Now showing: Cottontails of Doodletown

Cutting a green ribbon on the new Doodletown Wildlife Management Area with scissors that could stand some sharpening are (l-r) Region 4 Conservation Fund Advisory Board member Tom Williams, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin, Taghkanic Supervisor Ryan Skoda, DEC Regional Director Keith Goertz and Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter Paden. Photo by B. Docktor

TAGHKANIC—In a small gravelly clearing carved out of the woods on the south side of County Route 27 just east of New Forge Road about 40 people gathered under a little cluster of canopies to witness the grand opening of the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area, Tuesday, April 25.

The chilly spring morning was overcast, damp. In the surrounding forest, scant sprigs of green and red growth peeked from gray branches.

The muted scene was punctuated by occasional outbursts of snowy blooms from the shadbush.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Keith Goertz stepped to the microphone to formally announce that earlier this year the DEC had purchased nearly 700 acres for what is now Columbia County’s third and largest Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and we were assembled at one of its four access points.

The land is primarily situated in Taghkanic and Ancram with a sliver in Gallatin. It was purchased from one anonymous seller for $2.8 million. The purchase was made with federal Pittman-Robertson Act funds. This 1937 act established an excise tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment to pay for restoration, land acquisition, wildlife habitat management and wildlife-related recreational programs.

The WMA is owned by the people of New York and controlled and managed by the DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, said Mr. Goertz.

The new WMA provides opportunities for the development and expansion of young forest/early successional habitat. The Doodletown area has shrub habitat that supports the New England cottontail. The rabbits are found nearby and are a state wildlife species of special concern.

Also, the parcel contains upland habitat that supports important migratory songbirds, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, scarlet tanager, Louisiana water thrush and the wood thrush.

Because the area provides the potential for a wide variety of wildlife habitats, the acquisition will support wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities including hunting, trapping, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Region 4 Conservation Fund Advisory Board representative Tom Williams said in New York State $5 billion is spent on outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing and trapping.

I grew up in the outdoors,” said Mr. Williams, noting that not only is the WMA “a great thing” but also that he believes its easy accessibility will go a long way to getting more young people into the outdoors and potentially a non-electronic lifelong pursuit. He said the area also is perfect for offering outdoor opportunities for veterans and that Region 4 and its sportsmen’s federations can take leadership roles in promoting outdoor awareness and opportunities.

Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter Paden, whose agency facilitated the purchase by bringing the property owner and DEC together, noted the significance of opening the WMA during Earth Day week and said that two years ago he attended a similar event for the opening of the Hand Hollow State Forest in New Lebanon.

He said Columbia County “reeks with conservation value” and pointed to its extensive forest, farmland, ponds, streams and habitats. “Clean air, clean water and good habitats are the foundations of life.” Mr. Paden referred to the importance of the Doodletown WMA in the bigger picture saying it is part of larger significant east coast forest corridors: contiguous tracts of thousands of acres that serve as “wildlife highways” or migration paths. Conservation of this area is another step toward maintaining resilience in the face of climate change. “Trees do a lot to keep air and water clean,” he said.

Though another speaker seemed perplexed by the meaning of Doodletown, Region 4 Wildlife Manager Mike Clark said the name simply comes from Doodletown Road, on which part of the property fronts. He said 15 years ago he found a New England cottontail on Doodletown and since the area will be a place for managing that rabbit species, it seemed appropriate to keep the name Doodletown Wildlife Management Area.

He said he was excited about the DEC’s new acquisition and having it be forever public. Mr. Clark is a Columbia County native and will oversee the management of the area.

The new WMA can be accessed via New Forge, Allen, East Klein and Doodletown roads, as well as County Route 27.

DEC will make a number of access improvements at the area, including parking areas, signage and kiosks. DEC will examine the area for the potential to add trails and other infrastructure improvements in the coming months.

Wildlife Management Areas have been acquired primarily for wildlife reproduction and survival, as well as providing for wildlife-based recreational opportunities. WMAs provide exceptional areas for the public to interact with a wide variety of wildlife species. There are 114 WMAs across the state, comprising approximately 197,000 acres, according to DEC press release.

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