Habitat & Biodiversity Program for the Hudson River Estuary Watershed
Conserving the Plants, Animals and Habitats of the River Basin
Pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
is a native wild orchid of acidic woodlands.
The landscape surrounding the Hudson River Estuary boasts remarkable diversity and splendor. Biological diversity, or "biodiversity" is the wide array of plants, animals, and habitats found in the Hudson Valley and the world. Biodiversity also refers to the complex interactions between living things and their environment.
Biodiversity is important to us all, because it provides the ecological services on which we depend. Healthy, naturally vegetated areas clean our drinking water, ensure our water supply, provide pollinators for crops, and buffer and reduce storm damage. These services are often provided by nature's 'green infrastructure' at a lower cost than built systems. If we conserve biodiversity, we are less likely to suffer disruptions of these essential services as our climate continues to change.
Large marshes help store flood water, and provide
breeding habitat for birds like night herons.
The Hudson River Estuary Program is partnering with communities to encourage biodiversity conservation at the local level to sustain the health and resiliency of the entire estuary watershed. By providing technical assistance, information, and training, the Estuary Program offers strategies for "smart planning" which supports economic growth and quality of life, while keeping nature in mind.
The following habitats are conservation targets in the estuary watershed:
- Shoreline corridors that provide essential habitat along the Hudson River and its tributary streams for river otter, wood turtle, cerulean warbler, wading birds, trout, stream salamanders and Hudson River water nymph.
- Unbroken forests needed by scarlet tanager, warblers, wide-ranging mammals, hawks, owls, box turtles, and plants like fringed polygala flower.
- Grasslands and shrublands that shelter northern harrier, bobolink, eastern meadowlark, golden-winged warbler, short-eared owl and uncommon butterflies.
- Wetlands, including marshes, swamps, wet meadows, bogs and surrounding lands that support American bittern, marsh wren, Blanding's turtle, northern leopard frog and a rich diversity of flora like pitcher plant.
- Seasonal woodland pools for animals that are declining throughout the Northeast including Jefferson, marbled, and spotted salamanders, wood frog, spotted turtle, fairy shrimp and others.
- Caves and cliff habitats that are used by bats, peregrine falcon, overwintering snakes, migrating hawks, and rare cliff plants like purple cliffbrake and prickly pear.
- Unique natural areas that support at-risk plants and animals.
Steps for Conserving Biodiversity
There are a number of steps communities can take to determine which natural areas provide the most benefits and how to conserve them.
Local decision-makers and planners learn about woodland pool
conservation in Estuary Program workshops.
- Step 1: What do you have? (identify natural resources) - This process begins with identifying priority habitats and important natural resources within an area.
- Step 2: What's most important? (prioritize natural resources) - Habitats with a high conservation priority in the Hudson Valley include unfragmented forests, stream corridors, wetlands, grasslands and shrublands, caves and cliffs, and the estuary shoreline. Of course, not all natural areas have equal biological importance. For example, migration corridors and connected habitats often have higher value than degraded or fragmented habitat.
- Step 3: What can you do? (plan, protect, and manage natural resources) - The identification of conservation priorities provides a foundation for smart growth and protection of biodiversity. By knowing what resources are important and where they occur, municipalities can include sound recommendations in their master plan updates, open space acquisitions, and site-plan reviews. Understanding an even broader view of the ecological landscape can contribute to watershed planning, intermunicipal agreements, and regional initiatives. Whether at the site or regional scale, considering biodiversity early in the planning process benefits an array of stakeholders, and contributes to the long-term protection of our natural heritage.
The red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber)
is found near healthy streams and springs.
- Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework: This manual provides an overview of biodiversity issues in the Hudson River estuary corridor, describes key plant and animal habitats, includes a map and descriptions of Significant Biodiversity Areas in the region, and proposes various strategies for their conservation. This manual is available in pdf format on the Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework web page.
- Mapping Nature in Your Community: Important Areas Maps: These maps were developed by the NY Natural Heritage Program in partnership with the Hudson River Estuary Program, and include areas important to known populations of rare plants and animals, and to known significant ecosystems. Completed in December 2007 and updated in 2013, the Important Areas GIS data are currently being distributed to county agencies and municipalities by the Hudson River Estuary Program for use in open space planning, development of natural resource inventories and master plans, and other regional land use planning efforts. For more information in Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties, contact Ingrid Haeckel at firstname.lastname@example.org and in Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester, contact Laura Heady at email@example.com.
- Habitat Summaries: The Hudson River Estuary Program can provide your municipality with a summary of documented significant ecological communities, rare plants and animals, and other available data on biological resources in your town. Communities in Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, and Greene counties can contact Ingrid Haeckel at firstname.lastname@example.org and in Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester, contact Laura Heady at email@example.com.
- Conservation Guides: The NY Natural Heritage Program maintains online animal, plant, and community guides that include descriptions, habitat distribution, places to see wildlife or habitats, conservation issues, and other information on the species and communities they track in their database. Future updates will include additional recommendations for planning and management. Use the Offsite links on the right side of this page to view the NY Natural Heritage Program's Conservation guides online.
- Environmental Resource Mapper: The Environmental Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that can be used to identify some of New York State's natural resources and environmental features that are state protected, or of conservation concern. The Environmental Resource Mapper is found at the NYS DEC website.
- Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper: The Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that can be used to identify habitat and water resource information for use in town-wide planning and development review. Please visit the Cornell University Hudson River Estuary and Watershed Research and Extension website and click on link at top right for "Mapper" (link leaves DEC website).
- Guidance for Management of Priority Birds: This Audubon New York web tool offers guidance on priority bird species of the Hudson Valley and species-specific management guidelines; habitat recommendations on grasslands, shrublands, and forests; a habitat management decision-tree; and Important Bird Area (IBA) map and information. Use the Offsite links on the right side of this page to view the Audubon Guidance for Priority Birds.
- Additional Online Data: The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has completed several atlases that will tell you what breeding bird, or amphibian and reptile species are found in your area of the Hudson Valley. Atlas data were collected by volunteers who reported their wildlife observations to DEC biologists. Both the Breeding Bird Atlas and the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas can be viewed online at the NYS DEC website.
Volunteers are trained by Hudsonia to create local
habitat maps for use in planning.
- Conserving Nature in Your Community: Biodiversity Outreach staff at the Estuary Program offer education programs, workshops, and roundtables to communities to support local conservation efforts in the Hudson Valley. Past workshops have offered guidance and training to planning board members and environmental commissions on topics such as SEQRA and biodiversity; maps and tools available for conservation and land-use planning; and the importance of ecosystem services.
- Biodiversity Assessment: Through a partnership with the Estuary Program, Hudsonia offers a 10-month training and 3-day short course on biodiversity assessment for land-use decision makers and planners. Participants learn how to use maps, air photos, and field investigation to identify important habitats in their communities and discuss strategies for conservation. The "Biodiversity Assessment Manual for the Hudson River Estuary Corridor," written by Hudsonia and published by NYS DEC, serves as the primary text for the training. For more information, visit the Hudsonia website using the Offsite links on the right side of this page.
- Private Lands Conservation: The Estuary Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension offer annual educational programs to private landowners and conservation leaders in the Hudson Valley. The workshops and field identification trainings usually focus on habitats that are conservation targets in the Hudson Valley, planning and stewardship guidelines, and cost-share and incentive programs available to landowners. Past workshops have emphasized forest, grassland, and woodland pool habitats. For information on upcoming workshops, contact Laura Heady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Land Use Law: Pace University's Land Use Law Center offers training to local officials, environmentalists, and developers in land use law and consensus building techniques. Their 4-day "Land Use Leadership Alliance Training" is offered to community leaders involved in land-use decision making, and covers the technical and process tools needed to develop sustainable communities. For more information, see Land Use Law Center in the links leaving DEC's website.
- GIS: The Estuary Program has partnered with Cornell University's Institute for Resource Information Sciences (IRIS) to deliver annual trainings on the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and Hudson Valley spatial data. The hands-on workshops are delivered at Hudson Valley locations and offered to natural resource professionals and community members who use biological information for land-use planning. For more information, contact Ingrid Haeckel at email@example.com.
Workshops and roundtables
help raise capacity of local and
- Coastal Land Management and Community Decision-Making: Many community partners have benefited from workshops offered by the Estuary Training Program of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Topics covered include project design and evaluation, social marketing, Canada goose management, and landscaping with native plants.
- Frog and Toad Monitoring: Through a partnership with Cornell University, the Estuary Program is engaging volunteers to collect frog and toad population data using a calling survey technique, in which observers identify local amphibian species by their unique vocalizations. For more information or to participate, contact Suzanne Beyeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings: The Estuary Program and Cornell University are working together to conserve forests, woodland pools and the wildlife that depend on these critical habitats. Volunteers can help by reporting when and where they see migrations of woodland pool amphibians. For more information, contact Laura Heady at email@example.com.
- Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework: This manual provides an overview of biodiversity issues in the Hudson River estuary corridor, describes key plant and animal habitats, includes a map and descriptions of Significant Biodiversity Areas in the region, and proposes various strategies for their conservation. The book is available for free download from the Conservation Framework page. CD copies are also available.
- Creating a Natural Resources Inventory: A Guide for Communities in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed: A natural resources inventory (NRI) provides the foundation for comprehensive land-use planning that proactively considers a community's land and water resources. This manual outlines how to inventory valuable natural and cultural assets and strategies for using an NRI in local land-use and conservation planning. It is available for free download from the Creating a Natural Resources Inventory page; limited paper copies are available for municipalities.
- Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Communities: Smart Growth Strategies for Protecting the Biological Diversity of New York's Hudson River Valley: This is a manual for local government agencies that provides information about the relevance and importance of natural areas, and describes local tools and techniques that enable protection of important habitats in Hudson Valley communities. The book is available for free download from the Conserving Natural Areas page. Limited CD and paper copies are available for municipalities.
- Metropolitan Conservation Alliance (MCA): The Metropolitan Conservation Alliance (MCA) published a number of biodiversity plans for different parts of the Hudson Valley, as well as technical guidance on a variety of planning and conservation topics. For more information, contact Laura Heady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Land Use Law: Pace University's Land Use Law Center has published many guidance documents on land use law, smart growth, and conservation ordinances. In addition, the Land Use Law Center maintains a free, on-line "Gaining Ground Information Database" of land use resources and ordinances from across the United States. Use the Offsite links on the right side of this page to go to the Land Use Law Center's website for a list of available publications and to access the Gaining Ground Information Database.
- Fact Sheets: The NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program is developing a series of fact sheets related to biodiversity conservation and land use planning in the Hudson Valley. Check back for new fact sheets.
More about Habitat & Biodiversity Program for the Hudson River Estuary Watershed :
- Amphibian Identification Guide - This guide is designed to help volunteers of the Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings project identify species they observe during spring migrations, when many salamanders and frogs move from forest habitat to woodland pools for breeding.
- Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings - By documenting Big Night migrations and road crossings, volunteers can contribute to the conservation of woodland pool breeding amphibians in the estuary watershed.
- Creating a Natural Resources Inventory - A manual describing how to create and use an inventory of valuable natural and cultural resources in local land-use planning and decision-making.
- Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Community - This handbook describes how to find biological information about your community and the tools and techniques that local governments can use to conserve them
- Hudson River Estuary Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework - The Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Framework describes the key plants, animals, habitats, and landscape features of the Hudson River Estuary region and strategies for their conservation.
- Open Space Protection: Putting Local Plans into Action - The Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University focused on the topic of open space and land-use planning at the 8th Annual Biodiversity Conservation Roundtable.