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For Release: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DEC: Wetland Restoration Project Underway at Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area

In support of Governor Cuomo's NY is Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, wetland construction activities began this week to restore and enhance more than 200 acres of coastal fisheries habitat at Buck Pond, part of the Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area marsh complex in Monroe County, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced today. More than 6,500 feet of water channels will be restored in the dense cattail areas in Buck Pond and 10 potholes will be restored to enhance fish spawning areas and waterfowl habitat.

"In addition to enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, this project creates a more accessible environment for the public to enjoy as well. This project would not have been possible without the support of our partners," DEC Regional Director Paul D'Amato said. "The governor's Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative is committed to furthering projects just like this one to improve opportunities in the state."

Ducks Unlimited provided funding for this project through a grant it received from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Freshwater Future and Healing Our Waters grant program. Other partners include The Nature Conservancy, Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area Committee, State University of New York at Brockport and the Town of Greece.

Much of the coastal marshes along eastern Lake Ontario are dominated by invasive narrow leaf and hybrid cattail. These dense cattail mats have limited value for wetland-dependent wildlife and provide poor habitat for fish, such as northern pike. This wetland project will restore native plant communities. It is also expected to improve water quality, decrease turbidity and sedimentation, and improve water flow and fluctuation.

The channels and potholes will be excavated using specialized equipment. Channels will be excavated up to three feet deep and six to eight feet wide, and provide access to the preferred spawning location for northern pike. Potholes will range in size from 1/6 acre to 1/2 acre, totaling 6.4 acres. The equipment will cut through the cattail debris and the excavated material will be piled as habitat mounds that will support native plants, such as sedges and rushes, which provide great sources of food for waterfowl.

"The ecosystem services and recreation opportunities provided by the Braddock Bay complex are important economic drivers for Monroe County and the nearby towns of Greece and Parma," said Sarah Fleming, Ducks Unlimited's New York Regional Biologist. "The wetland habitat is critical for threatened and endangered marsh birds such as American bittern, least bittern (NY threatened), Virginia rail, sora rail, sedge wren (NY threatened) and black tern (NY endangered), as well as dabbling ducks, such as, teal, mallard and black ducks. And DU is pleased to continue our partnership with NYSDEC and The Nature Conservancy to continue to restore and enhance these critical wetlands."

The methods proposed at Buck Pond have been successfully implemented elsewhere within the Lake Ontario basin to improve fish and wildlife habitat. Preliminary results indicate positive ecological benefits following channel and pothole excavation in cattail mats. Pre- and post-restoration monitoring will be completed by The Nature Conservancy.

The Conservancy is conducting a before-and-after study of the Buck Pond wetlands to track the success and effectiveness of the restoration project. Stevie Adams, freshwater conservation practitioner for the Conservancy, led a team of two seasonal staffers last summer in collecting environmental data, including surveys of plant, fish and bird species and shallow groundwater levels. Another crew will gather the response (or 'after restoration') data next summer.

"By studying groundwater at Buck Pond we are gaining a better understanding of how water moves through the marsh," said Adams. "This work is helping us figure out how to restore this wetland in the best way possible." The benefits of this project extend well beyond improved habitat in these wetlands. Wetlands are not only spawning and breeding habitats for fish and waterfowl, they also filter and purify water entering Lake Ontario and act as sponges, absorbing water during floods," continued Adams. "We're proud to be a partner in bringing back such a vital Great Lakes resource."

Improved pike spawning will in turn improve Lake Ontario's recreational fishery. Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of Fishing and Hunting licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state, and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions.

In support of this initiative, Governor Cuomo this year has proposed the creation of 50 new land access projects, which will connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the Governor's budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries.

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