March 18, 2011
Cara Lee - The Nature Conservancy – 845-255-9051
Wendy Rosenbach – NYS Department of Environmental Conservation – 845-255-3018
Eric Humphrey – NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – 845-255-0753
Gretchen Reed – Mohonk Preserve – 845-255-0919
NEW PALTZ, N.Y. – Land managers along Ulster County's Shawangunk Ridge have adopted a fire management plan to reduce the threat of wildfire and restore forest health along the ridge. A s buildup of natural fuels in the Shawangunks is the result of many years of fire suppression and has resulted in hazardous conditions for nearby homeowners and wildlife habitat.
"This plan is a great example of collaboration among many interests to address a regional need and improve the quality of the environment," said Willie Janeway, DEC's Region 3 Director. "We appreciate the leadership of the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership and The Nature Conservancy in bringing together the science with people from the agencies, organizations and communities to create a shared approach to fire management for the ridge."
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, The Mohonk Preserve and The Nature Conservancy together manage almost 30,000 wildland acres and are all members of the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership.
"The 3,000-acre Overlooks fire in 2008 at Minnewaska State Park Preserve was the first major fire on the ridge in decades and underscored the need for greater preparation and planning. This plan provides the blueprint for how we can manage fire more effectively in the future, and sustain the unique biological resources of our ridge preserves," said Jim Hall, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.
"Our experience with using prescribed fire to restore fields and woodlands at the Mohonk Preserve has been very successful, and has been a living demonstration of the benefits of working together on fire management," said Glenn Hoagland, Executive Director of the Mohonk Preserve. The plan calls for the use of prescribed, or controlled fire as a tool to create fuel buffers. Prescribed fires are set safely and intentionally under well- defined conditions to improve forest health, and are not set unless all of the required conditions (including moisture levels and wind) are met. Wildfires will still be suppressed when they occur on the ridge, but advance planning will make it possible to respond more effectively and to reduce the scope and intensity of fires that occur.
"We look forward to moving forward with the primary goals of the fire management plan - to improve firefighter and public safety and to maintain the health of the forest and wildlife habitats by restoring fire where it is needed," said Cara Lee, Director of The Nature Conservancy's Shawangunk Ridge Program.
The Northern Shawangunks cover approximately 90,000 acres along a 20 mile stretch from the confluence of the Rondout Creek and the Wallkill River in Ulster County, NY southwest to Route 52 in the towns of Wawarsing and Shawangunk. The ridgetop vegetation is highly flammable and prone to periodic wildfire, and many species on the ridge depend on a cycle of fire to thrive. Over the last 50 -100 years fire suppression techniques have improved and reduced the incidence of wildfire. As a result some of the significant natural communities on the ridge have become degraded, and the accumulation of flammable forest debris has increased the potential for more intense wildfires to occur.
To download the full plan, visit:
About the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership: Over 30,000 acres of the ridge are protected by the members of the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership. Composed of non-profit and public organizations, the Partnership uses science and land management strategies to preserve sensitive wildlife habitat and other natural resources. Informed by field research findings, partners collaboratively manage the larger landscape, provide environmental education, and work with local communities to preserve open space on the slopes of the ridge. The Partnership consists of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, The Nature Conservancy, the Mohonk Preserve, the Open Space Institute, New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Museum, Palisades Interstate Park Commission, Cragsmoor Association, and Friends of the Shawangunks. For more information, visit www.gunksfireplan.org.