Look quick, before it’s gone

Ancram studies the town’s priceless natural resources

ANCRAM—Have you ever seen a timber rattlesnake, a handsome sedge, a four-toed salamander, a black-billed cuckoo or a sharp-shinned hawk in the wild?

If you spend some time in Ancram, where all of these and other rare species live, you just might.

To find out about the uncommon plants and animals that reside in the town’s variety of environmental communities one can now read the “Town of Ancram Natural Resources Conservation Plan.”

The town’s ever-on-the-move eight-member Conservation Advisory Council and Hudsonia Ltd., with funding from the town, the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation recently produced this 130-page draft document loaded with colorful maps, tables, photographs and all the environmental facts anyone needs to figure out that Ancram is a unique place with abundant natural resources worthy of conservation.

The plan divides the town into six conservation areas: Taconic Mountains; Noster Kill Valley; Fox Hill-Round Ball Mountain; Punch Brook Valley Fens; Roeliff Jansen Kill-Kettles, Lakes and Farms; and Western Hills and Forests.

Features of each area are described, such as the cool ravine and oak-heath barrens of the Taconic Mountains and the Drowned Lands and Old Croken in the Punch Brook Valley Fens.

Color-coded maps locate bedrock and surface geology, topography, soil types, watersheds, streams, flood zones, landcover, farmland and agricultural districts.

The plan addresses climate change noting effects on biological and water resources brought on by the fundamental alteration of temperature and precipitation patterns “could be huge.”

The state’s average air temperatures have risen more than 1.5 degrees F since 1970 and winter temperatures have risen more than 4 degrees F in that time, the plan says.

Climate change “is likely to alter natural communities, favor invasive pests and diseases, upset pollinator life cycles, and cause more frequent and severe storms,” says the plan.

But the changing climate isn’t the only threat. Poorly planned land development and poor land management practices can result in habitat loss and fragmentation.

Land development, floodplain land uses, polluting substances applied to land and roads, and inadequate stormwater management can result in depletion and degradation of groundwater and surface water.

And the pressure of land development for residential uses can result in the loss of active farms and good farmland soils due to a difficult agricultural economy, notes the report.

Beginning in 2001, a volunteer biodiversity assessment team succeeded in completing a map of ecologically significant habitats for about half of the town. The group hopes to have a townwide map completed by 2016. So far they have already identified 25 habitat types.

The report says that a habitat summary prepared in 2011 based on data obtained from the New York Natural Heritage Program, the New York Amphibian and Reptile Atlas, the New York Breeding Bird Atlas and the Farmscape Ecology Program “lists plants, animals and ecological communities of conservation concern known to occur in the town.”

The report goes on to say that though the lists are not exhaustive and there are no comprehensive surveys of the town, “…we expect that other rare, uncommon, and declining species are also present.” The report then notes two state Endangered animals species, the Indian bat and the bog turtle in Ancram; along with two state Threatened species, the timber rattlesnake and least bittern; several state Species of Special Concern, the spotted turtle, sharp-shinned hawk, and grasshopper sparrow; and several other state Species of Greatest Conservation Need, the four-toed salamander, New England cottontail, black-billed cuckoo and willow flycatcher.

The Farmscape Ecology Program documented at least 16 species of county-rare butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies in surveys of specific properties in Ancram, says the report. And there are occurrences of one state Endangered plant—the marsh valerian, and three state Threatened plants. Many other plants are “believed to be regionally rare or scarce,” the plan says.

Other species of conservation concern documented as present in Copake and likely to be in Ancram include the eastern small-footed bat, red-shouldered hawk, whip-poor-will, wood turtle, blue-spotted salamander, Jefferson salamander and northern black racer (a snake).

“Ancram has been recognized by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Natural Heritage Program as having special importance for rare species of plants and animals and for high-quality examples of ecological communities,” notes the plan.

The detailed document also includes a conservation plan specific to Ancram listing action items and the road to achieving conservation goals involving landowners, citizens and town government.

“Ancram residents, businesses, farms, and visitors all benefit in countless ways from clean and abundant water, from thriving local farms, and from the services provided by intact natural communities and ecosystems. This Natural Resources Conservation Plan urges everyone to take responsibility for protecting the land and water in the places where they live, work, and visit throughout Ancram, so that the natural wealth will be equally available to future generations,” according to the plan.

The 2014 Draft Ancram Natural Resources Conservation Plan is available in its entirety on the town website at www.townofancram.org.

The Conservation Advisory Council welcomes public comments and questions about the plan, which can be emailed to CAC Chair Jamie Purinton at . The public is also welcome to attend the CAC’s June 2 monthly meeting, 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, 1416 County Route 7 to learn more or share comments in person.

The Natural Resources Conservation Plan was prepared by: CAC members—Chair Purinton, Vice-Chair David Dembo, Choral Eddie, Joe Hoyt, Samantha Langton, Jane Meigs, Erin Robertson, Kim Tripp and from Hudsonia Ltd—Gretchen Stevens and Kristen Bell Travis.

To contact Diane Valden email .

 

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