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Minnewaska BCA Management Guidance Summary

Site Name: Minnewaska BCA

State Ownership and Managing Agency: Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation/Palisades Interstate Park Commission

Location: Ulster County, Towns of Rochester, Warwarsing, Gardiner and Shawangunk

Size of Area: 20,000 acres

DEC Region: 3

OPRHP Region: Palisades

General Site Information: The Minnewaska BCA is located within the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The Preserve is located on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level. The Minnewaska BCA has many spectacular rock formations, soaring precipices, windswept ledges with pine barrens, fast-flowing mountain streams, mountain lakes and several scenic waterfalls. The Nature Conservancy has designated the entire ridge as one of the "Last Great Places." The Shawangunks, including Minnewaska, are one of the highest priority areas for biodiversity conservation in the northeastern United States (NYS Open Space Conservation Plan, 2002). The Minnewaska BCA is part of the Northern Shawangunk Mountains Important Bird Area (Wells 1998). Evaluation of the BCA criteria for designation has shown that most of the Preserve qualifies as a BCA.

Vision Statement: The Minnewaska BCA will be managed to achieve an appropriate balance between conservation of the diverse assemblage of bird species using the area for breeding or during migration, and access to and recreational use of various areas of the BCA. Consistent with its Preserve status, OPRHP will maintain the integrity of the BCA, provide for management of endangered, threatened or rare species and provide for their educational and scientific use.

Key BCA Criteria: Migratory concentration site; diverse species concentration site; species at risk site and bird research site(ECL §11-2001, 3.e, f, h and i.). Minnewaska is part of a migratory corridor that exists along the entire upland plateau of the Northern Shawangunks. It is an exceptional example of a characteristic higher elevation forest community with a high diversity of forest dwelling species. The BCA includes birds of forest habitat including breeding northern saw-whet owl, black-and-white warbler, black-throated blue warbler, Canada warbler, eastern wood-pewee, northern flicker and scarlet tanager; and breeding shrub/scrub species eastern towhee, field sparrow, gray catbird, indigo bunting and prairie warbler. Species at risk include a pair of peregrine falcons (Endangered) that nest on the cliff face.

Critical Habitat Types: Chestnut oak forest is the dominant ecological community along the ridge comprising about 50% of the BCA . Birds associated with this community at Minnewaska include sharp-shinned and red-shouldered hawks, red-bellied woodpecker, wood thrush, black-throated blue warbler, American redstart, ovenbird, scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeak. Another 4,000+ acres are pitch pine-oak-heath rocky summit, intermingled with the extremely rare and fragile dwarf pine ridge community, which support pine and prairie warblers and eastern towhee. Below the ridges the 1000+ acres of hemlock-northern hardwood forest, including old growth forest with trees 300-500 years old, provide habitat for wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, golden-crowned kinglet and black-throated green warbler. Cliff faces are important nesting areas for peregrine falcons. (Evans 2003; Natural Heritage Program, 2004; Smith and Gregory, 1998).

Operation and Management Considerations:

  • Identify habitat management activities needed to maintain site as a BCA.
    Management of the BCA will safeguard and enhance populations of wild birds and the habitats that the birds depend upon for breeding, migration, shelter, and sustenance.

    Native plant life should be maintained and perpetuated. Invasive vegetation will be removed if it poses an ecological threat. Removal of trees that constitute a safety hazard should be accomplished consistent with established OPRHP/PIPC policy. Natural succession will be allowed to occur except where it impacts the existence of specialized species or habitats (OPRHP 1993a).

  • Identify seasonal sensitivities; adjust routine operations accordingly.
    Manage visitor activity to minimize disturbances that could affect the BCA criteria e.g. nesting peregrine falcons.

  • 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.
    There are no state activities that pose a threat to critical habitats.

  • Identify any existing or potential use impacts; recommend new management strategies to address those impacts.
    Rock climbing may impact peregrine falcon nesting. Climbing has been kept away from areas where peregrine falcons nest and from areas that require traversing of sensitive areas for access.

    Common ravens sometimes nest in the Peterskill climbing area. If nesting occurs, mitigation, consistent with the climbing plan for Minnewaska, will ensure no disturbance to ravens during the nesting season.

    Recreational impacts will be minimized by permitting only those activities consistent with preservation and protection of the natural resources.

    There are several areas not included in the BCA. These areas, while not meeting the BCA criteria, do have bird conservation value. Future activities potentially affecting birds in these areas will be assessed through normal environmental review processes. These areas are (1) the main entrance and Awosting parking lot, (2) the Lake Minnewaska activity area, (3) the Pioneer camping/ Jenny Lane vicinity (4) the Peterskill area (5) the Lake Awosting beach area and (6) the former ranger cabin site and Designated Landing Zone (DLZ) for emergency helicopter landings.

Education, Outreach, and Research Considerations:

  • Assess current access; recommend enhanced access, if feasible.
    The Preserve opens daily at 9:00 a.m. Closing times are adjusted seasonally (OPRHP, 1995). The number of visitors is limited by the number of parking spaces (425). On a peak day, the maximum number of people in the Preserve totals approximately 1,300 visitors. The Master Plan recommends providing a total of 740 parking spaces (OPRHP, 1993b). Areas for additional parking are not within the BCA.

    Automobile access is limited. The Preserve's 30 miles of carriageways are used for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, horseback riding and horse carriages. The 25 miles of trails are used for hiking and snowshoeing.

    Carrigeways may be restored or constructed at Jenny Lane and the Peterskill Area (OPRHP, 1993a).

    Develop standards and criteria, by geographic access zones of the Preserve, for levels of improvement and maintenance of access-related facilities, including trails, carriageways, roads, parking areas, and related barriers and signage. Coordinate day-to-day access policies with recommended usage and access levels for various zones in the Preserve (OPRHP, 1993).

  • Determine education and outreach needs; recommend strategies and materials.
    The master plan recommends development of a major education, interpretation, and research facility, in cooperation with other public and private education and research organizations. This would function as one of the principal means to study and provide education about the BCA, the Preserve and the Shawangunk ridge. Research will be directly related to the ongoing management of the Preserve and its ecology. The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership should be involved in the education and outreach efforts.

    Trails, seminars, informal talks, exhibits, checklists, demonstrations and guided walks will be used to communicate an appreciation for the diversity of birds and presence of species at risk.

    The Master Plan identifies the need for education, interpretation and research activities (OPRHP 1993a).

    Patron education regarding nesting ravens will be initiated as the first mitigation in the event of nesting in the climbing area.

    Interpretative materials about the diverse bird species will be developed including a Birds of Minnewaska checklist.

    A BCA kiosk will be designed and installed in an appropriate location.

  • Identify research needs; prioritize and recommend specific projects or studies.
    Inventory of bird species is important to enhancing baseline data. Conduct and maintain up-to-date inventories. Monitoring will have a focus on federally and/or state-listed species and measuring levels of diversity. Monitor for presence of nesting peregrine falcons. A natural heritage inventory has been completed. Research will include long-term ecosystem monitoring. Baseline data provides useful information for implementing habitat protection and restoration and identifying unique natural areas including bird habitats.

    Studies should be undertaken to determine potential beneficial and adverse impacts of controlled and managed burns within the BCA, particularly the pine plains and barrens, since fires are a significant agent in promoting the plant types which constitute these plant communities. If it is determined that such controlled burns will have beneficial ecological effects, detailed controlled burning plans should be developed.

    Deer browsing is impacting the understory. Research will be undertaken to determine the extent to which it is impacting habitat.

    Partner with existing research programs at the Mohonk Preserve, SUNY-New Paltz and other local and State facilities to develop and undertake educational and research programs at the Preserve. Coordinate research, education and outreach and management with The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership.

Tom Lyons, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Ray Perry, OPRHP, Albany, phone: 518-474-0409
Alex Collins, OPRHP, Minnewaska State Park Preserve: phone: 845-255-0753

Evans, D.J., J.W. Jaycox and T. W. Weldy. 2003. Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, NY.

Larsen, R.R. and B. Cornwall, 1994. Checklist of Birds of the Northern Shawangunk Mountains of Ulster County including the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. Mohonk Preserve, Inc.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2004. Supplemental Report Rare Species and Ecological Communities of Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

New York State Breeding Bird Atlas 2000, Maps and Species Lists.

New York State Open Space Conservation Plan, 2002. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation & The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, September 2002

OPRHP, 1993a. Minnewaska State Park Final Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

OPRHP, 1993b. Agency Decision and Statement of Findings.

OPRHP, 1995. Minnewaska State Park Preserve Hiking Map and Information.

The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, October, 2000. Protection and Management Guidelines for the Shawangunk Mountains: Vision, Goals, Strategies, and Actions for Conservation of the Shawangunk Mountains.

Smith, C. R. and S. K. Gregory. Bird Habitats in New York State in Bull's Bird of New York, E. Levine, ed. Federation of New York State Bird Clubs and American Museum of Natural History, 1998

Wells, J. V. 1998. Important Bird Areas in New York State. National Audubon Society, Albany, New York.

Date Designated: 9/25/06

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