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Protecting Bog Turtles on Private Lands

A Landowner Incentive Program Habitat Protection Project

The application period for the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) Bog Turtle Habitat Management & Protection Grants is closed. Staff are currently reviewing grant proposals and will be in contact with applicants. If you submitted a grant and have questions, please call (518) 402-8942.

The LIP Bog Turtle Habitat Management & Protection Request for Applications (PDF) (236 KB) is available to view or download.

Purpose

Bog turtle, Photo by D. MacDougallThe Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) for Management and Protection of Bog Turtle Habitat is a new grant program administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The program encourages private landowner participation in habitat management and protection by providing technical advice and funding for the protection of at-risk species and their habitats, specifically bog turtles and their habitat. Protection of the turtle's habitat will also benefit other at-risk species with similar habitat needs. Applications must involve the management and restoration of bog turtle habitat within the focus area.

The bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) is New York's smallest turtle, reaching a maximum length of 4.5 inches at maturity. It has a distinctive bright orange or yellow blotch on both sides of its neck, a dark body color, a domed and somewhat rectangular upper shell (carapace) with pronounced rings around the shell plates and a hingeless blotched lower shell (plastron). For a more thorough description of the turtle, its habitat, and conservation issues, please see the Natural Heritage Online Conservation Guide (see Offsite Link in the right-hand column).

Need

Shallow, spring-fed, open-canopy wetlands such as mineral fens and wet meadows are home to the federally threatened bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) and other rare species such as the spotted turtle (Clemmys gutatta), and wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta). These wetlands were once numerous throughout the Hudson Valley and Great Lakes Plains regions of the state and were maintained in an early, open stage of succession by the combined effects of beaver damming activity, grazing by native herbivores, and low-intensity agricultural grazing.

The decline of agriculture in the Northeast and the shift towards row crops over the last 100 years has precipitated the loss of open-canopy wetlands. Over the last 30 years, bog turtles have disappeared from more than half of the wetlands they once occupied. Without the disturbance provided by fire and grazing animals, these wetlands become quickly colonized and overgrown with pioneer forest species such as red maple and poplar. Habitat degradation is accelerated and exacerbated by development; infestation by exotic-invasive species such as phragmites, purple loosestrife, multiflora rose, and Japanese knotweed; agricultural runoff; and building of roads which function as barriers to animal movement and disrupt wetland hydrology.

Since ninety-five percent of bog turtle habitat is on private land; survival of the species in the wild is impossible without the collaboration of private landowners. Through this program, private landowners will be able to apply to receive technical assistance and funding to protect and improve the species' habitat.

Geographical Focus

Overall recovery efforts for the federally-threatened bog turtle are guided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) "Bog Turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii) Northern Population Recovery Plan" available from the USFWS Bog Turtle webpage linked in the column to the right. This plan divides the northern population of the bog turtle into five distinct recovery units. Two of these, the Prairie Peninsula/Lake Plain unit and the Hudson/Housatonic unit are partially located within New York. The latter of these is the most important, comprising 33 of 37 known metapopulation sites in New York.

To maximize the effects of limited funding available, DEC will limit eligibility to a focus area within the Hudson-Housatonic Recovery Unit. This area was selected by bog turtle experts based on the history of recent occurrences, the need for protection and management of habitat, and natural features such as mountain ridges that limit population movements. Applications must involve the management and restoration of bog turtle habitat within the focus area. The focus area includes portions of Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Sullivan and Orange counties.

What Kind of Work is Eligible for Funding?

The goal of this Landowner Incentive Program is to manage, restore, and conserve habitat for bog turtles and other species that occupy the same habitat. Specific management activities and techniques related to this goal include:

  • Management of vegetation, which may include: Releasing Galerucella spp. beetles to control invasive purple loosestrife plants; girdling trees; removal of vegetation manually or with herbicides; and conservation grazing.
  • Restoration of hydrology: Typically, this can include placement or replacement of culverts, removal of fill, and addition or replacement of impoundments.
  • Re-connection of habitats: This may include the mechanical removal of vegetation or contouring of land to facilitate turtle movement.
  • Conservation grazing: Defined as the use of sheep, goats, horses, or cows to eradicate or control invasive species, typically includes installation of fencing to control movement of grazing animals.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring the effect of management, both to prevent injuring resident turtles and to determine what effect actions are having, must be a component of the proposed work.

These management activities are described in detail in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Opinion on Bog Turtle Restoration Practices (see link to the biological opinion on the page "What Applicants Need to Know"). Applications focusing solely on research, planning, inventory, education, or captive breeding will generally not be considered eligible.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

To be eligible to apply for project funding, applicants must be private landowners or a non-governmental group proposing to do work on privately-owned land. The applicant is not the landowner, he or she must submit original signed letters of permission from all private property owners involved at the time of application.

"Private Landowner" is defined as and includes individuals, non-governmental organizations, and privately-owned businesses.

"Private Land" is defined as any non-government-owned land.

"Not-for-profit corporation" means an organization formed pursuant to the not-for-profit corporation law with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Internal Revenue Code. All Not-For-Profit (NFP) organizations must submit proof of their tax status under the Internal Revenue Code, Section 501 (c)(3). Not-for-profit organizations must be up-to-date on their charities filing, and must provide their charities registration number.

Who is Not Eligible to Apply?

Municipal agencies at all levels of government (federal, state, county, town, city, etc.) and any type of government-owned land are excluded from filing an application under this Program.

DEC employees and their immediate families are not eligible to apply for funding. Former DEC employees are not eligible to apply for funding within two years of leaving DEC employment.