Protecting the Indian River Lakes Wetland Benefits People, Wildlife

Project Summary: Protecting valuable shoreline and wetland habitat from unwise development in the St. Lawrence Valley of upstate New York has enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and increased recreational opportunities. 


Location:
 Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties, New York

Indian River Lakes houses a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, uplands, and riparian zones. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Indian River Lakes houses a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, uplands, and riparian zones. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Description: The Indian River Lakes region of upstate New York’s St. Lawrence Valley is characterized by several habitat types in close proximity, including wetlands, shorelines and riparian regions, and upland areas such as forests, shrublands, and grasslands. This varied ecosystem provides crucial migratory and nesting habitat for many bird species that have been declining, largely due to habitat loss; these include the American black duck, common goldeneye, golden-winged warbler and Henslow’s sparrow. The area is home to roughly 20 percent of North America’s breeding bobolink population. A variety of other fish and wildlife species also depend on this ecosystem for shelter, food, and spawning sites. Unfortunately the expansion of nearby population centers, along with a high demand for waterfront property, is threatening these shorelines and wetlands. Sprawling development has already destroyed habitat and fragmented the ecosystem, disturbing its natural quality and significantly reducing its ability to provide habitat for its native fish and wildlife. Both point and nonpoint sources, associated with the development, are also impacting the ecosystem by introducing sediment and other pollutants into the water, decreasing water quality for both wildlife and people.

This project will help preserve 8 miles of shoreline and 406 acres of wetlands in the Indian River Lakes ecosystem. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

This project will help preserve 8 miles of shoreline and 406 acres of wetlands in the Indian River Lakes ecosystem. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Thanks to a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Ducks Unlimited is working to limit these impacts and preserve the Indian River Lakes ecosystem. Between 2011 and 2012 Ducks Unlimited coordinated the purchase of several threatened high quality habitat parcels, and is working with partner organizations to limit their future development.  Ducks Unlimited obtained five parcels covering 591 acres, including more than 406 acres of wetlands, 8 miles of riparian and shoreline habitat, and 184 acres of uplands. These sites are contiguous with 540 acres of wetlands protected by the Indian River Lakes Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – increasing the impact of this purchase by creating large, unfragmented habitat regions. This project is part of an ongoing effort to conserve ecosystems throughout the St. Lawrence Valley.

Approximate cost of project: $608,699. Of this, $432,865 was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Habitat destruction from unwise development

Key partners (public and private):Indian River Lakes Conservancy; Thousand Islands Land Trust

Types of jobs created: Appraisers, attorneys, land acquisition specialists.

184 acres of uplands in the Indian River Lakes ecosystem will also be preserved. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

184 acres of uplands in the Indian River Lakes ecosystem will also be preserved. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Results and accomplishments: Ducks Unlimited obtained 591 acres of wetlands, uplands, and shoreline that will be protected from development. This will preserve wildlife habitat and help combat habitat fragmentation, as these sites are contiguous with another 540 acres of protected wetlands. Retaining the integrity of wetland ecosystems will help filter out sediments and pollutants from the water, beneficial to both the native wildlife and the people who depend on this water for drinking, bathing, washing, and fishing. Preserving the natural state of these lands and preventing unwise private property development allows the public to continue accessing and enjoying them, increasing outdoor recreation opportunities.

Website:http://www.ducks.org/media/Conservation/GLARO/_documents/_library/_gis/NWI_Workplan.pdf

Originally published on June 17, 2014

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