UDC goes wild

Managing the Mongaup Preserve

By LINDA DROLLINGER
Posted 9/8/20

NARROWSBURG, NY — “Always dance with the one who brung you.” 

In this case, wildlife biologist Kevin Clarke’s colloquial version of an old adage has nothing to do with …

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UDC goes wild

Managing the Mongaup Preserve

Posted

NARROWSBURG, NY — “Always dance with the one who brung you.” 

In this case, wildlife biologist Kevin Clarke’s colloquial version of an old adage has nothing to do with dancing (or romance) and everything to do with eagles. The comment, made during his presentation to the September 3 meeting of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), refers to the species that first riveted public and conservationist attention on the Upper Delaware region in the late 1980s.

It was there, in 1987, that the first active American bald eagle nest was documented, following that species’ long decline into near extinction. The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) thought the discovery important enough to warrant a 1990 purchase of 6,313 acres from Orange-Rockland Utilities near the Mongaup river access site, now famous for a nearby eagle observation area.

It was probably a good decision. Today, four active eagle nests have been documented in what is now officially known as the Mongaup Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Clarke’s presentation explained how the DEC manages a habitat that is 97 percent forested with oak and white pine and supports, among many other species, the American bald eagle and the timber rattlesnake.

Every 10 years, the DEC develops a habitat management plan that actively encourages targeted species struggling to maintain a habitat foothold, while ensuring that other species are not negatively impacted. The 2020 plan targets three bird species: the golden-winged warbler, the ruffed grouse and the eastern whip-poor-will, all of which depend on a combination of young and mature forest habitat for survival.

The golden-winged warbler population is down 98 percent since the 1960s. The ruffed grouse, once common to the area, is now seldom heard drumming during spring mating season. And the eastern whip-poor-will’s breeding populations have declined by 50 percent over the last 30 years.

Forest habitat management means periodic felling or burning of mature forest. Though these words strike fear in the hearts of tree lovers, Clarke says forest openings, such as naturally-occurring fields, utility rights-of-way and former pasture lands going wild play important roles in encouraging many species. The golden-winged warbler, for instance, nests in young forests but requires mature forests to nurture its brood. The ruffed grouse also seeks young forests to protect itself from other bird predators.

To ensure sufficient new forest land for the targeted species, the DEC will clear 321 acres in its new management plan. One thing it will not do, however, is neglect the welfare of the eagles and their habitat.

After Clarke’s presentation, DEC representative Bill Rudge said the WMA will be open to the public for a limited hunting season this fall, and that a recreation access plan, to include hiking and bike trails, will soon be in the works.

Coincidentally, the Mongaup WMA is the DEC-owned land referenced by Lumberland UDC representative Nadia Rajsz at the August 18 Route 97 safety task force as one possible solution for insufficient parking space at the Mongaup river access.

In other business, acting NPS superintendent Darren Boch echoed Rudge’s report of unprecedented use of public recreation land during spring and summer 2020, citing Skinners Falls access ranger contacts with visitors up from 7,709 between May and September 2019 to 17,012 between May and August 2020.

Boch also reported that the Skinners Falls Bridge has been nominated by the National Park Service, as well as New York and Pennsylvania, for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Bridges, along with Hankins Creek Stone Arch Bridge and Ten Mile River Stone Arch Bridge.

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