Albany Pine Bush BCA Management Guidance Summary
Site Name: Albany Pine Bush BCA
State Ownership and Managing Agency: Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
Location: Albany County, City of Albany, and Towns of Colonie and Guilderland
Size of Area: 1,514 acres
DEC Region: 4
OPRHP Region: Saratoga-Capital District
General Site Information: Located in New York's Capital District the Albany Pine Bush BCA consists of lands under the jurisdictions of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). Additional lands within the Preserve are owned by Albany County, the City of Albany, the Towns of Colonie and Guilderland and The Nature Conservancy. These partners work together as part of the Albany Pine Bush Commission to protect and manage the Preserve under Environmental Conservation Law Article 46.The Preserve provides habitat to more than 40 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the federally and state endangered Karner blue butterfly.
Vision Statement: DEC and OPRHP will continue to work with partners to protect and manage the unique and endangered natural communities and species of the Albany Pine Bush for ecological, recreational and educational benefits. Although non-state lands are not part of the BCA, cooperation with other landowners will continue so that the Preserve can be managed as a unit. Additional acres acquired by the State of New York in cooperation with willing landowners, will be added to the BCA if they contribute to the criteria for BCA designation.
Key BCA Criteria: Migratory Concentration Site; Diverse Species Concentration Site; Individual Species Concentration Site; and Species at Risk Site (ECL §11-2001, 3.e, f, g, and h.).
- Migratory Concentration Site: There are more than 40 species of Neotropical migratory songbirds that are supported at the Albany Pine Bush during spring and fall migrations including at least 20 species of warblers.
- Diverse Species Concentration Site: Birds associated with pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and pitch pine-oak forest (whip-poor-will, blue jay, gray catbird, brown thrasher, pine warbler, prairie warbler, ovenbird, common yellowthroat, eastern towhee, chipping sparrow, and field sparrow) are found here. All but the whip-poor-will are confirmed or probable breeders.
- Individual Species Concentration Site: Eastern towhee was the most abundant bird in pitch pine habitat during breeding season point counts and 3rd in the entire Pine Bush. In 2005, 61 individuals were observed. Twenty individuals were banded on two different dates during fall banding, in 2007. Prairie warbler was one of the most abundant birds in pitch pine -scrub oak with 27 individuals. Pine warbler and field sparrow are also abundant.
- Species at Risk Site: Red-shouldered hawk (NYS Special Concern) is a confirmed breeder. Two whip-poor-wills (NYS Special Concern) were heard in 2007 using the NE Nightjar Protocol. Other species at risk that have been observed include American bittern, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, northern goshawk, common nighthawk, golden-winged warbler, yellow-breasted chat, and vesper sparrow.
Critical Habitat Types: The Albany Pine Bush Preserve represents one of the best remaining examples of an inland pitch pine - scrub oak barrens (S1G2) ecosystem in the world. Within the Pine Bush, the Appalachian oak pine forest and pitch pine-scrub oak communities have the highest species richness for birds. During the breeding season, 85-95% of eastern towhee, prairie warbler, pine warbler and field sparrow were observed in these habitats. The red-shouldered hawk (NYS Special Concern) was observed in the oak-pine forest.
Operation and Management Considerations:
- Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
Management of Preserve lands is conducted under the guidance of the 2002 Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Current habitat restoration and maintenance programs include prescribed fire, invasive species management and restoration planting. The inland pitch pine scrub oak barrens is a fire dependent ecosystem requiring relatively frequent fires to maintain its unique character and rare species habitat.
Prescribed burns restore successional forests to pine barrens and maintain the mosaic of existing pine barren communities.
Aspen trees, while native, are fast growing and out-compete desirable pine bush vegetation due to a long history of fire suppression. Aspen girdling (peeling the bark completely surrounding the trunk of the tree near the base) is effective in reducing the number of trees, allowing pine barrens vegetation to reclaim the area.
Mowing scrub oak thickets with a Hydro-axe reduces the stature of the scrub oak in areas where prescribed burns would be difficult. Used in combination with fire, mowing has proved highly effective in facilitating fire management and restoring high-quality barrens capable of supporting many rare species including shrubland birds. Mechanical management will probably be used on a limited basis until a complete rotation of burning has occurred, at which point prescribed fire alone would be used to maintain restored habitat. If for any reason fire management is not feasible, mowing may be the term management tool, although these instances are likely to be limited.
Black Locust is a non-native invasive plant that is out-competing native pine bush vegetation. Locust eradication is a priority and conducted primarily through mechanical means with limited chemical applications on re-sprouts one year after whole tree removal. Sprouts are cut and a small quantity of herbicide is applied to the cut surface. Herbicide is drawn into the root system and kills the tree. Locust sites are restored to pine barrens grassy openings capable of supporting Karner blue butterflies and are of sufficient size to provide potential habitat for breeding and wintering grassland birds.
Other invasive plant species, including multiflora rose, shrub honeysuckles and Asiatic bittersweet are managed through a combination of fire, mechanical pulling and herbicides.
As of 2007, over 1000 acres have undergone habitat restoration treatments with plans to restore at least another 1000 acres of fire-manageable pine barrens habitat.
Fragmentation is the single greatest obstacle to creating and managing a viable preserve and poses a potential long-term threat to the Preserve's wildlife. Increasing the amounts of wildlife habitat on protected lands while also protecting intervening parcels through fee acquisition, easements or other cooperative agreements, will reduce some of these impacts.
- Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
Prescribed burning and mowing is conducted throughout the year when environmental conditions allow for safe and ecologically effective fire management operations. Since the Preserve supports 40 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) including 14 birds, 13 herpetofauna and 16 insects, it is impossible to avoid all impacts to these species. To minimize these potential impacts and consistent with the Preserve's endangered species permits, mechanical and prescribed fire operations retain adequate wildlife refugia, no more than one third (1/3) of any given fragment of the Preserve is treated in any given year and adjacent thirds are not treated in consecutive years.
- Identify state activities or operations that may pose a threat to the critical habitat types identified above; recommend alternatives to existing and future operations, which may pose threats to those habitats.
- Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
ECL Article 46 provides for controlled and appropriate recreational and educational uses of the Preserve. Rules and regulations for Preserve lands are described in 6NYCRR Part 648. Off-road vehicles destroy fragile plant communities. Illegal dumping has displaced habitat, especially in ravines. Alteration to groundwater hydrology could reduce or eliminate wetlands, especially vernal pools. The suppression of wildland fire alters plant community composition and structure and changes essential nutrient cycling. Creation and use of unmarked paths and illegal trails increases preserve fragmentation and its associated Zone of Influence. The opening of the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center will likely increase Preserve use. Physically blocking off illegal trail access, educational information and increased enforcement of rules and regulations is needed to reduce inappropriate and illegal Preserve use impacts.
- Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
The Preserve currently provides 18 miles of marked trails accessible from 9 trailheads in the City of Albany and Towns of Colonie and Guilderland. Non-motorized recreational opportunities include jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, trapping, hunting and fishing. Restoration and management activities sometimes result in temporary trail closings. Information about management activities and how they relate to public use is posted on the Albany Pine Bush Preserve website www.albanypinebush.org and at nine trailhead kiosks. The Preserve educational information is also accessible at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Discovery Center.
Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:
- Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
BCA signs will be designed and installed in an appropriate location. BCA information will also be made available at the Discovery Center.
- Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
Continue migratory bird banding in cooperation with the NYS Museum. Monitoring for whip-poor-wills, using the NE Nightjar Protocol should also continue. American woodcock surveys should be initiated, and point count surveys should be conducted at least once every five years. Productivity research for shrubland birds and SGCN birds is also recommended.
Neil Gifford, Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, 518-456-0655 x 1214
Ray Perry, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission 2002. Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Albany, NY. 135 pp.
Albany Pine Bush Preserve Breeding Season Relative Abundance by Habitat Type
Albany Pine Bush Inventory of Birds 2005
eBird, http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.
Edinger, G.J., D.J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T.G. Howard, and A.M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.
Gifford, Neil. Pers. comm. 2007
Habitat and Ornithological Data for Habitats, Albany Pine Bush. Important Bird Areas of New York, Audubon, New York. Albany, NY. Unpublished.
Kirchman, J. J. Bird Banding Data, Fall 2007 NYS Museum. Unpublished.
New York State Breeding Bird Atlas 2000 [Internet]. 2000 - 2005. Release 1.0. Albany (New York): New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Available from: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7312.html.
Significant Habitats and Habitat Complexes of the New York Bight Watershed. 1997. USFWS, Charlestown, RI