managed since 1955 and 1996 respectively. Walleye were stocked as fry from 1955-1996 (300000 to 1.6 million/year). Walleye fingerlings, both spring and fall were stocked from 1997-2001 as part of a Cornell University research program. Tiger musky have been stocked from 1996-present as fall fingerlings at a rate of 640/year. No walleye or tiger musky were collected or observed in this electrofishing effort.

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass inhabit Grass Lake. Largemouth bass were the predominant species encountered due to the extensive littoral zone available, and their vulnerability to electroshocking. Catch per unit effort (CUE) was 58 and 6.7 fish per hour for largemouth and smallmouth respectively. PSD for largemouth and smallmouth was 59.7 and 50.0 respectively. The RSD15 for largemouth was 22.8, indicating a high proportion of preferred size fish >15 inches available to anglers. It should be noted that the smallmouth sample size was extremely small (N=10) and any conclusions based on PSD alone may be erroneous.

Black bass in Grass Lake are currently managed by statewide regulations. Although public access is available, it is unlikely that angling exploitation has any significant effect on the population. Size classes of fish collected in this survey indicate adequate recruitment for self sustaining populations with little management needed at this time.

Table 1: Total catch by species. Includes 0.75 hours each of gamefish and all-fish collections.

Common Name

Number of Fish

Black Crappie

4

Bluegill

276

Bluntnose Minnow

1

Brown Bullhead

12

Golden Shiner

4

Largemouth Bass

62

Northern Pike

2

Pumpkinseed

63

Smallmouth Bass

10

Yellow Perch

57

Whitney Point Reservoir October 2006 Sampling - With the exception of 1996, annual night electrofishing surveys in October have been conducted since 1994 at four standard sites along the reservoirs shoreline. The purpose of these surveys is to assess abundance and growth of young-of- year (YOY) and yearling walleye in Whitney Point Reservoir.

In 2006, no YOY walleye were collected in the fall effort. This indicates that few juvenile walleye were produced and/or survived in 2006. The following are population estimates of YOY walleye for all the years surveyed to date:

1994- 8,087

1998- 2,825

2001- 31,141

2004- 37,307

1995- 10,437

1999- 55,275

2002- 1,110

2005- 41,667

1997- 106,704

2000- 842

2003- 70,958

2006- 0

Although the 2006 yearclass was a failure, the strong 2005 yearclass of walleye was very abundant during the survey. A total of 261 yearling walleye were captured which provided a population estimate of 17,549 yearling walleye using Serns’ (1983) methodology. This represents an overall survival of 42% from the previous year’s (2005) estimated number of YOY. Growth of yearling walleye was highly variable with sizes ranging from 7.7 to 13.8 inches. The 2005 yearclass showed a similarly wide range of sizes as YOY (4.3 to 10.4 inches). Compared to earlier years, the average size of young walleye in the reservoir has generally been smaller and range of sizes greater. Older walleye (age 2 and above) were also collected during the survey with the largest measuring just under 24 inches and nearly 4.5 pounds. Overall, walleye fishing at Whitney Point Reservoir should remain very good for a number of years.

Yearling (2005 yearclass) white crappie were very abundant during the survey. The large number of yearlings caught suggests that reproduction/survival of crappie in 2005 was excellent. If this is the case it is the first strong yearclass produced in the reservoir since 2000. The averaged length of the yearlings was approximately 6.5 inches. If they continue to grow at their current rate many individuals will reach the legal minimum length of 9 inches during the fall of 2007.

Otisco Lake Walleye Assessment - Fall night electrofishing was conducted along the Otisco Lake shoreline to determine the relative success of the 2006 stocking of 45,000 pond fingerling walleye. A total of 171 Young-of-Year (YOY) and 16 yearling (2005 stocking) walleye were captured along with several adults. The number of YOY walleye captured is the highest we have seen to date. All of the walleye captured were caught south of the causeway which is also where all stocked walleye have been planted since stocking resumed in 2002.

Relatively little survey work has been conducted south of the causeway in the past so direct comparisons between this catch rate and catch rates of YOY in the 1990s is not appropriate. Shoreline electrofishing north of the causeway has never been very productive even while the population was obviously building during the 1990s. Regardless, the high number of YOY walleye observed during this survey indicates survival of stocked fish was excellent in 2006. Using Serns’ 1982 formula for estimating numbers of YOY walleye provides a population estimate of 5,895 in the south end of the lake below the causeway. If accurate, this estimate represents a 13.1% survival rate. The 16 yearlings captured provided a population estimate of 456 yearlings south of the causeway using Serns’ 1983 formula. Both population estimates are probably low because we do not know how many have already moved thorugh the causeway into the main lake.

Black bass and tiger musky were also collected during the survey. A total of 77 largemouth bass and 131 smallmouth bass were captured. Most of the smallmouth bass were young fish less than 9 inches long while the majority (47) of the largemouth bass were mature fish between 12 and 22 inches in length. Five tiger musky between 21 and 39 inches were also captured during the survey. Based on our survey work and angler reports it appears that survival of stocked tiger musky has improved in recent years.

Otisco Lake Water Chestnut Control - In August 2006, Region 7 fisheries staff became aware of the first known occurrence of water chestnut in Otisco Lake. A large, dense bed covering at least a quarter acre was observed along the northeast shoreline in a protected cove. A complete survey of the entire lake shore was immediately conducted but no other plants were found. A decision was made attempt to eradicate this localized population by hand pulling the plants. Hand pulling of water chestnut is a proven control/eradication technique because plants do not overwinter but instead rely solely on seeds for propagation.

The intention of this effort is to try to eliminate this bed and minimize the chances of water chestnut colonizing other areas in the lake. With the cooperation and assistance of the adjacent landowner all of the weeds were pulled in just over a week. Because they were discovered so late in the season many mature seeds broke off the plants during the removal operation. Therefore we expect a significant bed of plants to develop in 2007. However, the fisheries unit anticipates that the plants will be eliminated over the course of several years simply by hand pulling the plants in future years before they have a chance to go seed. Continued lake-wide monitoring for satellite populations will be done for the foreseeable future since dormant seeds can remain viable for 10 years or longer.

Conesus Lake Angler Diaries - Fishing effort by angler diary keepers in 2006 was the lowest of the six years the Conesus Lake diary program has been in existence. The lowest number of days fished and angler trips were recorded in 2005-2006. It took diary-keeping anglers 1.78 hours to catch one legal game fish. This fair catch rate is a result of an abundant largemouth bass population. For anglers targeting largemouth bass, the catch rate was 0.79 legal bass/hour, which is better than the statewide average of 0.26 legal bass/hour. Largemouth bass dominated the catch with 81% of the total game species caught. The largemouth bass catch was composed of 98% legal sized (>12 inches) fish. Of the legal largemouth bass caught, all but one were released. Although the majority of the bass were less than 15 inches, anglers did catch some memorable fish with 26 largemouths greater than 18 inches caught. Smallmouth bass comprised 10% of the total game fish catch, all were legal size, and all were released. Nine (24%) of the smallmouths caught were larger than 18 inches. Northern pike made up a smaller portion of the total game fish catch than last year (6% down from 21%). Eighty four percent were legal size, with creeled fish averaging 27.3 inches. Diary keepers caught two northerns greater than 36 inches. Tiger muskies made up only 1.0% of the game fish catch, with 5 of them caught and released by diary anglers. The tigers caught averaged 24.5 inches in length. Walleye made up only 2% of the total game fish catch with fish averaging 22.7 inches in the creel. All walleye caught were legal size. These numbers are similar to previous years. Anglers specifically targeting walleye caught 0.11 walleye per hour- less than the best catch rate of 2003-2004, but similar to other years. This is about half of the New York State objective of 0.2 walleye per hour, or one legal walleye for every five hours of fishing. Only 72 panfish were caught by diary keepers. All were caught by anglers who were after any game fish, or not specifically targeting any species of fish. Most were caught by bass fishermen. Panfish species (i.e. perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and rock bass) were caught at good rates for anglers, even though they were not targeting them. Most of the panfish catch was represented by rock bass (86%), black crappie (8%) and bluegill sunfish(69%). No yellow perch were reported.

Hemlock Lake Surveyed for Young Walleyes - Hemlock Lake was stocked with walleye fingerlings by a local sportsman club under a stocking permit issued by the Department. Documented stocking occurred in various intermittent years in the mid to late 1990’s. Stocking was last reported in 1997. Numbers of walleye fingerlings stocked varied from year to year but rarely exceeded 2,000. Evaluation of the success of these stockings occurred via spring trap net surveys in 1998 and 2005. Twenty and 54 adult walleyes were caught in four net nights during those surveys, respectively. Evaluation of natural reproduction has not been attempted. Since fingerling stocking has not occurred within the last several years, any age 1+, 2+, or 3+ walleyes captured during late spring electrofishing would indicate natural reproduction. On the nights of June 7 and 15, 2006, Region 8 Fisheries staff electrofished along the shoreline of Hemlock Lake for a total of 3.5 hours. Both steeply-sloped, gravel, cobble, and bolder, and less steeply- sloped vegetated habitats were sampled. No young or adult walleyes were captured or observed. Other fish species observed, but not captured, include: large and small mouth bass, chain pickerel, rock bass, pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish, black crappie, yellow perch, alewife, golden shiner, white sucker, carp, brown bullhead, and four rainbow trout about 130mm total length. The modest fingerling walleye stocking to date appears to have resulted in an exploitable population. Despite the previous spring trap net and angler-reported catches of adult walleyes, the results of this survey indicates that the density of adult walleyes as a result of these fingerling stockings is likely to be low. The survey also appears to indicate that no natural reproduction has occurred.

Allen Lake - Allen Lake is a 58 acre artificial impoundment located in north central Allegany County. It has a maximum depth of 19 ft and an average depth of 8 ft. It was built on private property in 1958 on the headwaters of an unnamed tributary to the Genesee River. New York State purchased the lake in 1963 along with 700 upland acres and added it to state forest land now totaling 2,421 acres.

The Allen Lake drainage area is only 0.3 mi². The land use of the drainage area is state forest. The lake as well as the surrounding state forest is a high use area. There is an unimproved hand boat launch ramp, a floating handicap accessible T-dock for fishing, a 25 car parking lot and a seasonal use sanitary facility. The lake is restricted to the use of non-gasoline powered boats. Although boats and canoes are common on the lake, the majority of the fishing takes place from the 1,600 ft earthen dike. Allen Lake has a population of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), assorted panfish but mainly brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus), sunfish (Lepomis sp.) and yellow perch (Perca flavescens), and is stocked annually with 5,600 yearling brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and 350 two year old brown trout (Salmo trutta).

Largemouth bass were introduced in 1996 to provide a predator to control the abundant, stunted panfish population. The introduction was successful with year classes produced from 1996 through 2002. By October 2002, the daytime electrofishing catch for bass was 117/hr (age 1+ and older). An electrofishing survey in late May 2006, however, found a catch rate of 5 bass/hr. Although not documented by DEC, a major fish kill was reported by the public in early April 2003, presumably due to classic winter kill. The largemouth bass population has not yet recovered from this event.

Panfish collected during the 2006 survey showed average to slower than average growth rates. Besides Allen Lake being low in fertility, the loss of a majority of the largemouth bass population, which acted as a control on panfish numbers, has caused growth rates of panfish to decrease. When the largemouth population was increasing, panfish growth rates were improving. Since the winter kill die-off of many largemouth bass in 2003, panfish numbers have increased while growth has decreased. Zooplankton indices have been negatively impacted since the largemouth bass winter kill also. The average size and density of zooplankton has decreased since 2002.

Species diversity continues to change in Allen Lake. Yellow perch were not collected in a 1995 survey, a few were collected in a 2002 survey, and by 2006 they were the most commonly collected panfish. Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), which were common in 1995, now appear to be extirpated as none were collected in 2006. Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), which were very abundant in 2002, decreased dramatically in numbers in 2006 while brown bullhead increased greatly between 2002 and 2006.

Chautauqua Lake - Regional staff assisted Prendergast Hatchery with the tending of the trap nets to monitor the adult muskellunge population. Nets were fished for 14 net nights and produced a catch per net index of 29, which is slightly above the management goal of 28 fish per net. The total catch of 236 adult muskellunge, included 32 fish over 40 inches. Two pathologists for Cornell University spend a day collect tissue and blood samples to try and determine the cause for the red spot disease. They concluded that is was a common fish bacteria.

Reclaimed Ponds Surveyed - Several recently reclaimed ponds received biological surveys to assess the current status of their fisheries. Certain of the ponds have again become compromised by competitive fish species and brook trout populations will no doubt, suffer. This underscores the need for the reclamation program to regain momentum.

Bumps Pond, located in the Lake George Wild Forest was treated with rotenone in 1994. Central mudminnows were introduced shortly after the reclamation, but golden shiner and brown bullhead, two difficult to eliminate species, were successfully removed. When last surveyed in 2000, Bumps Pond continued to provide a quality brook trout fishery with central mudminnow being the only other fish species present. Surveyed again in May of 2006, Bumps Pond continues to support only brook trout and mudminnow. The brook trout population is dependent upon stocking.

Mountain Pond and Dry Lake are two inter-connected waters in the Saint Regis Canoe Area that were reclaimed in 1991. Brown bullhead was the only species that was not eliminated during the reclamation. Surveys in 2006 reaffirmed that Mountain Pond and Dry Lake contain only brown bullhead and brook trout. As is sometimes the case, the proportion of naturally spawned fish has increased over time. The catch of brook trout in Mountain Pond consisted of 8 wild trout and two stocked.

Nellie and Bessie Ponds were treated in 1990. Located in the St. Regis Canoe Area, these two pond quickly developed self-sustaining populations of Horn Lake Strain brook trout. Several species were successfully eliminated during the reclamation and only one unidentified minnow species was collected in a 1996 netting effort. Sadly, an August 2006 netting survey showed that creek chub, brown bullhead and golden shiner have all now become established in Nellie and Bessie Ponds. Extensive beaver activity on the outlet may have allowed competitive species to surmount the blasted rock barrier. The remote nature of the ponds precludes frequent attention to the barrier situation. All three competitive fish species were still at relatively low levels, suggesting that the introductions were recent. Brook trout were still abundant and naturally spawned.

Howard Pond, located in the Hammond Pond Wild Forest was treated with rotenone in 1992. Golden shiners survived the treatment but several other competitive species were eliminated. Redbelly dace were established intentionally following reclamation for study purposes. This 2006 survey documented the reestablishment of brown bullheads a competitive species that had been absent since the reclamation. The brown bullhead population was at a low level, but is expected to expand at the expense of the stocked brook trout population.

Whey Pond was reclaimed in 1989 and is one of the first waters reclaimed during the “modern era” of the brook trout restoration and enhancement program. The pond was treated at 0.75 parts per million of rotenone, rather than the 1.0 parts per million that we have since found to be essential to successfully eliminate tolerant species, particularly brown bullhead and golden shiner. Golden shiner and brown bullhead did survive the treatment, but highly competitive yellow perch were eliminated. Whey Pond is a good example of the tremendous competitive force exerted by yellow perch. Prior to the reclamation, trout were virtually absent from the pond. Following elimination of yellow perch the pond is producing quality trout fishing despite the continued presence of golden shiner and brown bullhead. Whey Pond is productive and relatively large with good conditions for salmonids. In most trout ponds, golden shiner and brown bullhead populations will severely impact brook trout populations and stymie reproduction. The recent survey captured nearly 60 brook and rainbow trout. Naturally spawned Windfall Strain brook trout dominated the catch.

Little Charley Pond in Hamilton County had been privately owned and is believed to support the Little Tupper strain of brook trout. The Nature Conservancy recently acquired the pond and is supportive of efforts to preserve the Little Tupper strain. Fisheries staff surveyed Little Charley Pond to determine its potential as a broodstock water and for a reclamation. Little Charley Pond has a good natural barrier on its outlet which should prevent largemouth bass that are now destroying the brook trout population in Little Tupper Lake from reaching Little Charley Pond. However, large wetlands on the inlet and outlet of Little Charley Pond make a reclamation difficult. Only five brook trout were netted in Little Charley Pond. Tissue samples were taken for genetic comparison to known Little Tupper strain brook trout. The netting also revealed a large population of nonnative rainbow smelt - some nearly nine inches long. Other species caught were pumpkinseed, white sucker and creek chub. Rainbow smelt are known predators on brook trout fry. The presence of this species in Little Charley Pond does not bode well for the native brook trout. Little Charley Pond is not open to the public for angling. The Nature Conservancy and DEC have not set a date for transferring this water to state ownership.

Holmes Lake and Bone Pond Limed - Holmes Lake, located in Fulton County, was limed on March 13-14, 2007. Holmes Lake is a productive brook trout lake which requires periodic liming to counteract the negative impacts associated with acid precipitation. The lake received 20 tons of pulverized agricultural limestone which was applied to the ice-covered pond via helicopter. The limestone will slowly mix with the lake water when the ice melts during the spring thaw. The liming of Holmes Lake is considered to be exceptionally valuable because it sustains an important fishery in an area of the state where the impacts from acid rain are severe. Few remote lakes in Fulton County support brook trout fisheries. Holmes Lake is in the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest and the liming of Holmes Lake was determined by the Adirondack Park Agency to be a non-jurisdictional action.

Bone Pond, located in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest and the Saint Regis Canoe Area, was also limed in early 2007. Bone Pond is a 10-acre pond that requires periodic treatment with pulverized agricultural limestone to maintain water quality suitable for trout. Bone Pond was last treated with lime in February of 1994, thus the prior treatment was successful in providing suitable water quality for trout for more than 12 years. This is considered an excellent retention time for this type of application. The Adirondack Park Agency was consulted prior to treatment, with the project being non-jurisdictional.

For the pond limings, Bureau of Fisheries personnel were assisted by New York State Forest Rangers, who provided communications. The New York State Police provided aviation support.

Staff from the Division of Operations provided technical assistance, including trucking the limestone and preparing an operation zone.

Five Ponds Wilderness Area Brook Trout Sampling - In northern Herkimer County lies a drainage of ponds that flow south into Stillwater Reservoir. The waters include Salmon Lake, Witch Hopple Pond, Beaverdam Pond and Negro Lake all of which have non-stocked wild brook trout populations. Besides the outlet from Salmon Lake none of these waters have suitable stream spawning access leading one to suspect sufficient groundwater for in-lake spawning. However, none of these waters have high silicon levels that would suggest abundant groundwater. It seems like there would need to be a good deal of groundwater to support the number of brook trout that we found in these waters that also hold large populations of yellow perch. The alternate hypothesis is that these fish are swimming up the outlets coming up from the stocked Stillwater reservoir. Tissue samples where taken from all trout to help us understand the source of these fish. Current micro-satellite genetic analysis will allow us to determine if these fish are the Temiscamie-hybrids stocked in Stillwater vs. wild fish that may have a more historic hatchery source.

Seneca Lake Deepwater Electrofishing Sea Lamprey Ammocoete Assessment - Larval sea lamprey populations were assessed on Dresden and Watkins Glen deltas and Catharine Creek canal during May and June 2006 using a deepwater shocking boat and equipment on loan from Region 5. Although this technique is best used to define areas of high densities, rough population estimates were determined for each delta and a 2.5 mile portion of the canal. Only one ammocoete was collected in the Watkins Glen delta indicating a very low density and therefore, this delta will not require treatment. However, the Dresden Delta population was estimated at about 10,000 ammocoetes with the highest density near the vicinity of the mouth of Keuka Outlet. Estimated ammocoete kill in Keuka Outlet was less than 500 in 2004, therefore it appears that most of the production occurs in the delta, which has not been treated since 1986. Two areas in Catharine Creek canal, immediately downstream of L’ Hommideau Creek and at the mouth of Glen Creek also had high densities of ammocoetes estimated at about 2,500. Based on this information, along with monitoring of wounding rates of trout and salmon during trout derbies and lake and tributary surveys, bayluscide treatments will be scheduled for 2008 provided appropriate permits can be attained. Additionally, data will be used in the preparation of federal documents to amend the Sportfish Restoration Grant and allow the expenditure of federal monies for sea lamprey control activities in Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.

Canandaigua Lake Lake Trout Survey - Canandaigua Lake was surveyed this past summer using gill nets placed in various locations throughout the lake. A total of six assessments have been conducted since 1978, the most recent being 2002. Although all data has not been analyzed, preliminary observations can be made. A total of 141 lake trout were collected with the largest being approximately ten pounds. Catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) was 6.1 lake trout/net night, the lowest of all the assessments, but only slightly lower than in 2002. Fish appeared to be in fair to good condition. Approximately fifty percent of all stomachs analyzed were empty. Of those that contained food items, smaller lake trout were consuming mysis, or freshwater shrimp, and larger fish were feeding on alewives and smelt.

Beginning with the spring yearling stocking in 2003, all lake trout stocked into Canandaigua Lake were fin-clipped to estimate natural recruitment to the fishery. Additionally no lake trout from the 2005 year class were stocked into Canandaigua Lake. Preliminary observations based on fin-clip returns indicate that natural recruitment remains low. In addition, based on size, there did not appear to be any lake trout from the 2005 year class, the year in which stocking did not occur, further indicating low natural recruitment. More definitive estimates of natural recruitment rates will be determined once all fish scales have been aged.

Evidence of a slight rebound in the rainbow smelt population was documented as CPUE increased to 2 smelt/net night, the highest level since 1985. In addition to the increased catch, anglers reported a small spring run of smelt in Naples Creek this year, the first in several years. Alewife catch remained low. Base on these preliminary findings, it appears that current stocking rates and regulations should be maintained.

Bronx River, Bronx, NY - Approximately 400 alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) were released to the Bronx River through the efforts of the NYC Parks Department, Lehman College (CUNY), Wildlife Conservation Society and the Connecticut Fisheries Department. This was the second release to the Bronx River of this multi-year effort to re-establish alewife. The event was observed by 50+ visitors and the local news media. Students from Lehman College will monitor the river to observe survival of the released fish. Regional staff are assisting in this on-going effort. In addition, local property owners, are undertaking activities adjacent to the river designed to improve riparian habitat.

Buffalo Harbor and Upper Niagara River Muskellunge - Muskellunge fishing quality in both the Buffalo Harbor and the Upper Niagara River has declined significantly in recent years. Angler cooperator catch rates in the Buffalo Harbor declined approximately 80% from a very robust 0.10 muskellunge per hour in the mid 1990s to 0.02 muskellunge per hour in the mid 2000s. The decline in the Buffalo Harbor was also associated with diminished opportunities to catch trophy 50+ inch muskellunge, which was a popular characteristic of the fishery. Similarly, angler cooperator catch rates declined approximately 50% during the same period in the Upper Niagara River. The reasons for the decline are not known, but are believed to be due to environmental changes in Lake Erie, primarily related to declines in aquatic productivity.

In Fall 2006, Region 9 Fish Unit conducted electrofishing surveys of young-of-year (YOY) muskellunge nursery habitats to compare abundance with that observed during the early 1990’s. In the Buffalo Harbor, there was no clear trend in young muskellunge abundance; however, young muskellunge have never been abundant in shallow, weedy habitats in the Buffalo Harbor during our surveys. In the Upper Niagara River there was a 78% reduction in YOY muskellunge at sites sampled in 1992 and 2006. There was a 61% reduction at sites from 1993 to 2006. This information suggests that production of young muskellunge may be substantially reduced, especially in the Upper Niagara River.

Other interesting results of the muskellunge survey were that YOY largemouth bass abundance was very high, adult rudd abundance increased and overall abundance of young fish in nursery areas was reduced. At two sites where muskellunge were abundant in the early 1990’s, habitat conditions had changed making them less favorable for young muskellunge. The YOY results were snapshot results , not based on annual updates, therefore the surveys will be continued in Fall 2007.

Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN) found in Connetquot River State Park Hatchery - As part of the Department’s response to Viral Hemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS), Bureau of Fisheries Staff collected fish from the Connetquot River State Park Hatchery in December 2006. The fish were tested for VHS and a suite of other fish diseases including IPN. In the sample from the Connetquot River State Park Hatchery, 38% of the brown trout, 38% of the brook trout, and 20% of the rainbow trout tested were positive for IPN. These tests were confirmed by an independent laboratory. This is a very high level of infection. IPN is a serious disease that primarily effects trout and salmon in hatchery, pen rearing or other high density environments. It can cause high mortality within affected populations. There is no human health risk for IPN. The Emergency Regulation, Part 188 of Title 6 of NYCRR regarding fish health inspections in place at the time of sampling stated that fish testing positive for IPN could not be stocked into the waters of the State of New York. Because of presence of IPN in the fish in the Connetquot River State Park Hatchery, the stocking permit for the hatchery was revoked.

The Connetquot River State Park Hatchery is a run of the river hatchery, meaning that the river flows directly through the hatchery. This makes disinfection of the hatchery very difficult because infected fish in the river can reinfect hatchery stock. Most of the current brood stock for the hatchery resides in the river and will no longer be able to be used for hatchery production.

Cayuga Inlet Fishway Monitoring - Operation of the Cayuga Inlet fishway continued in spring 2007. A total of 141 rainbow trout, 2,983 white suckers and 1,665 adult sea lampreys were captured at the fishway. All the white suckers were passed upstream and all the adult lampreys were killed to prevent them from reaching their spawning grounds. Thirty-four male rainbows and 41 female rainbows were held at the fishway for the production of Finger Lakes wild strain (97,000 eggs) and “hybrid” strain (36,000 eggs) rainbows. After spawning, 36 of the spawned rainbows were sacrificed for fish health inspection. The other spawned rainbows were passed upstream. No diseases were found in the rainbows inspected. All trout captured at the fishway were examined for the presence of wounds from sea lamprey attacks. No stage I-III lamprey wounds (very recent to fairly recent) were found on the four rainbow trout in our index group (500-549 mm length) and only five stage I-III lamprey wounds were found on all 141 rainbows captured. The fishway was also operated during fall 2006 to pass early run rainbows and to collect landlocked salmon for studies on thiamine deficiency at the USGS Tunison Fish Laboratory.

Ninemile Creek Habitat Improvement Project - Work was completed on a habitat improvement project which began in 2005 and utilized over $40,000 of Environmental Damages money that was derived from a major pollution violation which had occurred in Ninemile Creek. The project was a cooperative effort that utilized staff and/or equipment from the NYS Department of Transportation, Village of Marcellus Public Works, Town of Marcellus Public Works, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Region 7 Fisheries staff. Overall, nearly 3,400 feet of stream was renovated to address issues which included bank erosion, bridge scour, exposed water lines, and poor fish habitat. “Natural Stream Design” techniques were utilized throughout the work area and nearly $20,000 in extra heavy stone was used to make numerous cross vanes, j- hooks, rock vanes, and boulder clusters. Most of the rock work was completed in August 2005 but nearly $8,000 worth of willows were planted under contract with SUNY ESF in the spring 2006.

Catharine Creek Rainbow Trout Production Survey - A total of 10 sites were sampled during the week of August 21 to evaluate rainbow trout production in Catharine Creek. The creek was last surveyed in 1997 following extensive flooding and stream clearing work. Since that time stream habitat restoration including bank stabilization, pool diggers, and channel shaping has occurred. Preliminary results suggest a significant decrease in the production of rainbow trout young-of-year in 2006 compared to other years. Standing crop of young-of-year and age 1+ rainbow trout averaged 735/ac and 60/ac. For comparison, the most recent survey in 1997 yielded a standing crop of young-of-year and age 1+ trout of 3,503/ac and 181/ac. Reasons for the decrease are unclear at this time and may warrant further investigation. However, 1997 was one of highest standing crops reported in all of the surveys during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Potentially, the warm winter that occurred in 2006 and the lack of any significant rainfall during the peak spawning period may have resulted in a smaller than normal spring run of adults and therefore limited production of young-of-year trout.

Wiscoy Creek - Wiscoy Creek in Wyoming and Allegany Counties was surveyed in August, 2006 at nine sites. A tenth site was scheduled to be surveyed, however high flows did not allow sampling at that site. Wiscoy Creek is considered to be Region 9’s premier wild brown trout fishery and the stream has been sampled extensively since the 1940s. The stream has not been stocked with trout since the early 1970s. Sampling was last done in 2001, when electrofishing and an angler diary program occurred. Six of the nine sites done this year were in the same locations as those sampled in 2001.

In this year’s sampling, a total of 1,293 yearling and older wild brown trout were captured, yielding an estimated population of 1,406 yearling and older trout. First run capture efficiencies ranged from 54% to 90% and were directly related to stream flow and depth of sampling site. The estimated density of yearling and older wild brown trout averaged 1632 fish/mi and ranged from 1254 fish/mi to 2602 fish/mi. The biomass of yearling and older wild brown trout averaged 128 lbs/ac and ranged from 73 lbs/ac to 266 lbs/ac depending on location. Legal size brown trout (>10 in) comprised 27% of the late summer population, with a density of about 446 trout/mi in 2006. Brown trout >12 in made up 6% of the population while trout >14 in represented 1% of the population in 2006. Late summer yearling wild brown trout averaged 6.8 in, while two year old wild brown trout averaged 9.8 in. These are considered good growth rates for brown trout in New York State. The North Branch and Trout Brook also both supported substantial wild brown trout populations. Fifty six angler diarists reported catching 1,381 brown trout, yielding an average catch rate of 1.34 fish/hr, which is very consistent with those found in 2001 and 1997. Water temperatures were found to get well into the mid-upper 70’s on many occasions at most sites in June, July and August 2006, without apparently having substantial negative impacts on the wild brown trout population.

Wiscoy Creek continues to provide anglers with the opportunity to fish over one of the most dense populations of wild brown trout in New York State. The stream is not known for producing large trout due to the high number of fish overall, however a 19 inch fish was captured in this years survey. Anglers have abundant access to this 22 mile long stream with 12.5 miles of public fishing easements, 11 angler footpaths and three angler parking areas. Other areas are open by landowner permission.

Spring Brook - On July 17th, 2006, a crew from the Region 9 Fisheries office sampled the brook trout population in Spring Brook, located in the Village of Springville, Erie County. This stream had not been sampled since 1992. The stream is unique in Region 9. Wild brook trout are the only salmonid occupying the stream and it is our largest, high fertility stream brook trout are found exclusively in. The stream averages 14 feet in width, with a flow at the time of sampling of 8-10 cfs. In the 1992 survey, there were an estimated 26 pounds/acre of yearling and older wild brook trout (257/mile) in the stream. In this year’s survey, we found an estimated 18 pounds/acre of yearling and older wild brook trout (199/mile). The largest brook trout collected was 10.6 inches, however seven of the 31 adult brook trout captured were greater than nine inches. Because of its fertility, this stream has the potential to produce more larger brook trout than most others where they are found in the region. This stream should be able to produce many more brook trout than our surveys have found and there are several limiting factors that need to be addressed. The first limiting factor is water temperature. In the afternoon of the survey, with air temperatures in the low 90’s, we recorded water temperatures at our lower and upper sampling sites of 72 degrees and 74 degrees. We recorded temperatures at two bridges above our upper sampling site and found temperatures of 74 degrees at those sites also. High water temperatures are likely due to loss of shade where the stream runs through a golf course, a dairy farm and also due to several large beaver ponds on the upper stream. The second limiting factor is siltation, likely due to beaver activity and poor land use practices throughout the watershed.

The wild brook trout population in Spring Brook is a unique resource in Erie County and Region 9 that needs further monitoring, rehabilitation and protection.

Lake Trout Abundant, Salmon Scarce in Lake George - Fisheries staff set trap nets at Hague, Indian Brook, and Shelving Rock Brook to evaluate landlocked salmon in Lake George. Among the hundreds of lake trout and dozens of largemouth bass caught, there were ten salmon. Nine of the salmon were mature and healthy fish. Five of the ten were advanced yearlings stocked in the fall rather than in the spring. The lake trout continue to be numerous and healthy, and some very nice largemouth and smallmouth bass were caught as well.

Sagamore Lake Surveyed - Sagamore Lake, 166 acres, is in the Town of Long Lake in Hamilton County. Most of Sagamore Lake borders on the Blue Ridge Wilderness and the recently-approved Unit Management Plan for that area called for updating the status of the fish community. Sagamore Lake was last surveyed in 1986. It has naturally sustained brook trout and lake trout populations. The 2006 survey included five gillnets set for salmonids and suckers, plus four smaller minnow nets and minnow traps. Lake trout, white sucker and longnose sucker were abundant in the gillnets. However, the lake trout were small - ranging from 11-17 inches. The brook trout population seems reduced from historical levels. Moderate numbers of yellow perch, brown bullhead and pumpkinseed were caught along with a single smallmouth bass and single lake whitefish. All of the species caught in 2006 have been noted in past surveys - no new fish species have accrued to the lake. Sagamore Lake has a maximum depth of 70 feet and had excellent dissolved oxygen levels at all depths. Staff noted beaver activity and deadfalls may be blocking access for brook trout to the lake’s main tributary. Scale aging will be done this winter to assess growth rates for the salmonids. Consideration will be given to reducing the size limit for lake trout and beginning a stocking program for brook trout. Sagamore Lake has roadside access, but motor use is banned. It is a beautiful lake with several nice sandy beaches.

Fawn Lake Lake Trout Surveyed- Fawn Lake (290 acres) in the Town of Lake Pleasant, Hamilton County, has a self-sustaining lake trout population that has been maintained by restrictive special regulations. Fawn Lake is surrounded by state land and can be accessed only by foot. However, it is a popular fishery, especially late in the ice fishing season. Reports of large numbers of anglers this winter and diminished catch rates for lake trout prompted a netting effort. Three juvenile gill gangs were set in the preferred temperature range of lake trout. A good catch rate of 10 lake trout per gang was found (30 trout total). However, only three lake trout were above the 18 inch minimum size limit for Fawn Lake. Additional analyses will determine whether over harvest is accountable for the low number of legal lake trout or if the slow growth rates observed in the past are still occurring. If over harvest is occurring, additional restrictive regulations may be proposed to maintain this native lake trout population.

White Perch Illegally Introduced in Great Sacandaga Lake - The presence of white perch in Great Sacandaga Lake was confirmed when a Department employee, Tim Preddice, identified a white perch caught by his son while fishing in the vicinity of Scout Island. White perch are originally an east coast estuarine species that can adapt to freshwater. White perch have invaded Lake Champlain, the Great Lakes, and many mid-western waters. It is not a native fish species in Great Sacandaga Lake. Their potential impact on the lake’s resident fish population is not known. Their establishment into Great Sacandaga Lake may also open up new sections of the Hudson River (and tributaries) above Corinth for this invasive species. It is not known how white perch were introduced into Great Sacandaga Lake; however, it is possible they were either intentionally stocked or accidentally introduced with discarded baitfish.

Sylvia Lake, St. Lawrence County - Sylvia Lake is a deep (~140 ft) oligotrophic lake in central St. Lawrence County. The lake is a two-story fishery with the primary sport fishery consisting of rainbow and lake trout. The last extensive survey of this water was in 1993.

Littoral zone habitat is lacking in Sylvia Lake due to its morphometry. Inlet and outlet areas are primarily soft bottomed with little submerged vegetation in low densities.

Potamotgeton crispus (curly leaf pondweed), a recent invader to the lake, was encountered in a few dense mats. Centrarchids, in particular rock bass, were the predominate fish captured in this effort. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass were collected with smallmouth dominating between these species. Habitat availability would tend to favor smallmouth as deep rock/rubble areas are located throughout the lake.

Both rainbow and lake trout were encountered in this survey. Rainbow trout are stocked annually (~3000 fish @ 9”) whereas lake trout are self propagating. All rainbows captured appeared to be recently stocked as most fish were from 8-10 inches in length. All lake trout encountered were relatively small with the longest fish at 22 inches. Of special interest with regards to forage is the noticeable lack of cyprinids (minnows) in the lake. There are no historical records of minnows of any species inhabiting this water. Banded killifish were reported from 1993 but none were encountered during seining efforts. Stomach analysis of trout yielded both small centrarchids and terrestrial insects (surface feeding). Since a strong thermocline had set up in the lake at the time of survey, there may be an implication that forage is limiting for salmonids, therefore forcing them out of there preferred thermal range in search of food. Rainbow smelt were stocked prior to 1930 and were last reported in 1955. One lake trout stomach had a partially digested fish which may have been a smelt. It is possible that smelt still exist in the lake at levels that are not detectable with our current sampling methodology. Slimy sculpin were reported in 1993, however none were encountered during this effort. Freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii) were reported in 2004. This single species of freshwater jellyfish has a global distribution. While not uncommon in New York, there documentation is sporadic and their life history is not well known.

Thousand Islands - Regional fisheries staff completed assessment gill netting in the St. Lawrence River between Clayton and Morristown. The warmwater fish stock assessment program on the Thousand Islands section of the St. Lawrence River provides standardized indices of abundance for major gamefish and panfish stocks, information on year class strength, and age and growth relationships of these stocks. Information obtained is used to evaluate and, if necessary, modify existing fishing regulations. It also provides baseline information for evaluation of environmental disturbances. Results of 2006 sampling with the greatest management significance include : 1) northern pike abundance continues to decline, recruitment remains relatively poor (this is probably a habitat effect) and 2) smallmouth bass abundance has been depressed but is improving (this was likely a recruitment issue that may have resulted from cold spring water temperatures and cormorant predation).

Northern Pike Cooperative Rearing Project, St. Lawrence Co. - The Chippewa Bay Fish & Game Club has been involved in a cooperative northern pike rearing project with NYS DEC Region 6 since 2001. The 5-year experimental program was intended to produce northern pike fry, from local broodstock, for stocking into waters within Chippewa Bay. NYS DEC captured broodstock and fertilized eggs while the sportsman group provided a rearing facility. This is the final year of the project.

A total of 6 quarts of eggs (~475,000) were collected over the April sampling period. Hatching success was poor with total production of swim-up fry between 20,300-21,200. Fry were stocked at both Oak and Rabbit Island at a rate of 9,500 and 11,000 respectively. Seineing was done at the end of July in both stocked embayments, and control sites, to evaluate stocking success. The seining technique used has been developed over approximately 20 years of esocid work on the St. Lawrence River.

No YOY (young of year) northern pike were collected in either stocked or control embayments in 2006. It has been difficult to detect any increase in number of YOY pike in stocked sites throughout this project. In several cases it may be a result of stocking fry too early due to problems in the hatchery system (fungus, temperature, etc.). Capture of YOY pike tended to reflect background year class development, regardless of fry stocking.

While this seining effort focused on northern pike, densities of other esocids are also noted for community comparison. Muskellunge YOY have been previously collected in the area but were lacking in 2006. Adult muskellunge are a low density top predator in the St. Lawrence River. Disease outbreaks in 2005-06 from VHSv removed a significant number of adult fish and will likely have an impact on future recruitment of this species.

Grass pickerel have become very common in the Thousand Islands Region and are typically the highest density esocid in our seining efforts. Information from the early to mid 1980s (SUNY ESF) rarely reported this species. Possible changes in the river related to long term habitat and environmental changes may have created conditions favoring this species over other esocids. In 2006 there seemed to be a noticeable decline in the total number of grass pickerel, YOY to adult, as compared to the previous four years of seining.

Lake Ontario Tributary Creel Survey - A creel survey was conducted on all of the major tributaries to Lake Ontario in New York from September through April in 2005-06 and 2006-07. This is the first comprehensive survey of the New York tributaries since the 1984 Great Lakes Angler Survey. Twenty-nine tributaries from Fourmile Creek in Niagara County to the Black River in Jefferson County were surveyed to estimate angler effort, catch and harvest of lake-run trout and salmon species.

Total estimated effort for all the tributaries combined for years 2005-06 and 2006-07 was 1,025,994 and 933,029 angler-hours, respectively. This translated to 226,934 (05-06) and 258,306 (06-07) angler trips. The Salmon River in Oswego County accounted for 605,772 (59% of total) and 595,267 (64% of total) of the angler-hours in 05-06 and 06-07, respectively. The number of angler trips on the Salmon River was 99,850 (44% of total) in the first year and 87,539 (34% of total) in the second. Combined estimates from the four highest use tributaries: Salmon River, Oak Orchard and Eighteenmile creeks, and the Oswego River, accounted for 81% of the angler-hours in the first year and 82% in the second. The high use tributaries accounted for 69% of the 05-06 anglers trips and 65% in 06-07. These “high use” tributaries generally drew anglers from greater geographic distances. Non-New York State residents accounted for 60% of the anglers on the Salmon River in both years and from 33% to 49% of the anglers on the other “high use” tributaries. Tributaries with lower levels of use generally had lower levels of non- resident anglers.

Chinook salmon were the most abundant species in the catch and harvest for both years. Coho were far more abundant and more widely distributed in the 06-07. Conversely, steelhead and brown trout were markedly less abundant in 06-07, particularly in Eighteenmile Creek (Niagara County) for both species and for brown trout in the Oswego River.

Sodus Bay Fish Stock Assessment - Standard gang gill netting was conducted on Sodus Bay from September 25-29, 2006. The purpose of the netting is to periodically assess fish stocks, particularly walleye. A previous survey was conducted in 1990. In 2006, 30 walleyes were caught in 8 nets, for a catch rate of 3.75 walleyes per net. The recent fingerling walleye stockings appear to have been successful in maintaining the walleye population. Other preliminary results include: 17 species (5 gamefish, 6 panfish, and 6 other species) of fish were caught. Panfish species yellow perch, white perch, bluegill sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, rock bass, and brown bullhead made up the majority of the catch. Thirteen northern pike were caught.

Autumn Trawl Survey - This trawling program is conducted during October at randomly selected stations between the 50- and 100-ft depth contours in New York’s portion of Lake Erie. Standard tow duration is 10 minutes. In 2006, the most abundant species encountered in this program was emerald shiner. Other species that made large contributions to the trawl collections included round goby, rainbow smelt and trout-perch. The 2006 mean density estimates for age-0, age-1, and adult (age-2 and older) yellow perch were all higher than the previous 14-year mean density estimates for these life stages of yellow perch. The 2006 index for age-1 yellow perch was particularly notable as the highest measured in this trawl series. Juvenile yellow perch growth rates have remained stable over the past several years.

This October trawling program continues to portray an improved status of the yellow perch population relative to a long period of low abundance through the 1990’s. These results also closely mirror findings from neighboring jurisdictions and support the view that yellow perch abundance has generally rebounded and perhaps stabilized from the 1990’s low ebb. An especially high age-1 yellow perch index in 2006 suggests favorable abundance of adult yellow perch (age-2+) will continue for the near future.

Walleye Tagging Study - During the 17 years New York has participated in this interagency tagging study, 20,079 walleye have been tagged in New York’s portion of Lake Erie. During April and May 2006, 1,498 walleye were collected in New York waters and affixed with jaw tags as a continuation of this effort to examine walleye distribution and exploitation rates. The two tagging sites sampled in 2006 were Van Buren Bay and Cattaraugus Creek. Walleye were collected by boat shocker and trap nets. Through most of the years of this study trap nets contributed a larger portion of the annual sample for this tagging effort.

Since the inception of this tagging study, 1,660 tag recoveries originating from the New York tagging effort have been reported by anglers and the Ontario commercial fishery. Eighty- seven (87) of these recaptures occurred during 2006.

This series of walleye tag recovery data has been annually examined using a model that estimates mean survival and recovery rates for the tagged population (Brownie et al. 1978).

From 1992 to 2005, several potential arithmetic mean survival rates for tagged walleye were derived from the Brownie et al. (1978) model. Differing survival estimates were obtained by employing various assumptions concerning survival and recovery patterns, and all point estimates for the annual survival rate exceeded 70 percent. Over the duration of this assessment, maximum likelihood tag recovery rates ranged between 1.4 and 5.1 percent. We have expanded these observed recovery rates to exploitation rates using a multiplier of 2.82 for non-reporting of recovered tags. This current, non-reporting expansion factor was developed from a 2000 reward tag study in the New York waters of Lake Erie and is adjusted annually with each year’s new tag recoveries. As such, the mean exploitation rate for tagged walleye from 1992 to 2006 was estimated as 7.74 percent.

Beginning in 2005, the on-going walleye jaw tagging study was expanded to incorporate a PIT (Passive Integrative Responder) tagging component. The walleye PIT tagging study is a 3- year inter-agency research initiative to independently develop estimates of exploitation and survival without a reliance on voluntary tag returns from fisheries. A secondary objective of this PIT tag initiative is to evaluate tag loss. In the absence of voluntary returns by fishers, the PIT tagging study requires a supplemental effort by agency personnel to examine large numbers of walleye encountered at fish cleaning stations and creel survey locations. During 2006, New York PIT-tagged 1,492 walleye, examined 1,017 angler-caught walleye for the presence of PIT tags, and detected 4 tags. A summary of the inter-agency PIT tag study will be prepared as a separate report upon the conclusion of this investigation. New York will participate in PIT-tagging at least one more year (2007), but the examination of walleye for PIT tag recoveries is expected to extend many years.

Lake Ontario Fishing Boat Census - The Lake Ontario fishing boat census provides trend through time data on angling effort and success, and performance of stocked salmonids. While the census targets the open water salmonid fishery, valuable data on other fish species are also collected. The 2006 angling season marked the 22nd consecutive year (1985-2006) that the census was conducted. Methodology has changed little over the history the census, with sampling covering boat access channels along 190 miles of New York’s Lake Ontario shoreline for the period April 1 to September 30 each year.

Trout and salmon fishing quality in 2006, as measured by catch rate (number of fish caught per fishing boat trip) among boats fishing for trout and salmon (2.53 fish per boat trip) was excellent. The 2006 estimate was 12.6% lower than in 2005, and 1.2% lower than the previous 5-year (2001-05) average. The April-September 2006 chinook salmon catch rate (1.21 fish per boat trip) declined from the 2005 record high (1.74 fish per boat trip), however was still the fourth highest on record. Catch rates were above their respective previous 5-year averages for coho salmon (+106.0%) and rainbow trout (+32.2%). Catch rates for brown trout, lake trout and Atlantic salmon were below their respective previous 5-year averages.

Despite excellent fishing quality in 2006, particularly for chinook salmon, total fishing effort declined to the lowest level (66,906 fishing boat trips) in the 22-year census history and was 23.4% below the 2001-2005 average. Trout and salmon fishing effort in 2006 was the second lowest estimate among the years censused and 12.5% below the previous 5-year average. Anglers targeting trout and salmon accounted for 49,223 fishing boat trips, or 73.6% of the April -  September 2006 total. Fishing boat trips targeting smallmouth bass during the open season declined to 13,586 (+/- 22.9%) in 2006, 48.2% below the 2001-2005 average and the second lowest estimate among years censused.

Total trout and salmon harvest in April-September 2006 was estimated at 78,166 fish. Chinook salmon was the most commonly harvested salmonid in 2006 (39,439 fish), comprising 50.5% of the total. The 2006 chinook harvest rate was the third highest observed among the 22 years censused and was a 15.9% increase compared to the previous 5-year average, and a 51.9% increase compared to the longer term (1985-2005) average harvest rate. Brown trout harvest in 2006 was estimated at 15,642, comprising 20.0% of the total harvest. This estimate was a record low harvest estimate among all years censused and represented a 24.8% decrease compared to the previous 5-year average. Rainbow trout was the third most commonly harvested species, with an estimate of 10,750 fish. This represents a 42.3% increase over 2005, and a 7.2% increase compared to the previous 5-year average. Coho salmon harvest in 2006 was estimated at 9,370 fish, representing 12.0% of the total salmonine harvest in 2006 and a 106.0% increase compared to the 2001-2005 average. Lake trout harvest in 2006 declined to a fourth consecutive record low 2,964 fish. In 2006, no Atlantic salmon were observed among the 2,239 fishing boat interviews. The declines in harvest rates for brown trout and lake trout may be attributable, in part, to the excellent chinook salmon catch rates over the last two years and the excellent coho fishing in 2006.

Smallmouth bass was the most commonly harvested species in the census from 1995- 2003, however, chinook salmon harvest increased dramatically from 2004 through 2006 while smallmouth bass harvest declined, indicating a possible shift in angler preference. The 2006 smallmouth bass harvest (17,759 +/-61.3%) was the lowest seasonal harvest among the years censused and a 62.8% decrease relative to the previous 5-year average.

Lake Ontario Prey Fish Abundance - The U.S. Geological Survey and the NYSDEC have cooperatively assessed Lake Ontario prey fishes annually since 1978 using bottom trawls during spring, summer, and fall along twelve transects distributed across the New York shoreline of the lake. Alewife and rainbow smelt are the dominant prey species for Lake Ontario salmonids. NYSDEC also conducts a summer hydroacoustic survey of prey fish populations cooperatively with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. In 2006, the abundance index for adult alewife (age-2 and older) was the lowest on record, 71% lower than in 2005 and 94% lower than the peak in the 1980s. The numerical abundance index for age-1 alewife in 2006, however, was 5- fold higher than that of spring 2005, approximately double the long-term mean. In 2007, we expect strong recruitment of age-2 fish from the large 2005 year class to increase the adult alewife abundance index to 2002-2004 levels.

The exotic round goby continued its expansion along New York waters of Lake Ontario. The numerical abundance index for round goby in 2006 was similar to that in 2005, but the weight index continued to increase, perhaps indicating a leveling-off of the population with a higher number of older, larger fish. Lake Ontario preyfish trawling assessments are incorporating several methods to improve accuracy, including hydroacoustic evaluation of areas between trawl transects, and informed allocation of sampling effort. Results showed no spatial differences in fish abundance estimated by acoustic sampling compared to bottom trawling, and acoustic sampling did not identify any potentially large sources of error in allocation of trawling effort, i.e., trawling effort was allocated to depths at which fish were mostly present.

The 2006 hydroacoustic survey consisted of five cross-lake transects and an Eastern Basin transect. The hydroacoustic estimate of age-1 and older alewife abundance (1.03 billion fish) rebounded from the record-low level observed in 2005, probably as a result of the strong 2005 alewife year class. The 2006 acoustic estimate for alewife abundance was equal to the number observed in 2000, when the strong 1998 and 1999 year classes began recruiting to the yearling and older alewife population. The 2006 hydroacoustic estimate of smelt was 126 million fish. The smelt population declined by 42% from 2005, and was the 3rd lowest on record from the acoustic survey. Abundance and biomass were 38% and 49%, respectively, below the long term averages. In October 2006, we continued use of the tickler chain modification to resume the slimy sculpin index survey. Catches of slimy sculpins in 2006 were lower than in 2005 for all depths. During 2006 sampling, we also caught 16 deepwater sculpin, Myoxocephalus thompsonii [52 - 108 mm (2.0 - 4.3 in)], continuing the 2005 trend of increased catches of this species, once thought to be extirpated from Lake Ontario.

Eastern Basin Lake Whitefish Spawning Study - The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Lake Ontario Unit staff are cooperating in an on-going assessment of the reproductive habits of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and lake herring (Coregonus artedii) in the U.S. waters of the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario. In 2006, a study investigating the disease status and genetic makeup of spawning lake herring and whitefish was conducted. Lake Ontario Unit staff collected 19 lake whitefish and 37 lake herring from Chaumont Bay in November 2006. All fish were determined to be disease-free by NYSDEC Rome Laboratory, and genetic analyses were conducted by USGS Wellsboro for comparison to Coregonines from other Great Lakes. Genetic analyses revealed that lake herring from Lake Erie are most likely a distinct remnant stock most closely related to Lake Huron stocks. Fish from Lake Ontario are more genetically divergent and have higher genetic diversity than Coregonines collected from other lakes. DEC will use this and other information in developing a deep-water Coregonine restoration plan for Lake Ontario in 2007.

Walleye Rearing and Stocking - Eastern Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River - Lake Ontario Unit and Region 6 Fisheries staff, in collaboration with the Village of Cape Vincent and the Lake Ontario Fisheries Coalition, reared and stocked over 122,000 summer fingerling walleye in 2006. Walleye brood stock were collected from Mud Bay in Eastern Lake Ontario. Walleye were stocked at three Lake Ontario and four St. Lawrence River sites, and averaged 1.7 inches in length at time of stocking.

Oatka Creek Creel Survey Report Completed - Oatka Creek is a high quality western New York trout stream. Fisheries resources in certain areas within the stream are managed by stocking hatchery raised yearling and two-year-old brown trout (Salmo trutta). Another section of the stream is managed for wild, naturally produced brown trout with restrictive harvest regulations. The trout fishing regulations in a portion of the wild area were changed from a high size and low creel limit to a no kill regulation on October 1, 2000. The trout fishing regulation in the stocked area was changed on October 1, 2002 from a no size and liberal creel limit to a regulation that limits the number of large trout that can be harvested (5 per day any size with no more than 2 larger than 12 inches, known as the “5/2” regulation). Creel censuses were conducted prior to (2000), immediately after (2001) and three years after (2004), the regulation changes. The 2000 and 2001 surveys found that immediately after implementing a no-kill regulation, total angler effort, total catch, and total harvest over both survey areas (wild and stocked) increased proportionally similar among management types and months. Catch rates remained the same between the two years among management types and months and harvest rates in the stocked areas were the same. As expected, harvest rates in the wild area immediately dropped from a low rate to nearly zero, but the near zero harvest rate unexpectedly did not persist in 2004. In 2004, effort in the wild area was slightly higher than 2000. It is not likely that the no-kill regulation alone induced higher fishing pressure in the wild area, since effort was higher in both the stocked and wild areas in 2001 compared to both 2000 and 2004. Favorable air temperature and stream flow conditions were probably the reason why higher angler effort occurred in 2001, immediately after the no-kill regulation change, because 2000 and 2004 had similar unfavorable weather and stream flow conditions. The 2000 and 2001 surveys also determined that under the right weather and flow conditions, anglers targeting the larger stocked two-year-old brown trout were very successful at catching and creeling these fish immediately after they were stocked. Stocked area effort, catch, and harvest in 2004 were the lowest of the three survey years. The 2004 catch and harvest of large (>12”TL) brown trout from the stocked area were also the lowest of the three years surveyed. In 2004, the wild area catch and catch rates of large brown trout were the same as 2000 and 2001. The no-kill regulation did not increase the density of anglers, the catch rate of, or the number of anglers catching, large brown trout in the wild area. The “5/2” regulation may have caused reduced angler effort, catch, and harvest rates of large brown trout, but does not appear to have appreciably spread the harvest of large brown trout among more anglers over a longer period of time in the stocked area.

Sediments Released From a Dam on the Chateaugay River Impact Trout Habitat - On about September 5, 2006, a drain gate at the Chasm Hydro dam on the Chateaugay River in Franklin County was opened, allegedly causing the release of large quantities of sand and silt downstream. The Chateaugay River in this area was a very high-quality trout stream. Law enforcement, Water Quality and Fisheries staff investigated the complaint. Staff observed the impoundment behind the dam had been drained to perform repairs to the dam. A plume of sediment extends for more than three miles downstream. The sediment consists of a light brown fine, silty sand and a black organic muck. Pools were filled with sediment, and sediment covered the rocks and adjacent banks. Estimates indicate that about 4,000 cubic yards of sediment had been discharged, significantly damaging the river’s ecosystem. Clean-up efforts by suction dredging were authorized by the Department on three pools in the river where about 50% of the sediment had accumulated. An estimated 200+ cubic yards of sediment were removed from the river before high flows from heavy rains in late October scoured most of the remaining sediment and carried it downstream toward the Canadian border. The Chasm Hydro Partnership has been served with an official Notice of Complaint from the Department and an adjudicatory hearing is anticipated.

Program Initiated to Reduce Impacts of Road Culverts on Stream Biota- If installed improperly, road culverts can have significant negative impacts on stream fishes. Culverts can become barriers to natural movements of fish, blocking access to critical spawning, summer, or winter habitats. Also, undersized culverts are likely to wash out during large storm events. Such washouts damage stream habitat and pose risks to people using the road. To improve road culvert design and installation, an Interagency Culvert Workgroup was formed, including representatives from the Department of Transportation, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, DEC, and Adirondack Park Agency. The intention is to formulate guidelines on sizing, installation methods, and natural resource protection. The guidelines would be used by government agencies and landowners involved with installing culverts.

Wiscoy Creek Stream Restoration - Repairs were completed to a stream bank restoration project on Wiscoy Creek in Wyoming County, partially funded by the habitat/access stamp monies. Tree revetments and a tapered flood plain had been utilized to fix a badly eroding length of stream bank in August 2005. Severe flooding in the fall and winter since the project was completed caused damage to the revetments and flood plain. On April 10-11, fisheries staff along with Trout Unlimited volunteers and the Wyoming County SWCD anchored the tree revetments and installed angular rock to prevent further problems at the site. The undercut tree revetments are providing excellent trout habitat while the rock is protecting the toe of the stream bank from erosion. Willow live posts were installed behind the rock and the entire flood plain was also planted with shrubs and trees in late April.

Hatchery Infrastructure Needs - A report summarizing the current status of DEC’s Fish Hatchery System infrastructure repair needs was completed in winter 2003 and implementation of some of the identified repair needs continued in 2006. Major projects that were completed included replacement of the South Otselic Hatchery water supply pipeline and pond inlet structures, and replacement of the broodstock holding ponds at Rome Laboratory. The South Otselic project was paid for using funds from a Capital appropriation and was constructed via contract . The Rome Lab was funded using EPF Stewardship and Capital funds. Exploratory work for additional shallow infiltration wells at Salmon River Hatchery resulted in “finding” one successful well, which will be connected to existing piping and electrical service in the future. In 2006 a total of $5,000,000 was appropriated for hatchery repairs in the state budget. A portion of those funds will be used to secure the full time dedicated service of a design engineer in the Division of Operations, which will speed up the process of getting large projects designed and built. The first projects that will be addressed by this new capability will be raceway enclosures for the east pond series at Rome Hatchery and the design of a new office/early rearing building at Rome Hatchery.

Bath Fish Hatchery - IPN (Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis) was discovered at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in September of 2005. The entire hatchery was depopulated and sterilized. This was done to prevent the spread of this virus to other waters. Allegheny normally supplies 620,000 yearling lake trout for stocking in Lakes Erie and Ontario.

The Bath Hatchery raises 215,700 Finger Lakes strain lake trout yearly for stocking in the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. Of this number 94,500 are stocked as spring yearlings. It was decided that for the spring of 2006 we would forego stocking the Finger Lakes and instead raise these fish for stocking in Lake Ontario. Lake Champlain would still receive its normal allotment of 25,000.

Catskill Fish Hatchery - Catskill Hatchery not only met but also exceeded annual production requirements. Nearly 22K surplus summer brown trout fingerlings (4”) and 15K (9”) brown trout yearlings were distributed to other hatcheries & regions throughout NYS. Spring 2007 was one of the most challenging spring stocking seasons ever. Weather and a major truck breakdown raised havoc. However with cooperation between hatcheries, quality and caring hatchery staff, direction and decision making from Central Office Fish Culture & Operations staff we were able to accomplish our mission on time.

Chateaugay Fish Hatchery - Chateaugay Fish Hatchery produced 99,000 lbs. of trout in the 2006-2007 operating year. Rainbow trout, brown trout, Temiscamie hybrid brook trout, domestic brook trout, Raquette Lake strain lake trout, and splake comprised the species reared at Chateaugay. A total of 377,000 fish weighing 74,000 lbs. were stocked by Chateaugay and an additional 668,000 fish with a total weight of 52,000 lbs.were transferred to and from other facilities.

Oneida Fish Hatchery - In April 2007, NYS Oneida Hatchery netted 23,291 adult walleyes, collecting 321million walleye eggs from Oneida Lake. Over 210 million walleye fry were stocked throughout New York and 78,000 five inch fall fingerlings were stocked into ten New York waters in the fall 2006. The hatchery produced 4,000 round whitefish two inch fingerlings which were stocked into Little Green Pond(1,000), Rock Lake(1,300), and Bug Lake(1,700) (Region 5) in May 2006. The hatchery produced 367 paddlefish(15 inches), which were tagged and stocked into Conewango Creek (Chautauqua County) in August 2006.

Rome Fish Hatchery - Rome Hatchery produced 178,000 lbs of brown and brook trout from April 1, 2006 - March 31, 2007. Feed usage was 209,000 lbs for a conversion of 1.17 and a cost of .50/lb. In the spring of 2006 over 200 waters were stocked by Rome Hatchery. Over 650,000 brown trout and another 125,000 rainbow and brook trout were stocked by Rome or transferred to other State Hatcheries to be stocked throughout NYS. Air stocked occurred in the spring with 32 ponds being stocked including the Upper Hudson River. In the fall of 2006 Rome Hatchery stocked over 190 different waters of which 170 were stocked by pantoon plane or helicopter. These waters are stocked with Temiscamie Hybrid Brook trout along with some Little Tupper and Horn Lake strain brook trout.

Salmon River Fish Hatchery - We had an excellent production season, raising about 165,000 pounds of fish. Our normal average is about 130,000 pounds. With the occurrence of VHS in Lake Ontario and policy changes, we increased our chinook salmon production to 1.75 million fish and cut out our normal winter brown trout fingerling program. We had a successful spring steelhead egg take of 1.85 million washington strain eggs and 149,000 skamania strain eggs. Once again, we were able to get our total requirement of washington eggs from marked adults. Through manipulation of our well water supply, we were able to provide about 333,000 chinook fingerlings, and 100,000 steelhead yearlings to sportsmens pen rearing groups on the great lakes by mid April. This was 2-3 weeks earlier than normal. We also started additional water recirculation on some of the coho’s inside with the in house construction of a filter system. About 100 gpm water is passed through a sand filter and ultraviolet filter. We are trying to maximize the use of well water. The fall salmon egg take was also successful. We took about 3.5 million chinook eggs and 1.8 million coho eggs. This was the first year for our new egg disinfection program to prevent the spread of VHS into our facility. With only a few alterations in the routine, that went well.

Fish Pathogen Inspection Program - The FDCU has conducted annual fish pathogen inspections of DEC fish hatcheries since the early 1980s. In November 2006, our program expanded to include privately-owned fish hatcheries possessing licenses to culture bass and trout, in accordance with new regulations enacted to minimize the introduction fish diseases into New York. For 2006-7, we inspected 9070 fish from over 90 locations. Results from the DEC hatchery inspections were consistent with previous inspections and revealed nothing new. Aeromonas salmonicida, the cause of bacterial furunculosis in trout and salmon, was isolated from wild, adult coho salmon at the Salmon River State Fish Hatchery. Preventive measures are currently in place to minimize the transmission of this disease to fish in the main culture facility nearby. From private hatchery inspections, two prominent disease pathogens were isolated from two hatcheries. Infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNv) was isolated from a trout hatchery and an extensive plan was developed to remediate the hatchery program. From another hatchery, Yersinia ruckeri, the cause of enteric red mouth (ERM), was isolated from one yellow perch. Because Y. ruckeri is treatable, extensive remediation plans were not necessary. The overall health of fish in our state hatchery system is excellent and we are working with private aquaculturists to improve their fish health issues.

Access

Access for people with disabilities - The Department continues to expand opportunities to enable people with disabilities to access programs on state land such as hunting, camping, fishing and horseback riding.

Nearly 150 projects have been completed. These include: accessible fishing piers and fishing areas, accessible equestrian mounting platforms; boat and canoe launches, campsites; and road rehabilitation projects. Also, accessible buses are used to support the public at both Prospect Mountain and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Certain other projects in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves still must go through the Unit Management Planning process before they can go forward.

Since last year, work was completed to improve access in the Region 5 ADA Phase II project at Northville BLS, Saratoga County BLS, West Lake FAS, and Cossayuna FAS; and Santanoni Preserve Historic Area Accessibility Improvements for equestrians. Also work is nearing completion for the Region 5 ADA Phase III project at Lake Colby FAS, Second Pond FAS, Upper Saranac Lake BLS, Raquette River BLS, and Whey Pond: Russell Brook Bridge in Cherry Ridge-Campbell Mountain Wild Forest. Contracts have been approved for the construction of the South Bay Fishing Pier, with completion anticipated this Fall. Final design work is nearing completion for the stabilization of historic stone arch culverts into the Santanoni Preserve.

Boat Launch Construction and Rehabilitation - Boat launch projects completed this period include Upper Peconic River in Region 1, Redfield Island BLS in Region 7, Repaving the Mossy Point BLS in Region 5 and Reconstruction of the Freemans Bridge BLS on the Mohawk River in Region 4. Construction was halted at the Stillwater Reservoir in Region 6 due to high reservoir water levels and will resume in September 2007. The Construction contract has been approved for the Indian Lake Campground in Region 5 with construction to begin in September 2007. Construction is slated for this fall for Oyster Bay (Jakobson Shipyard) in Region 1. Design work has been completed for the City of Plattsburgh for their planned boat launch in the old rail yard. Once regulatory approval is obtained, the advertisement for bids will go out, with construction in 2008. Design work is progressing for the Hudson River at Moreau BLS in Region 5.

DEC Facilities (Camps, Education Centers and others)

Working with the State Office of General Services, the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center Visitors Center, the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve Visitors Center and the Crusoe Audubon Center at Montezuma were all completed last year.

Montezuma Audubon Center - DEC completed construction of the Montezuma Audubon Center, a 6,000 sq.ft. environmental interpretive and education center in the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex. In 1991, the management of the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex was the subject of a Environmental Impact Statement in which one of the expressed goals was to “improve accessibility to this wetland complex for compatible wildlife-related public recreation, education and research.” The Center is located approximately 1.5 miles north of the hamlet of Savannah, Town of Savannah, Wayne County and lies on the west side of NYS Route 89 immediately north of the Crusoe Creek.

DEC and Audubon NY have entered into a Cooperative Agreement whereby Audubon NY will operate the Center with help from DEC and the USFWS in the planning of education and interpretation programs and exhibits. The center design follows green building guidelines and it is being commissioned as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified building.

The Department operates 59 developed recreation facilities in the Adirondacks and Catskills. These include 52 campgrounds, Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, Prospect Mountain Highway, and the Lake George Beach. Approximately 1,000 seasonal employees are hired annually to operate these facilities which serve over 1,600,000 visitors annually. The admission fees at these facilities offset the annual operating costs of staff salaries, supplies and utilities.

Construction of Scaroon Manor - The construction of the first new campground built in the forest preserve since 1977 is well underway at Scaroon Manor on Schroon Lake in Warren and Essex Counties. Construction of the campground portion will begin in the fall of 2007.

Objective: Provide the public with enhanced opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities in a variety of natural settings.

Land Acquisition

Land Acquisition - During the past decade, the State has announced the conservation of more than 1,000,000 acres of land, and the overwhelming majority is open to hunting, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, camping and other outdoor recreational activities. Highlights of projects completed in the last year include: Butler Manor Woodlands on Staten Island, Bog & Clear Lakes, Sabatis Land Co., Norowal Marina, International Paper/Lyme Timber Co Phase 1B, II & III working forest easement (completing the largest single land transaction ever undertaken by DEC) Grasse River working forest easement and the historic Edna St Vincent Millay’s “Steepletop”.

Public Fishing Rights (PFR) Acquisitions - Acquisition of public fishing easements to New York streams and development of associated parking areas and footpaths remains a high priority program. Since March 31, 2006, almost 20 equivalent miles (miles along both banks) were formally acquired. PFR were purchased along over 2.3 miles of the Delaware River, 0.1 miles of the Butternut Creek, 16 miles along the Grasse River, 0.9 miles along the Elton Creek, 7.6 acres along Owasco Inlet, 0.2 miles along, the Neversink River, 0.1 miles along Mansfield Creek, 1 acre along Ischua Creek and 8.5 acres along Eighteen Mile Creek. PFR holdings in New York State now encompass more than 1,300 equivalent miles on over 400 streams.

Access for people with disabilities - The Department continues it’s focus on accessibility to enable people of all abilities to access programs on state land such as hunting, camping, fishing and horseback riding. During the last several years, more than 180 accessibility projects have been completed statewide. These include: accessible fishing piers and fishing areas along streams and lakes, accessible equestrian mounting platforms; boat and canoe launches, campsites; and road rehabilitation projects. Also, accessible buses are used to support the public at both Prospect Mountain and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

 

-                                            As State Land units go through the formal Unit Management planning process, existing programs and services within each unit are assessed to determine the degree of accessibility provided. Unit management planning provides an opportunity for public input regarding the development of accessible opportunities.

-                                            In July 2007, the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources issued a press release seeking input from people with disabilities on ways that DEC might better serve their needs for access to fishing and hunting opportunities. Comments are currently being reviewed by a DEC Accessibility Team.

-                                            The Department’s Motorized Access Program for People with Disabilities has issued hundreds of permits statewide to people with qualifying mobility impairments. The success of this program has been measured annually by surveying permit holders. One non-motorized opportunity under this program is free access to the Santanoni Great Camp via horse and wagon. Information on this program, including permit applications and a listing of routes that are open across the state, is available on DEC’s website.

-                                            With respect to assisting people with disabilities in their enjoyment of and access to outdoor programs, training programs have been held and will continue for DEC and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) staff, licensed guides and vendors of services involving programs in the Forest Preserve. Regional fisheries staff have held several large public fishing events at accessible facilities in Region 1 and are responsive to requests for further accommodation.

-                                            DEC staff in Region 7 continue to annually promote pheasant hunts for people with disabilities through local fish and game clubs. In addition to supplying the birds and helping to locate appropriate locations, DEC provides information on the specific needs that people with various types of disabilities would have while hunting.

-                                            DEC’s Universal Access Program seeks to further interest in outdoor recreation through outreach and education efforts and to continue to provide new opportunities through the design and construction of facilities such as wheelchair accessible duck blinds and platform tenting.

Special Pheasant Hunts Offer Unique Opportunity to New Sportsmen and Sportswomen - The Department once again facilitated special pheasant hunts for youth, women, novices, and persons with disabilities. A total of 1,062 pheasants were distributed to fourteen cooperators that agreed to host twenty-four special hunts in 2006. Over 600 persons participated in these special hunting opportunities, guided and facilitated by experienced bird hunters. Most of the hunts included instruction in gun safety, shooting clay pigeons, care of game, plenty of opportunity to bag a bird, and a hot meal for the participants. All of the pheasants were provided free of charge from the Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca, New York. The Game Farm annually raises about 25,000 adult pheasants for fall stocking. Another 1,600 birds are available to cooperators who agree to organize special hunts for persons that may not normally have the ability or opportunity to successfully hunt this prized game bird. Not only is the pheasant a highly regarded game bird, pheasant hunting has rich traditions in New York. When hunting with a trained dog, as is commonly done during the special hunts, hunters experience the thrill of a high quality outdoor event. To improve opportunities for youth (12-15 years old), special youth pheasant hunt weekends were adopted and will take place for the first time in the fall of 2007.

Pheasant Propagation and Management - The Reynolds Game Farm operated at full capacity in 2006. The annual production objectives are: 60,000 day-old chicks, 15,000 young pheasants, and 25,000 adult pheasants. The day-old chicks (56,815) were distributed to 4-H youth, sportsmen and sportswomen, and other qualified applicants. All approved applicants in the Day-old Pheasant Chick Program received birds. The Young Pheasant Release Program distributed 15,560 young pheasants to approved cooperators. The birds were released on 389 sites across the state. All pheasants were released on land open to the public, providing opportunities for viewing, photographing, and hunting. All approved cooperators received birds. Just prior to and during the fall pheasant hunting season the Department released 28,706 adult pheasants. All adult pheasant release sites are listed on the Department’s web site. Included in the adult releases were 602 birds for a national field trial. The Department also helped facilitate several “special” hunts to benefit young hunters (12-15 year old), novice, women, and people with disabilities. Because pheasants are released statewide, an estimated 55,000 hunters have ample opportunity to hunt them, and everyone has an opportunity to observe them.

Fall 2006 Wild Turkey Harvest - As anticipated based on the below-average productivity during summer 2006, turkey harvest during the 2006 fall season declined about 6% from the previous year to 9,202 birds. This is the third straight year that we have seen declines in fall harvest despite above-average production in 2005 and a mild winter in 2005-06. Low reproductive success from 2002-04 and again in 2006 likely contributed to declines in fall harvest. Another factor may be a decreasing number of participants. The number of fall turkey hunters has decreased about 29% over the last five years, while the harvest rate remained relatively stable at about 3 birds/100 days effort.

Spring 2007 Wild Turkey Harvest - the Youth Hunt was once again greeted with enthusiasm by young hunters and their adult mentors. Unlike spring 2006, both days of the Youth Hunt had excellent weather this year. Junior hunters reported taking about 500 birds, a decline of about 3% from the previous year.

Based on reported harvest figures, turkey hunters that went afield during the 2007 regular spring season were more successful than had been predicted. Despite poor production in summer 2006, birds seemed to be abundant this spring based on hunters' reports, particularly 2+ year-old birds. The high proportion of two year-olds is likely because of good nesting success during summer 2005 and good survival over the subsequent winters.

The reported harvest for spring 2007 was nearly 8,300 birds - the highest since 2001. However, not all birds taken were reported (although it is a legal requirement), so we will adjust this figure using data from the turkey hunter survey to more accurately represent the actual harvest. (For more information on the difference between reported and calculated take, visit the DEC website: www.dec.state.ny.us and search for "Spring Turkey Take".)

The ratio of toms (adult males) to jakes (juvenile males) in the spring harvest was approximately 1.6:1. This is likely a reflection of the large proportion of adult birds that were a product of the 2005 hatch, which was followed by poor production during summer 2006. As a comparison, the adult:juvenile ratio from the spring 2006 harvest was about 1:1, the highest proportion of young turkeys relative to adult birds since 1995.

Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log - During the 2006-07 season, 298 hunters participated in the Cooperator Ruffed Grouse Hunting Log. Grouse log participants reported data from over 2,900 hunting trips across the state, from the lower Hudson Valley in the south, to the Adirondacks and St. Lawrence Valley in the north, and the Lake Plains and Allegheny Plateau in far western New York. They spent over 8,500 hours afield and flushed over 10,000 grouse (about 1.2 flushes/hour). This was the third year the grouse log has been conducted and the third straight year we have seen an increase in the flushing rate (0.8, 1.0, and 1.2 flushes/hour in 2004-05, 05-06, & 06-07, respectively). Hunters participating in the survey averaged about 32 hours afield during the 2006-07 season. They took about 11 trips afield and spent about 3 hours afield per trip. Grouse log participants averaged about 39 grouse flushed per hunter for the 2006-07 season and had to spend about 50 minutes hunting in order to flush one grouse. In addition, hunters averaged over 3 birds harvested for the season and had to invest just under 10 hours of hunting effort to harvest one grouse. On average, one out of every 12 grouse flushed was harvested.

Deer Hunting and Management - During the 2006-07 deer hunting seasons, hunters harvested slightly more than 189,100 deer, including approximately 96,600 bucks and 92,500 antlerless deer. After three years of declining deer takes, results from this past season represent a slight increase from the 2005 deer harvest. The slight increase was expected following management actions in 2004 and 2005 intended to rebuild and stabilize the deer population in many areas of the state, since many Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) were below desired levels.

Deer Harvest Comparison

 

2005

2006

Total

180,214

189,108

Adult Male

89,015

96,569

Antlerless

91,199

92,539

Adult Female

61,179

60,101

DMPs Issued

387,620

396,500

DMP

63,048

63,293

DMAP

9,967

9,989

 

Muzzleloader

15,232

15,746

Archery

26,431

29,454

 

 

The 2006 harvest of almost 96,600 bucks was an encouraging 8% increase over the 89,200 bucks taken in 2005, suggesting that deer populations in many portions of the State are growing slowly and recent management actions are working. The 2006 antlerless take remained stable from 2005, despite a nominal increase in Deer Management Permits (DMPs) for 2006. DMPs are issued for harvest of antlerless deer only, and their availability varies among WMUs depending on the status of the deer population in each WMU relative to objective levels. Deer populations vary considerably throughout New York, and currently about 25% of the WMUs have deer populations that are within 10% of desired levels. About 20% of the units have deer populations greater than desired, while the remaining 55% of the units have lower than desired deer populations. The goal of DEC's deer management program is to maintain deer numbers at levels that meet local interests and habitat conditions, while also providing quality hunting opportunities for New York's 550,000 deer hunters.

In 2006, muzzleloader hunting once again gained in popularity with over 220,000 hunters holding the muzzleloading privilege and a total take of more than 15,700 deer, 67% of which were antlerless deer. This is the highest muzzleloading take on record. New York’s 200,000 archers also faired well in 2006, with a take of almost 29,500 deer. Bowhunters continued to show strong preference for bucks, which comprised 65% of their harvest.

Take on Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits remained just under 10,000 deer, virtually unchanged from 2005. DMAP permits are issued for focused removal of antlerless deer on specific properties and are important for reducing deer related damage or for meeting land management or other deer management goals.

Western New York continues to lead the State in deer harvest densities, with the top five counties being: Yates County (10.4 total deer/mi2), Genesee County (9.4 total deer/mi2), Tompkins County (8.5 total deer/mi2), Ontario County (8.3 total deer/mi2), and Tioga County (8.1 total deer/mi2). However, total harvest is strongly impacted by the number of DMPs available in an area and thus the harvest of antlerless deer. A more accurate picture of deer densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. The top five counties in New York for buck harvest density were: Allegany County (4.2 bucks/mi2), Yates County (3.9 bucks/mi2), Tompkins County (3.6 bucks/mi2), Wyoming County (3.6 bucks/mi2), and Orange County (3.6 bucks/mi2).

Pilot Antler Restriction Program - New York's pilot antler restriction program began in 2005 in WMUs 3C and 3J, located primarily in Ulster County, and was expanded in 2006 to include WMUs 3H and 3K, primarily in Sullivan County. The antler restriction stipulates that bucks taken in WMUs 3C, 3H, 3J and 3Khave at least one antler with three points at least one inch in length to be legal. This standard is intended to reduce harvest of yearling bucks (1 years old), allowing them to survive to older ages.

Buck take in each of these units is following the expected trend: a significant drop during the first year of the program and an increase toward objective levels in the second year. The pilot program has demonstrated some success in shifting the age composition of the buck harvest, as harvest has changed from roughly 60% yearlings, 30% 2.5 year olds, and 10% 3.5+ year olds prior to the antler restriction to 35% yearlings, 40% 2.5 year olds, and 25% 3.5+ year old bucks with the antler restriction.

Deer Management Permits - DMP allocations for 2007 have increased about 40% statewide, and in general, most WMUs will have more DMPs available than in 2006. The total target DMP allocation for 2007 is approximately 466,000 DMPs, excluding Long Island and the Bowhunting-Only units (WMUs 3S, 4J and 8C) which do not have DMP targets. While this is a substantial increase from the 2006 target of 333,000 DMPs, it represents only about 65% of DMP targets of the early 2000s when deer numbers were at their highest in New York. DMP allocations must increase as the population grows, allowing for greater levels of antlerless harvest to moderate population growth and keep deer numbers from once again rising above population objectives. DMPs will be cut back in a few units where greater survival of antlerless deer is needed, but outside of the Adirondack Region, only WMUs 3A, 4X, 4L, 4M, and 4U will be closed for DMPs in 2007.

Black Bear Harvest/Management - 2006 was the 2nd consecutive year of below average harvest in the Adirondacks with only 318 bears taken. In recent years, the Early Season take has accounted for an increasing proportion of the overall Adirondack bear take. However, this past year, Early Season take was 70% below the 10 year average. An abundance of berries and other natural foods during late summer and early fall may have reduced bear movements making them less vulnerable to hunters in the big woods areas. In fact, most of the Early Season bear take was in towns on the edges of the Adirondacks where there is more agriculture. Bear take during the Regular Season occurred throughout the Adirondack bear range.

Hunters took 113 bears in the Allegany bear range, just slightly below the 2005 record take of 119 bears. Almost 50% of the bear harvest was accomplished by bowhunters who took 51 bears and matched the area's record archery take set in 2005.

Hunters in the Catskills took 365 bears in 2006, including a record 177 bears taken during the archery season. Although the bowhunters set a record, overall Catskill bear take was down 25% from 2005. However, the 2006 harvest fits within a predictable pattern seen in the Catskill range and was still the 3rd highest take for the area. Bear hunting in the Catskill range was expanded in 2006 to include Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 4F, 4G, and 4H, located predominantly in Otsego, Schoharie and Albany Counties. This expansion was based upon the recommendations from Stakeholder Input Groups that met in 2003 and 2004 to discuss black bear management in the Northern Catskills. These additional areas contributed 17 bears to the legal harvest in the Catskills.

Bear harvest in the Catskill and Allegany ranges has followed a general increasing trend over the past two decades despite annual fluctuations. In fact, the 2006 bear harvests in these ranges are more than double the bear harvests from the mid 1990s and are four times greater than the bear takes of the mid 1980s. Recent management actions in the Allegany and Catskill ranges, including changing season dates and opening additional areas for bear hunting, have been intended to limit bear population growth and reduce negative bear-human interactions.

Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch - Bear harvest reporting is an essential part of bear hunting and an important tool used by DEC to determine harvest totals. In addition to harvest reporting, successful hunters were asked to submit a tooth sample from their bear for DEC to determine the age of all harvested bears. To encourage participation, DEC began issuing a NYS Black Bear Cooperator Patch in 2006 to all hunters who reported their harvest and submitted a tooth. We were pleased to distribute a total of 485 patches to successful hunters this past season and hope more hunters will participate next year.

Access for Hunters, Anglers and Trappers With Disabilities- A team was formed to complete a comprehensive assessment of the Division's programs to accomodate the needs of hunters, trappers and angers with disabilities and to recommend measures that the Division can take to better meet the needs of these hunters, angelrs and trappers. A press release was issued to generate input from the public. In addition, letters requesting input were sent to many organizations that provide services to those with disabilities. The team is currently reviewing the input received and will provide a report by the end of the year.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman - The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program held its first Beyond BOW programs in 2006. Beyond BOW programs are any event other than the traditional 3-day, multi-class workshops. In 2006 there were three Beyond BOW events. A Beyond BOW Day at the Shooting Range, a Beyond Basic Map and Compass weekend and a Beyond BOW pheasant hunt all took place successfully. Events planned for 2007 include the first BOW winter workshop in February, a Beyond BOW survival/wildlife ID weekend, a BOW workshop in September and a Beyond BOW pheasant hunt in October.

Hunting Safety Trend Continues - The extraordinary safety record of hunters in New York continued in 2006. The number of two-party shooting incidents in 2006 was just 19, a record low. However, the number of self-inflicted incidents was above average at 16, compared to the previous 5-year average of 10. As a result, last year was the 4th safest year in the history of hunting in New York, with 35 hunting related shooting incidents, compared to the previous 5-year average of 43. Twenty of last year's incidents, including the single hunting fatality of 2006, occurred in big game seasons. While each fatal hunting related shooting incident is tragic, the single fatal incident ties the record low for hunting-related shooting fatalities thatwas set in 1994 and again in 1997. Since the year 2000, New York has averaged 41.6 hunting related shooting incidents per year, including 3.3 fatalities. Comparing these figures to the previous decade shows a remarkable improvement in safety. During the 1990s there were an average of 66.4 shooting injuries per year, including 4.9 fatalities.

Is the decline in hunting related shooting incidents merely a reflection of the decline in hunter numbers? No, not entirely. While hunter density plays a role in the likelihood of such incidents, hunter behavior is a much more important factor. The hunting incident RATE (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is declining much faster than the number of hunters. During the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, averaging 6.3 per 100,000. Thanks largely to the efforts of over 3,000 dedicated volunteer Sportsman Education instructors for over 50 years, New York has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters.

Virtually all hunting-related shooting incidents can be prevented by following the basic rules of firearms safety. The phrase “Assume Control from Trigger to Target, and Beyond” is now used to remind hunters of these basic rules; assume every gun is loaded; control the muzzle-- keep it pointed in a safe direction; keep your trigger finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; be sure of your target and beyond; and wear hunter orange.

International Hunter Education Standards - Instructor refresher courses for 2006-07 concentrate on implementing the International Hunter Education Standards, which include hands-on demonstrations by every student. This means that by January 2008, virtually every student who graduates from a New York State hunter education course will complete either a live-fire shooting exercise or a simulated shooting exercise with equipment such as training firearms that use lasers instead of projectiles. DEC is gearing up by providing more training equipment, include 124 new four-gun sets of inert firearms for gun handling exercises with dummy ammunition. The latest development in hunter education standards in 2007 is that New York has led the effort in the International Hunter Education Association to revise the International Hunter Education Standards. The revised standards are intended to allow states, provinces and countries more flexibility in the methods for testing various elements of hunter education courses. This will facilitate innovative teaching and testing techniques in areas where no ranges are available for courses.

Bowhunter Education Courses in a Partial Home-study Format- Late in 2007, some bowhunter education instructors in New York will be testing a new tool to make bowhunter education more convenient – but just as effective – for both students and instructors. For several years, hunter education courses (for firearms) that allow students to study some of the “book” subjects at home according to their own schedule (either with books or computers), have been becoming more popular with students and instructors. This allows students credit for homework, permitting instructors to spend even more time than before on the all-important hands-on learning exercises during the in- person part of the course. Beginning in 2007, a few bowhunter education instructors will pilot a program in which students can complete either a home study workbook or an optional on-line version of the same material on the Internet to prepare for the in-person course. Home study courses require more work by students, but they can do it on their own schedule. In most of these courses, the in-person course can be completed in one day, making it easier for students fit courses into busy schedules. After the 2007 pilot program, partial home study courses are expected to gain popularity in the next few years.

Wildlife Management Areas - Wildlife staff manage a diverse range of habitat types on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) including grassland, wetland and forest habitats, and provide access for hunting, trapping, fishing and other types of wildlife-related recreational pursuits. The goal of operation, maintenance and habitat management work on WMAs is to produce sustainable benefits for both people and wildlife. There are 104 wildlife management areas across New York State totaling 190,000 acres. There are an additional 17 areas across the state totaling 26,000 acres that aremanaged by the Bureau of Wildlife for the similar purposes of wildlife conservation and public use. These sites are referred to as conservation areas, multiple use areas, natural resource management areas, preserves, refuges and unique areas.

Impoundment Restoration - A systematic inspection of impoundments on NYSDEC properties three years ago revealed that many are in need of repair. Many of the marshes created by 48-D, WPA, CCC, or other programs have perennial maintenance problems due to factors including muskrat damage or woody incursions on dikes, beaver activity, or aging water control structures. While some of these structures are not worth repairing, the ability to control water levels remains an important tool in maintaining or creating valuable wildlife habitat. Large impoundments, unusual small impoundments, or impoundments that would benefit from periodic draw downs are examples of situations where repair or restoration could be warranted. The Bureau of Wildlife implemented a number of projects throughout New York to repair and enhance impoundments to create and maintain valuable habitat for waterfowl. For example, at Three Rivers WMA, two small ponds were connected to create one large pond much more attractive to nesting waterfowl. The dike of this new pond was raised, re-shaped, and a new Agri-drain water control structure was installed. The dike of a third and down stream pond was raised as well and these improvements will enhance water level management in the future.

WMA Habitat Restoration and Public Access Improvements - A number of projects to restore habitat and improve public access were completed on Bureau of Wildlife managed lands. At Motor Island WMA in Region 9, an abandoned bath house and associated infrastructure were removed and the area was planted with hardwood trees to restore forest habitat for future nest trees. This resulted in increased opportunity for natural resource users to enjoy the wildlife and habitats found on WMAs, thus restoring the primary purpose of these invaluable assets. At Ashland Flats WMA in Region 6 an old foundation of pillars on the area was inhibiting the use of mowers or a brush hog and thus preventing the establishment of grassland habitat for pheasants and other species. The foundation and pillars were buried on site. Topsoil was used to cover to the old driveway and brush was cut and chipped. The area was smoothed out and grasses were seeded (see attached photos).

DEC Facilities (Camps, Education Centers and others)

Montezuma Audubon Center - Construction was completed, and the Montezuma Audubon Center was opened to the public in the fall of 2006. The Center is an environmental interpretive and education center in the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex. In 1991, the management of the Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex was the subject of a Environmental Impact Statement in which one of the expressed goals was to “improve accessibility to this wetland complex for compatible wildlife-related public recreation, education and research.” The Center is located approximately 1.5 miles north of the hamlet of Savannah, Town of Savannah, Wayne County and lies on the west side of NYS Route 89 immediately north of the Crusoe Creek. The total cost of the Center was $2.7 million, which came from state, federal and local sources.

The 5,200-square-foot single-story building will offer year-round environmental education programs, exhibits and presentations. The MAC contains a large exhibit area, classroom, nature store, office area, auditorium, and meeting room. A wall of windows offers a panoramic view of restored grassland and marshes. On site, two freshwater marshes have been restored, 50 acres of native grasses have been planted, a one-mile hiking trail has been constructed, and an all-access observation platform has been built.

DEC and Audubon NY have entered into a Cooperative Agreement whereby Audubon NY will operate the Center with help from DEC and the USFWS in the planning of education and interpretation programs and exhibits. The center design follows green building guidelines and it will be commissioned as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified building. Construction is nearly complete and expected to be finished in October.

Objective: Improve the level of fiscal and human resources available to carry out the goal of becoming better stewards.

The Department purchased $760,000 worth of heavy equipment during this past fiscal year, including at least one piece of priority heavy equipment for each DEC Region. The enacted budget for FY 2007-08 includes an allocation of another $750,000 for heavy equipment.

This last year the Department purchased 236 new vehicles, of which 116 will be for regional stewardship support. The remaining 120 are emergency response vehicles used in support of Law Enforcement, Forest Protection & Fire Management, and Spill Response.

Operations installed various electronic controls and wiring in the new vehicles (82 Law Enforcement, 22 Forest Ranger and 16 Spills vehicles statewide). This program also includes emergency response lighting and equipment for snowmobiles, ATVs, and personal water craft (PWCs).

Operations provided support and maintenance on the Divisions of Forest Protection, Fish & Wildlife and Law Enforcement radio systems statewide – including support of 2,600 mobile and portable radios, 120 repeaters, 75 base stations, 46 repeater sites and 213 licenses.

Sixty-five Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) continue to provide support to Recreational Campgrounds, Fish Hatcheries, and the Educational Camps. These contribute significantly toward meeting the transportation support needs at these locations.

The Department is actively involved in the planning, design, construction and contract management of multiple Bond Act projects involving many program areas at DEC facilities statewide. This past year, $1.7 million was spent on multiple construction projects, including new bathroom/shower buildings, sewage system upgrades/replacements at Nicks Lake, North South Lake and Sacandaga Campgrounds and the Saratoga Tree Nursery. A contract is in the award process for the Modification of the Lower Perch River WMA Dam worth $343,000.

Replacement of the last original wood stave water supply pipeline was completed at the South Otselic Fish Hatchery at a cost of $537,000. A contract is in the award process to install a backup generator at the VanHornesville Fish Hatchery at a cost of $62,500. Design has been completed for the Rome Fish Hatchery Pond Enclosures with bids due on August 29, 2007. The enclosures will protect the fish from predation and increase the fish inventory for stocking. Design is in the preliminary stages for a new Rearing Building at the Rome Fish Hatchery.

Design has been completed for modifications at the Reynolds Game Farm Pheasant Nursery to install more efficient brooder units and lighting that is more appropriate to the pheasant rearing process. Bids are due on September 19, 2007 with construction planned to be completed by January 2008.

Department staff working with APA developed a Standard Forest Preserve Snowmobile Bridge Design which blends in with the Natural Environment to the maximum extent possible.

Nature Recreation Program - DEC conducts programs of many types for the overnight campers and day use visitors at DEC campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. These programs include walks, talks, games, crafts, music, paddle trips, mountain hikes, and more.

Junior Naturalist Program - This program is designed for children campers, ages 5 - 12 years old, who must complete several modules in a journal of environmental activities in order to earn a patch. The journals and patches change each year and the 2007 patch is a bluebird. Over 8,000 journals are distributed annually and over 6,400 patches are issued at the more than 30 campgrounds which offer the program.

The Division of Operations conducts semi-annual training for all of the Department’s vehicle mechanics. Professional instructors are brought in from the various commercial sources to provide state-of-the-art training on various vehicle systems and analysis/repair procedures.

Objective: Track projects funded by the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act and the Environmental Protection Fund to ensure that they are proceeding in a timely way.

The Division of Public Affairs and Education coordinated communication to improve public awareness of the Bond Act and EPF benefits through news media announcements, special events, website postings, the annual report to the legislature and other publications.

The Department is actively involved in the planning, design, construction and contract management of multiple Bond Act projects involving many program areas at DEC facilities statewide. This past year, $2.5 million was spent on multiple construction projects, including new bathroom/shower buildings, sewage system upgrades/replacements at Ausable Point, Scaroon Manor, Lake George Islands, Northampton Beach, Poke-O-Moonshine and Moffit Beach Campgrounds, aquatic habitat restoration work on the Goethals Ponds Complex in Region 2 and designs for water control structures for French Creek WMA and restoration work along the Salmon River.

Goal: Build partnerships to foster an understanding of how

to use and protect the environment.

Ultimately, stewardship of New York State’s environment depends on the actions of the 18 million people who live in the state and the thousands who visit each year. DEC plays a key role by helping people understand the fragility of resources and to make decisions that will protect air, land, water, open space and our wild animals and plants. At the same time, DEC seeks to improve its decisions by considering public knowledge and opinions. Vigorous development of partnerships between the Department and national and state governments, local entities and other public and private groups will promote the environmental ethic and advance state environmental policies.

Objective: Ensure that there is an effective and efficient plan within DEC to plan and implement a coordinated education and outreach strategy that will build awareness, foster understanding and encourage action of how to use and protect the environment. Establish an internal coordinated information system to support this objective.

Division of Public Affairs and Education coordinated the Department’s activities at the New York State Fair. Displays at the New York State Fair featured interpretive panels on state land acquisitions, invasive species and the Venison Donation Program.

DEC Website - DEC maintains an informative and extensive website featuring all of the department’s divisions, programs, and regions as an important outreach tool. The Division of Public Affairs and Education manages the website on behalf of the department. About one-fifth of the site contains information dealing directly with fish and wildlife, lands and forests, recreation and enforcement. The website received over 9.2 million visitors in 2006. DFWMR pages are consistently among the most popular on the site.

A significantly improved website went live on May 4, 2007, complete with a new address, www.dec.ny.gov. DEC's website now provides features that make it easier for users to find the information they need. The site also uses automated content management to handle an already large and growing amount of data with speed and reliability. DEC's old website was organized by a bureaucratic navigation structure, which meant users needed to know which division conducted the program which they were interested in. The new navigation structure is based on the major topics on the website.

The website redesign project was accomplished in consultation with site users and DEC staff, incorporating ideas from a focus group, site-use records and suggestions received via website feedback. Some of the improved tools available on the new site include the Subject Index which has been revised and expanded to help users find information by an alphabetical listing of many topics. There is a link to the Subject Index near the top right corner of every page. The Search Engine has also been improved to exclude certain areas of the website (such as press releases) so that you are searching program content; you can select additional content areas at anytime when you get to the search results page. There are more specific links on the homepage to help people find their information more quickly when they first get to the site.

There is also contact information specific to the content; it is located in the right column and includes an address, phone number and an email address where users can ask specific questions about the information they need.

 

  • Free Fishing Days/National Boating and Fishing Week - Each year up to 4 Free Fishing Events can be designated by the Department of Environmental Conservation in each DEC region. These events not only provide an opportunity to experience fishing without the need to purchase a fishing license, but also provide a mechanism for beginning anglers to learn basic fishing techniques. Fifteen free fishing events were held throughout the state in 2006 (Table 1). Several other events were held on June 23 and 24, New York’s free fishing weekend.

Region/County

Date

Location

Region 1

April 1, 2006

Belmont Lake State Park

 

August 12, 2006

Hempstead Lake State Park

 

October 21, 2006

Hempstead Lake State Park

Region 2

April 22, 2006

Crotona Park

 

October 7, 2006

Crotona Park

Region 6

May 13, 2006

Wilson Hill Causeway & Boat Launch

 

May 20, 2006

Remington Pond

 

June 3, 2006

Sauqouit Creek, Washington Mills Athletic Park

 

July 15, 2006

Cranberry Lake & Oswegatchie River (Cranberry Lake Campground)

Region 7

April 29, 2006

Tunison Laboratory- Gracie Road, Cortland

 

May 13, 2006

Mill Run Park, Whorrall Pavilion- Mill Street, Manlius

 

June 11, 2006

Falcon Sportsmen Club- Turnpike Road, Auburn

 

September 23, 2006

Nathanial Cole Park- 1674 Colesville Road, Harpursville

Region 8

May 18, 2006

Powder Mill Park- Powderhorn Lodge

Region 9

June 3, 2006

Hyde Park Lake, Niagara Falls

 

June 3, 2006

Letchworth State Park

 

June 10, 2006

Tift Farm

 

June 17, 2006

Forness Park, Olean

Brochures and Publications - Two new brochures have been added to the Bureau of Fisheries inventory. “Career Opportunities in the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources” was updated from the previous version. The full-color trifold brochure contains information for individuals interested in pursuing a career in natural resources. Also produced was a “Fishes of NY” tip-strip. This strip was designed to inform people of sources where they can find information on the various fishes of New York State. The strip contains a “quiz” where people can match up questions about a fish species, with the associated image of that species. The intention is get people to visit the two main web addresses that house information on the fishes of NYS - the DEC Freshwater Fisheries web page and Cornell’s Inland Fishes of NY web page.

The Angler Achievement Awards brochure was updated and reprinted in March 2007. The one color trifold brochure contains information on the program, along with rules and an entry form.

Angler Achievement Awards - The Angler Achievement Award program, which recognizes anglers catching trophy fish in New York waters, continues to be a very popular outreach effort. Awards and/or recognition is provided to anglers catching popular New York fish species that exceed minimum qualifying criteria. In total, 177 entries were received during FY 2006-2007. Sixty-six percent of the entries received were Catch and Release entries. One new State Record was established during the period: a 4 lb. 15 oz. brook trout caught by Jesse Yousey in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area in Herkimer County. A summary of the award winners for the past 6 years, along with applications and entry information can be found at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7980.html

VHS Extension Efforts - The outbreak of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) in New York during 2006 and the subsequent emergency regulations necessitated an outreach effort to inform anglers and interested parties about the disease. A double sided tri-fold brochure titled “Keep Fishing Great! Use Certified Bait!” was produced in March, 2007. The brochure contained background information on VHS establishing credibility that VHS was a threat, the new bait fish regulations and Q&A on the regulations. Six hundred thousand of the brochures were produced and sent out to fishing license agents at 50% of their annual fishing license sales. Additionally, the brochure was made available to bait fish sellers to hand out to their customers, explaining the new regulations. The information from the brochure was placed into the Revised 2006-2008 New York State Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

Fisheries produced several articles for the print media to increase awareness of VHS and other diseases effecting fish. A two-page article titled “How the New Fish Health Regulations Affect Angling on the Hudson River” was written for the April 2007 issue of Boating on the Hudson & Beyond magazine. An article titled “New York State’s Response to VHS” was written for Aquatic Invasives magazine for a Spring 2007 release. The article focused on the decision making process of the DEC through March 2007.

Nine information meetings on VHS were held during early January, 2007. Meeting locations were held throughout the state, including Buffalo, Waterloo, Chenango Bridge, Watertown, Mexico, Plattsburgh, Albany, Yonkers - Lower Hudson Valley and New Paltz. The meetings covered the history of VHS, steps the DEC was taking to halt the spread of VHS, and the emergency regulations restricting the use of bait fish and the transport of fish in New York.

Emergency regulations were put into effect to halt the spread of VHS. Those regulations impacted a variety of groups that obtain licenses from the Department. In late November, 2007, letters were sent to bait fish collectors and sellers, commercial fishermen, licensed fish hatcheries, fishing preserves and triploid grass carp importers and sellers. The release of a revised set of emergency regulations necessitated that a second letter be sent to bait fish collectors and sellers on March 29, 2007. A copy of “Keep Fishing Great! Use Certified Bait!” accompanied these letters. Several web pages were placed on the DEC website during December, 2006, informing visitors of the potential problems associated with VHS and other diseases. The web pages were updated as necessary.

Spring Fishing Festival - Long Island kicked off the 2006 fishing season with their annual Spring Fishing Festival at Belmont Lake State Park on April 1. Over 2400 people came out to enjoy a free day of fishing provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Office of Parks and Recreation. Many volunteers from organizations such as Freshwater Anglers of Long Island, Long Island BassMasters, Long Island Fly Rodders, and Suffolk County Seniors Fishing Club, were on hand to fill bait cups, detangle fishing rods, teach casting methods, clean fish, and hand out rods. Volunteers lent out over 500 rods to eager participants—each of the Fisheries Unit’s 222 rods was loaned out at least twice! Other scheduled events included fishing seminars by David Kennedy and Mark Malenovsky; and fly casting demonstrations by Trout Unlimited, Art Flick and Long Island Chapters.

In addition, the event featured various children’s activities such as a magic bouncy slide and temporary tattoos. The Festival also saw its first casting contest, organized by the Knights of Columbus. Throughout the day children under 16 years of age could win fishing rods, tackle boxes, t-shirts, or hats donated by Orvis, radio stations WBLI 106.1 and WBAB 102.3, New York Fishing Tackle and Trade Association, NYSDEC, and Westbury Sports Authority.

In preparation for the event, DEC personnel along with Trout Unlimited volunteers stocked Belmont Lake with over 1,000 fish from the Catskill Fish Hatchery. Six -hundred, nine inch rainbow trout and 420 brown trout averaging 13.5 inches in length were released in the lake on the afternoon of March 30. Some of the brown trout exceeded 16 inches in length. New York State Parks also released 1,000 brook trout from the Connetquot River Fish Hatchery the day before the event.

Region 1: I FISH NY-Long Island (LI)- In-Class - In an effort to implement a classroom program, I FISH NY-LI partnered with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. BOCES offers fishing field trips aboard various party boats to elementary and high school students. I FISH NY-LI visits schools prior to their fishing trip; introducing fisheries related topics and helping prepare students for their upcoming trip. Aboard the fishing boat, I FISH NY-LI heads a fish dissection station; discussing proper fish handling and safety procedures. Throughout the fiscal year, I FISH NY-LI reached 1,536 students; 7 Nassau County schools, 9 Suffolk County schools, and 1 Bronx County school. Prior to the partnership, less than 60 students were seen each school year.

I FISH NY-NYC - During 2006-07, I FISH NY reached 2,492 constituents through our in-class program, youth group outreach, fishing clinics, and newsletter. Classroom statistics are from school year 2006-2007. I FISH NY- NYC visited 1,439 students, taking over 1,200 of them fishing. The program was limited to 3rd graders and above (previously the program accepted all grade levels), we saw 200 more students than the previous year. The 16 participating schools represented all five of NYC’s boroughs. Staff made two classroom visits before taking classes fishing where they learned fishing techniques, local fish species, and fishing regulations.

Trout in the Classroom Project Guidelines - Guidelines were developed to standardize the procedures used by sponsoring organizations to obtain eggs for these classroom projects and the subsequent stocking of fish into receiving waters. DEC is the largest source of eggs to these projects, typically providing about 150-200 eggs for each classroom project. Due to the rising popularity of these projects across the state, the sudden and troubling appearance of VHS in portions of New York in 2006, and the adoption of emergency regulations to limit the spread of VHS and other fish pathogens into or throughout the state, standard procedures needed to be developed and communicated to project participants. These procedures and their underlying rationale were presented and discussed with approximately 60 participants, primarily school teachers, at a workshop in March 2007. Attendees included the Superintendent of Fish culture and Catskill Hatchery Manager Scott Covert, who gave a tour of the hatchery later in the day. In addition to the need to obtain certified disease free eggs and obtain stocking permits before any fish are released, workshop attendees were instructed to keep the focus of these projects on the educational experience rather than view them as small scale stocking programs for a particular species or strain of fish. DEC currently supplies eggs to about 200 projects statewide.

Mapping Resources

Master Habitat DataBank GIS - The Master Habitat DataBank Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to prepare numerous maps including: updated versions of 26 maps for the annual Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide; a map for the Canada goose hunting season; maps showing the 2005 deer harvest by county and town. In addition, mapping support continues for the Department’s CWD monitoring efforts in Oneida County and Statewide surveillance.

The MHDB database is being upgraded to a more powerful Oracle enterprise geodatabase with enhanced security and access features. When completed this upgrade will provide greatly increased availability of the MHDB data to staff. BOW staff have been part of the eGIS Implementation team for this upgrade and several sub-committees. As part of the migration, we are also upgrading to newest generation of ESRI GIS software. BOW staff attended training to enable them to present seminars on the new software statewide and have served as trainers. Finally, staff is developing procedures for the migration of BOW data, especially wetlands and wildlife management area borders, to the new geodatabase.

Wildlife Management Area Public Access and Management Information -The internet has become the preferred method of obtaining information for many people rather than obtaining hard copy information through the mail. In response to this growing trend DEC is working to provide quality information on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to the public through GIS data layers that will be readily available on the internet. To obtain this data we are using a Mobile Mapper Pro GPS unit and taking locations of parking lots, gates, Kiosks, bridges, foot trails, access roads, administrative roads, observation tower/platforms, boardwalks, and handicap access points on all WMAs. In addition to public access locations, additional locations are being taken for dikes, water control structures, culverts, restricted areas and others which will be used by personnel for management decisions and communication with Operations. Upon completion, the public will be able to readily access information for fish and wildlife-related recreational opportunities and maps can be updated very quickly as changes occur. Maps will be available when WMAs in all regions have been completed. Data collection is completed and currently being verified in Regions 7, 8 & 9; and well underway in 3, 5, & 6. We expect to be done Statewide within the next year.

The Division of Public Affairs and Education maintains and constantly updates the Publications Locator, a website section that lists available DEC publications and where they can be obtained, either electronically from the website or by ordering printed copies from existing stock.

DEC’s publication production section works closely with other department programs on such projects as chronic wasting disease (CWD), black bears, fishing guides, brochures describing specific hunting and fishing opportunities, trail guides, large-format display graphics, new fish and wildlife-related centerfolds for the Conservationist, and hundreds of award certificates.

Brochures and Publications - Several new outreach programs were created, including information about Firewood and Invasive Insects (posters, brochures and website); Firewise (brochures, PSA’s for television, webpage and posters);Trail Supporter Program (patch and Conservationist article) Climate Change (stickers and tip strips); and a large poster for the 25th Anniversary of the Bottle Bill to display at events throughout the state.

Staff in the Bureau of Publications and Internet wrote and edited several articles and other materials on fish and wildlife programs and environmental topics. A new interactive CD and webpage is being developed with maps and information about fishing and boating access on the Hudson River.

Many brochures and other publications were revised and updated, including: technical and resource reports; information on invasive species throughout the state; Forest Ranger Procedures Manual; Annual Reports for the Divisions of Law Enforcement and Forest Rangers; the Living with Bears brochure and many publications with maps and information about hunting regulations for hunting areas particularly in the Hudson Valley and Long Island areas.

Division of Public Affairs and Education coordinated the Department’s activities at the New York State Fair. Displays at the New York State Fair featured interpretive panels on state land acquisitions, invasive species, and the Venison Donation Program.

For another year, the DEC exhibit at the NY National Boat Show was a great success. Along with the full 40-foot-long Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources display of state record fish mounts, the exhibit included a SAFE Boat provided by the Division of Law Enforcement, a large aquarium with native marine species, and display by the Hudson River Estuary Program with a six-foot-long sturgeon. The divisions of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources; Public Affairs and Education; Water and Environmental Permits provided tables full of literature. Children learned environmental messages in games that offered the opportunity to win many fun fishing prizes.

DEC Environmental Education Centers

Each of DEC’s four environmental education centers–Rogers in Sherburne, Five Rivers in Delmar, Reinstein Woods in Cheektowaga and Stony Kill Farm in Wappingers Falls–offers year-round programs and services for school and youth groups, teachers and youth leaders, community groups and the public. An estimated 250,000 visitors use the facilities and services of the four centers annually.

Both the new Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center and the classroom building at Stony Kill Environmental Education Center were opened to the public in the spring of 2007. Besides interpreting New York’s natural resources and environmental topics, staff at the centers show the many “green” designs that are featured in both buildings as part of their education programs.

DEC Environmental Education Camps

DEC operates three summer camps for children 12- to 14 years old and one for teenagers 15- to 17-years old. The camp program, which started 60 years ago, is an enjoyable blend of learning and recreation that heightens campers' environmental awareness. Activities, such as sampling streams for aquatic life, netting butterflies, watching birds and hiking through forests, bring conservation concepts to life. The three camps for younger children are Camp Colby near Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, Camp DeBruce in Sullivan County and Camp Rushford in Allegany County. Older teenagers attend Pack Forest in the Adirondack Park near Warrensburg. In 2006, 1,287 children attended DEC camps.

Urban Youth Attend DEC Summer Camps in 2006 - The campership program for DEC’s four residential summer environmental education camps has greatly exceeded expectations for 2006, with 230 children participating in the program. The initiative to recruit youth from urban areas across the state was greatly strengthened this year, with help from DEC camps staff and from partner organizations. Similar to scholarships, camperships were made available each year to a variety of community-based agencies and non-profit organizations in metropolitan areas. These partners agree to recruit campers, help parents with paperwork and assist in transporting the children to and from camp.

Besides offering a one-week camp experience, DEC and its partners arranged for pre- and post-camp programs to help children learn about New York State's natural resources through outdoor recreation and hands-on experiences. Typical activities include hikes, canoeing, overnight camping and field trips to nature centers. During the fall, several partners conducted service projects, such as park and beach cleanups, and helped youth explore environmental careers. One major partner in this effort is the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). Under a grant from the New York City Environmental Fund of the Hudson River Foundation, DPR's Urban Park Rangers sent 89 youngsters to DEC camps.

Hunter training and shooting sports programs were popular at DEC youth camps again this summer. These programs are optional for campers; in 2006, 31 percent of the youngsters took hunter safety education while at camp, including many of the students attending through the Diversity Program. In the spring of 2006, DEC environmental educators partnered with the New York Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to offer a “turkey talks” workshop for 20 Diversity Program campers who passed their hunter safety training course at camp. They learned about the natural history of wild turkeys, turkey calling, and habitat needs. Seven participants honed their shooting skills at a Columbia County shooting range, and two went hunting with an experienced mentor. One participant decided to “shoot” her turkey with a camera.

DEC Environmental Education Programs

A review of programs at DEC education centers and camps revealed that more than 65 percent of program effort is devoted to fish and wildlife education. The cost of this effort goes far beyond the support received from the Conservation Fund.

Regional environmental educators are based in Long Island City and Stony Brook, serving the New York City and Long Island areas. They provide teacher workshops, in-school education programs and staff DEC displays at special events, such as Earth Day celebrations and the New York City Boat Show. More than 23,300 people in Regions 1 and 2 participated in programs offered by the DEC educators in 2006.

After School Conservation Club: The After School Conservation Club engages elementary school students in environmental education activities and stewardship projects at 10 sites throughout New York City. This 10-week program runs for four hours a week and involves more than 350 children each session. The goals are to encourage a connection to nature and the urban environment for inner- city students, develop hands-on stewardship projects for students to help them understand natural processes, and to train staff from participating sites to conduct environmental education programs. It is a collaborative effort among the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, United Neighborhood Houses and The After-School Corporation, with initial funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the New York City Environmental Fund of the Hudson River Foundation.

Project WILD and project WET (Water Education for Teachers) Workshops were conducted for about 4,600 educators, providing them with teaching materials and methods that focus on wildlife and water. Project WILD is now in its 21th year in New York State and is funded through the Conservation Fund. This environmental education curriculum continues to be DEC’s premier educational program for teachers. Workshops have been conducted for more than 45,000 educators. Project WET was initiated in New York State during the 1996-97 fiscal year. It features a wide range of cultural, social and scientific issues relating to water, including fish and wildlife-related activities.

Three Water Education Specialists, based at the three larger education centers (Rogers, Five Rivers and Stony Kill) conduct Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) workshops for educators. They hold week-long teacher training institutes at each of these centers during the summer, giving educators a solid background in water issues. These programs are conducted in cooperation with DEC’s Division of Water and the Hudson River Estuary Program, as well as the Cornell University Water Resources Institute.

DEC education programs continue to host the Student Conservation Association’s Hudson River Valley AmeriCorps Program. AmeriCorps members conduct education programs at DEC education centers and other program units throughout the valley, greatly expanding the number of programs and services offered to the public.

Nature Recreation Program - DEC conducts programs of many types for the overnight campers and day use visitors at DEC campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. These programs include walks, talks, games, crafts, music, paddle trips, mountain hikes, and more. In 2006, over 28,000 campers attended these programs at the campgrounds where the program was offered.

Junior Naturalist Program- This program is designed for children campers, ages 5- to12-years old, who must complete several modules in a journal of environmental activities in order to earn a patch. The journals and patches change each year and the 2006 patch was a black bear. Over 10,000 journals are distributed annually and over 6,000 patches issued at the more than 20 campgrounds that offer the program.

The Division of Public Affairs and Education continues to process many digital images in support of the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Specific topics covered this year include CWD, eagle banding and pheasant stocking.

In 2006-2007, the Conservationist featured articles about public and private lands and access sites across the state, including Stewart State Forest (February 2006) and Land for the Future (October 2006). The magazine also shed light on recreational and tourism opportunities at Letchworth State Park (August 2007), the Carmen’s River (April 2007), Ice Fishing (February 2007), Trout Fishing (April 2007), Belleayre Mountain (December 2006), Rogers Center (February 2007), and the Adirondack Wild Center (June 2007).

During 2006-2007, the Conservationist dedicated significant editorial space to building awareness and understanding of the natural world. The magazine continued with its feature Outdoor Discovery, covering such topics as why leaves change color, making maple syrup, how to use the sun to tell time, and animals that sleep during the winter.

Special pullout sections published during this time period included The Woodcock (October 2006), Feeder Birds (December 2006), Nearshore Saltwater Sportfish (April 2007), and Common Spiders of New York (June 2007). Magazine staff also reprinted nearly a dozen previous centerfolds as stand-alone brochures for public distribution.

The magazine continued its popular “ECO on Patrol,” a feature that documents the real-life field experiences of environmental conservation officers, as well as Rangers to the Rescue. The Conservationist also continued to promote citizen participation through its popular Letters section, encouraging interaction between magazine staff and other departmental experts.

Questions regarding a variety of environmental topics—initiated by letters submitted by the public—were answered in a timely and efficient manner over the course of the year.

The Conservationist also ran articles inviting public involvement, including pieces on Deer Management, Earth Day, Free Fishing Days and the Bottle Bill.

The magazine was represented at the 2006 State Fair. Reprints of pullouts on NYS wildlife were made available to school teachers on demand.

The Division of Law Enforcement has long recognized that aggressive enforcement is not the only tool to be used in achieving compliance with environmental laws and appreciation for our natural resources. ECOs have traditionally made educating the public an important part of their duties. In the past year, officers spoke to a wide range of audiences, from school groups to senior citizens, from outdoor education classes to industry groups. In all, 2,874 instances of this kind of outreach was recorded in 2005.

Objective: Establish and enhance partnerships with state agencies to develop and implement plans that promote an environmental ethic and advance state environmental policies and objectives within those agencies.

Hudson River Birding Trail - The Hudson River Birding Trail is a highway-based trail along the east and west shores of the Hudson River connecting a number of aquatic and upland birding sites along the Hudson River in New York State. The Hudson River Birding Trail is modeled after similar birding trails along the Niagara River and Lake Champlain. The goal of the trail is to make the Hudson River, and the surrounding communities, a premier birding destination, and thereby increase nature tourism, and convey the value of conservation and recreation to community leaders and landowners. Initial project efforts focused on the development of a site list and interpretive materials, including a brochure, bird list and kiosk panels. The Hudson River Birding Trail is being developed in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Hudson River Estuary Program, local birding clubs, and regional community tourism boards. A local vender/ contractor, Ghostwriters Communications has provided significant assistance in the planning and development stages of this Watchable Wildlife project.

Goal: Create the most efficient management systems to

deliver our programs.

The Department desires to provide effective, accessible and open government and public services, delivered in a way that is timely, pleasant and cost efficient. Identifying proposed projects with the greatest environmental benefit and ensuring that these programs are undertaken appropriately are significant administrative tasks. Continuous improvement in all our operations will remain our steady focus. In evaluating our performance, DEC will work with citizens and our business and government partners to continuously find ways to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations.

Objective: Propose a strategy for ensuring appropriate agency staffing and the retaining of institutional knowledge, considering the demographics of the agency among other factors.

Staff Training - DFWMR continues a strong effort in training our staff. The Division Management Team considers training and staff development as critical for the accomplishment of the Division's strategic goals relating to Species Management, Administrative Effectiveness and our Environmental Quality Goals. Through the training of our staff, we continue to develop and initiate actions that protect and enhance New York’s natural resources. The Team’s training goals are consistent with the Departments "Core Values" in that they promote and build professionalism within the ranks of the division improving communication with the public, providing staff with the tools necessary to do their jobs and promoting cooperation between DEC and those that it serves.

We have accomplished many of the objectives established in our annual work plan. During 2006-2007, Division staff attended continuing education training in supervision and leadership, administrative procedures, water safety training, Chemical Immobilization, Systematic Development of Informed Consent, Data Analysis I and hazmat training. Division staff also attended the Organization of Wildlife Planners Comprehensive Management Systems course in early 2007 and the USFWS’s Federal Aid and State Wildlife Grants managers training course in March 2007. The Training and Staff Development section has scheduled meetings with staff and supervisors in the Regions, Field Stations, Hatcheries and at the Central Office for the fall of 2007 to identify additional training needs.

Safety at Work - The Division Management Team in conjunction with DEC has continues to train and equip all staff so that work-related injuries are minimized and health-threatening situations are avoided. To accomplish this goal, the division continues to update and revise health and safety procedures and protocols. Working in a safe and healthy environmental contributes to the accomplishment of the Department’s Strategic Plan and is certainly consistent with its Core Values.

DECALS - During fiscal year 2005-06, license sales gross sales equaled $37.7 million dollars; a significant decline from the preceding year when sales were approximately $40.4 million dollars.

This year, sales for the 2006-07 license year began on August 14. On that day sales totaled approximately $1.37 million dollars. This is the best opening day of sales since the inception of DECALS in 2002. In fact is was only surpassed by the one day sales which occurred on September 30, 2004. Despite the high volume, sales proceeded with relatively few problems.

DEC is now into a one year DECALS contract extension with Verizon Business to provide computerized license sales.

Habitat Stamp Grant - The Division announced round two of the Habitat Stamp Grant Funding in 2006-2007. For Round 2, forty-two project proposals were received, reviewed and scored by a team from the DEC and Regional Fish and Wildlife Management Board members. Ten projects have been selected for round 2, 5 habitat and 5 access statewide. Grant winners will be notified in early September 2007.

Energy Facilities

Fish Protecting Regulation – On November 10, 2005, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department found that the New York State regulation regarding cooling water intake structures (6NYCRR Part 704.5) remains valid. This decision upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed the case brought by three electric generation companies (Entergy, Dynegy, and Mirant). Entergy, the owner of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, was the only petitioner to appeal the initial decision. New York’s regulation at 6NYCRR Part 704.5 provides the legal basis for reducing impingement and entrainment of aquatic organisms resulting from cooling water use in New York. Upholding the validity of Part 704.5 is significant because it enables New York State to be more stringent than recently established federal requirements. In New York’s view, these federal regulations suffer from several flaws that can be rectified under Part 704.5. Although impossible to confirm with currently available technology, all reports suggest that New York’s aquatic organisms were elated by the news.

SPDES Permit for Far Rockaway Power Plant Issued Without a Court Challenge- DEC developed a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for the Far Rockaway Generating Station located on part of Jamaica Bay known as Mott Basin. This permit calls for intensive studies investigating the thermal discharge from the power plant. Studies designed to assess the impacts to biological communities in Mott Basin and published in 1977 and 1990 failed to demonstrate that the thermal discharge assured the protection and propagation of a balanced, indigenous population of shellfish, fish and wildlife as required by the regulations (6NYCRR § 704.1 - Water quality standards for thermal discharges).

Final 401 Water Quality Certification Issue on the NE 07 Gas Pipeline (formally Millennium Gas Pipeline) - The DEC worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the FERC to prepare a 401 Certificate that would protect aquatic resources throughout the Southern Tier of New York. Construction has begun in the eastern most section of the corridor in 2007 and will involve crossing the Ramapo River, Mongaup Reservoir, Wallkill River and East Branch of the Delaware. The Ramapo and E. Branch Delaware crossings will be accomplished via a horizontal bore. The project will include intensive independent 3rd party monitors who will be reporting directly to the DEC, Corps of Engineers and FERC. Construction on the majority of the pipeline will occur in 2008 and should be completed by 2009.

The Division Management Team in conjunction with DEC has continues to train and equip all staff so that work-related injuries are minimized and health-threatening situations are avoided. To accomplish this goal, the division continues to update and revise health and safety procedures and protocols. Working in a safe and healthy environmental contributes to the accomplishment of the Department’s Strategic Plan and is certainly consistent with its Core Values.

The Division of Operations conducts semi-annual training for all of the Department’s vehicle mechanics. Professional instructors are brought in from the various vehicle manufactures to provide state of the art training on various vehicle systems and analysis procedures.

The Division of Law Enforcement has long recognized that aggressive enforcement is not the only tool to be used in achieving compliance with environmental laws and appreciation for our natural resources. ECOs have traditionally made educating the public an important part of their duties. In the past year, officers spoke to a wide range of audiences, from school groups to senior citizens, from outdoor education classes to industry groups. In all 2635 instances of this kind of outreach was recorded in 2006.

The Division of Law Enforcement operates one of the state’s most progressive training programs for law enforcement officers in the Northeast. Since 1998 this program has provided the Department with training facilities, lodging and meals for its many initiatives. Chief among these is the twenty-six week, Basic School for Uniformed Officers. The USCG Station Oswego provides the portal to Lake Ontario for the required marine training. The DEC’s Emergency Vehicle Operations training facility and the Firearms Training Range are located minutes away from the facility. The DLE conducts all Basic Schools at the Fulton facility. ECO and FR Candidate physical fitness and pre-employment testing is conducted at the facility as well. The Division of Law Enforcement currently conducts two, ten-week, In-Service training cycles per year, to cover training mandates such as constitutional law, and ECL updates. The program also provides lodging for Officers assigned to Statewide enforcement details, such as those conducted annually on the Salmon and Oswego Rivers. These law enforcement details are conducted from mid-September to November, during which, commercial lodging is difficult to obtain. Likewise, the program provides lodging and meals for Department personnel who staff the NY State Fair.

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