Tag Archives: new york field office

Beaver Falls Recreation Area. Credit: USFWS

Making Connections in Beaver Falls, NY

Running water

Photo for Flickr Creative Commons user Rich Bachman.

Water is essential for life.

This is a widely known fact, so it should come as no surprise that communities are constantly seeking ways to maintain these life sustaining functions while also balancing the need for economic growth and power production.

One community in upstate New York is bringing this ecological balance to light. The Beaver Falls hydroelectric project in Beaver Falls, NY, has been the first of the large pulse of projects seeking to renew its federal license to operate in the Black River basin.  At this project, there are two dams (Upper and Lower Beaver Falls) that operate together to make power.

Beaver Falls Recreation Area. Credit: USFWS

Beaver Falls Recreation Area. Credit: USFWS

Hydroelectric projects work by using the potential energy held in our rivers and streams to generate electricity to power homes and business all over the state. However, they divert flows out of the river to generate power and can dry up sections of the river and alter natural flows.  In addition, hydropower facilities segment rivers and prevent aquatic species from moving freely to find the resources they need to grow and be healthy.

The New York Field Office worked with Eagle Creek Renewable Energy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to complete a settlement agreement that will be included in a new federal license for the project.  This settlement agreement helps to reconnect the river, restore aquatic habitat, improve fish passage and protection, and improves recreational access for the Beaver River and the communities that depend on it.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff meet with partners at Beaver Falls. Credit: USFWS

This reconnection at Beaver Falls has positive impacts for wildlife. Fish species that will benefit from the Beaver Falls Settlement include walleye, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel, northern pike, eastern blacknose dace, rock bass, brown bullhead, white sucker, fallfish, tiger muskellunge. Not to mention the benefits for smaller macroinvertebrates that serve as food for fish, mussels, and riparian foraging birds. The watershed is also a major destination for scenic viewing, camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, boating, and other outdoor recreational pursuits. A win for wildlife is a win for people.

This settlement agreement at Beaver Falls is the first of many that will help to protect wildlife, promote aquatic connectivity, and increase recreation opportunities in New York communities surrounding the Black River.

New York Fish and Wildlife Biologist John Wiley discussed the broader picture for the basin, “The Black River Basin has one of the highest concentrations of hydropower facilities in the country. Nearly all of these will be relicensing in the next decade, and we will work to reconnect, restore, and improve the rivers in the basin, just like we did at Beaver Falls.  Doing all this work at the same time is also a once in a generation opportunity to make changes that can have a large and lasting impact for the people and the species that are connected to these rivers. “

This section will be improved through the relicensing, ultimately reconnecting it to the watershed. Credit: USFWS

This section will be improved through the relicensing, ultimately reconnecting it to the watershed. Credit: USFWS

When we focus on the connection between the land and water quality, watershed planning is of the utmost importance. This type of planning allows for the management of land uses in a way that recognizes the relationship between economic, social, and natural processes.

By supporting this large basin wide effort we encourage safer and more sustainable watershed protection, support our fisheries, and protect wildlife habitat for a more biodiverse landscape for years to come.

Preparing for Winter by Giving Thanks

On a misty, frost covered morning in Cortland, NY I’ve found myself planted amongst biologists of all backgrounds and expertise with a common thread of purpose; to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. If you would have told me four years ago, when I started veterinary school, that I would be here now I would not have believed you. My quest for promoting wildlife conservation prompted me toward veterinary school and through my (crazy intense!) four years I realized that I wanted to reach a broader audience. I found my passion through educational outreach and by gaining powerful experiences from a diverse range of professionals including wildlife rehabilitation clinics in Massachusetts, Florida, and New York. My journey has been anything but direct, but I feel for the first time like I’m finally connecting to the kind of work I want to pursue.

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Me in Arizona – remembering a time of warmth and sun!

The New York Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offered me the position of educational outreach coordinator and I jumped at the opportunity. Being an Ithaca native I consider this neck of the woods home. To be a direct partner in protecting and promoting wildlife conservation through education is where I’m meant to be. There are so many experts, amazing research, and vast community connections happening right here that I want to highlight. I hope my time here will showcase the amazing work and individuals honestly just trying to make our world a better place.

This time of year is one where we give thanks for where we are in our lives. We give thanks for our families, friends, and the natural resources we have at our disposal. This got me thinking, what does this time of year mean to most wildlife? Are crows giving thanks for the cold and dark days? Not so much. As we transition from fall in to winter many species are preparing for the winter months with specific behaviors. Bats go through a period of hibernation where they can actually lower their body temperature and metabolic rate as an effort to conserve energy during a period of time where food sources are scarce. Reptiles experience a similar metabolic process called brumation. This time period is triggered by a lack of heat and a decrease in sunlight. Fish are no different in that they go in to a period of less activity. Their metabolism drops and they tend to pool in the deepest parts of different bodies of water. Many migratory birds have flown south for the winter (not a bad idea) while those avian species who stick around fortify their reserves in consuming as much food as possible. Winter is coming and all the wildlife around here are in major preparation mode. We could all take a lesson here while eating our turkeys and stuffing to remember that our resources, while at times plentiful, are not bottomless. There is a delicate balance going on all around you and our choices and actions greatly impact our natural world.

Floating Loon Rafts for Rent: One Occupied This Past Summer

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Artificial nesting platform with loon egg.  Photo: NYSDEC.

What does it take to bring back an icon to Northern New York? That’s the question that has left habitat managers scratching their heads for the past decade. After construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, much of the original habitat for shore-nesting birds was flooded out. As it turns out, with four cedar logs, some natural vegetation, and a lot of patience, there might be some hope for restoring the not-so-common loon to the St. Lawrence River.

“Here in the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project area, there are a few loons that nest in the general area, but there’s open water flowing so it’s not necessarily a great spot,” explains Mike Morgan, who manages the Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) on the St. Lawrence.

When the Power Project was up for relicensing back in the late 1990s, the Service, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and other agencies identified potential impacts of the power dam that should be taken into consideration. As a result, the New York Power Authority has helped fund, construct, and implement at least ten Habitat Improvement Projects targeting a variety of fish and wildlife potentially impacted by the dam.

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Common loon with chick.  Photo: USFWS.

One of those species is the Common Loon. “Loons are kind of a charismatic species that people care a lot about and are considered for a lot of hydropower projects” says Morgan. Loons are pretty susceptible to water level fluctuations since they generally nest close to the shoreline. “So a pretty common technique to mitigate that is to put out rafts in suitable areas for loons to nest on because the rafts will float up and down with the water and still be easy for the loons to access,” Mike explains.

After roughly five years of trying this on Lake St. Lawrence with no loons nesting on the rafts, some were ready to give up. Having a “you build it, they will come” mentality doesn’t quite work out for loons and other species, as Mike explains. It has been a process of trial-and-error to find areas where placing artificial nesting platforms most effectively meets the needs of breeding loons. Not to mention the amount of energy it takes to haul these water-logged rafts in and out each season. Some years, geese have taken up residency on the rafts before the loons could, posing some competition for breeding space.

“One of our concerns is actually bald eagles, which is kind of funny because we like to have bald eagles around and they’re a pretty charismatic species in their own right, but they’re big enough to make life unpleasant for nesting loons,” says Mike.

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First loon chick to successfully hatch and fledge from an artificial nesting platform in the St. Lawrence Power Project area.  Photo: NYSDEC.

Finally, on the tenth anniversary of the start of the HIPs, the first loon chick hatched and fledged from one of the artificial nesting platforms this past summer. That’s not the only good news – 75 osprey chicks hatched on installed nesting poles, and roughly 11,500 common tern chicks hatched on artificial nesting structures during the 10 years of management efforts for St. Lawrence River birds.

Biologists Steve Patch and Scott Schlueter from the Service continue to meet each year with other representatives from the NYSDEC, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Northern New York Audubon Society, the Power Authority, and the local government to review progress and make future decisions about Habitat Improvement Projects on the St. Lawrence River.