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For Release: Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DEC Adds 157 Acres to the Saratoga Sand Plains Wildlife Management Area

DEC and Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park Partnership Recognized at Earth Day Event

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently acquired the 157-acre Fox Tract in the Town of Wilton, Saratoga County and made it part of the Saratoga Sand Plains Wildlife Management Area (WMA), DEC Regional Director Robert Stegemann announced today. The announcement is part of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a week long celebration of New York's commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state's vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

The now 735-acre Saratoga Sand Plains WMA consists of all DEC-owned lands within the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park - a partnership of DEC, the Town of Wilton, The Nature Conservancy and Saratoga County.

"These lands are an important component of DEC's efforts to conserve the Karner blue butterfly, a federal and state endangered species, and other wildlife species," said Director Stegemann. "The Fox Tract also provides additional public outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities within the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. The Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park is one of the best outdoor recreation and conservation locations in the area, providing significantly valuable public and environmental benefits in one of the fastest growing regions of the state."

DEC purchased the tract from TNC early this year for $695,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund. TNC had previously purchased two separate parcels from private landowners - one from Charles Fox in 2005 and one parcel from Michael Frawley 2010. Town of Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson worked to help procure a Saratoga County Open Space grant that was instrumental in the purchase and protection of the Frawley parcel. The grant was awarded to TNC by Saratoga County's Farmland/Open Space Preservation Program 2010.

"We are so pleased that our relationship with NYSDEC and our other partners continues to bring so many benefits to the community," said Linda Baker, Chair of Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. "We are proud of our role in helping to foster an appreciation and understanding of the value of the stewardship of this unique ecosystem and to see that the efforts to conserve these lands for the Karner blue butterfly have had so many other positive impacts through our environmental education programming and recreational opportunities."

The Fox Tract complements past acquisitions of nearby Karner blue butterfly habitat. DEC and other TNC properties constitute the core of the Saratoga Sand Plains Recovery Unit for the Karner blue butterfly and support the largest population of the endangered butterfly in the Northeast. Around Memorial Day wild blue lupine will bloom and the Karner blue butterflies can be seen flitting among the flowers in the meadow habitats.

"This project highlights the positive outcomes that can be achieved through strong partnerships," said Tony Wilkinson, Director of The Nature Conservancy in Eastern New York. "On these lands, we have achieved a great balance between protecting an endangered species and providing people with increased access to natural areas within one of New York's fastest growing regions."

"The town of Wilton is proud to be a partner with DEC, WWPP, Saratoga County, and The Nature Conservancy," said Arthur Johnson, Supervisor of the town of Wilton. "Working together, the partnership has created a tremendous asset within our community. The relationship has provided significant conservation and recreational opportunities for people to enjoy."

Pine/oak forest, pine/oak savannah and vernal wetlands are the three main habitat types found on the tract. DEC's priority is to manage the tract to establish and maintain young forests and grasslands. This will includes removing a significant amount of trees and planting wild blue lupine and grasses to create Karner blue butterfly habitat. Mature forests and wetlands will also be maintained on the tract.

These management efforts also benefit other species including the state endangered Persius duskywing butterfly, the state threatened frosted elfin butterfly and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need that need open grassy or shrubby habitats. Several of the Species of Greatest Conservation Need were identified through citizen science projects coordinated by Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, including the American woodcock. The diversity of open and closed canopy habitats will support a greater variety of game and non-game wildlife.

The DEC-managed lands and their trails provide additional public recreational opportunities for hunting, trapping and wildlife observation. This is complemented by trails and other recreational and educational facilities located on the lands owned and managed by the other partners in the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park.

"This purchase is important to Saratoga County in that, as one of the fastest growing Counties in New York State, preserving the natural lands that we have has become a priority," said Matthew E. Veitch,
Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. "I am pleased to know that we are enhancing the public's access to our County's natural landscape through this purchase."

The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, Inc., under a Voluntary Stewardship Agreement with DEC, will maintain designated recreation trails, provide informational and educational materials and host environmental education events for the public and schools on these and other DEC lands in Saratoga Sand Plains WMA. Staff and volunteers of the Preserve and Park will also assist DEC habitat restoration efforts and wildlife projects.

Karner Blue Butterfly - http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7118.html
Saratoga Sand Plains Wildlife Manage Area - http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/62872.html
Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park - http://www.wiltonpreserve.org
The Nature Conservancy - http://www.nature.org/eny

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