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News from MRG

MRG Welcomes 2018 Summer Interns

 

Scott, Amandine, Heather, and Jake (2018 CISE)

Welcome to our College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) Summer Interns

Amandine Tooth completed her degree in applied animal biology at the University of British Columbia. She will be starting graduate studies in the fall in Sweden where she will be studying animal ecology.

Amandine will be dedicated to helping with the annual deer survey and looking at alternatives to using camera traps. She will, of course, be helping with the ongoing work of invasive species management, trail maintenance, and other projects as the summer progresses.

Heather Williams is a rising senior at University of Vermont where she is a biology major.

Heather and her fellow interns are mentored by Mianus River Gorge staff while learning about the unique challenges facing urban/suburban natural resource managers. She will be working on hemlock monitoring with Chris and Budd and learning GIS technology at the same time.

Jake Spinella is a rising senior at SUNY Geneseo where he is majoring in geology.

Jake will be assisting with a variety of MRG’s research and land management projects and learning the skills needed to pursue a successful career in the environmental sciences. He will also focus on MRG’s deer management program (DMP).

Scott Campbell is a rising junior at Ursinus College where he is majoring in environmental studies.

Scott and the other interns work in the exclosures in the Preserve that keep deer out to preserve biodiversity and serve as protected sites for plant reintroduction.

Once again, the interns were chosen from yet another impressive group of students who applied through a competitive application process. Thank you to the generous supporters of Mianus River Gorge’s award-winning Research & Education Program.

Mianus River Gorge Acquires 22 Acres

MIANUS RIVER GORGE ACQUIRES 22 ACRES TO ADD TO ITS PROTECTED PROPERTIES ALONG THE MIANUS RIVER

Mianus River Gorge (MRG) is pleased to announce it has added 22 acres of beautiful property to the land it protects within the Mianus River Watershed. With the help of an anonymous foundation that contributed significant funding, Mianus River Gorge, using funds raised and a donation from the Stamford Land Conservation Trust, purchased 22 acres in Stamford, CT. This new land will be owned and managed by MRG and named the Taylor Preserve.

This spectacular hemlock/oak woodland with mountain laurel understory is surrounded on three sides by the Mianus River and provides crucial protection where the east branch of the Mianus meets                                            the main stem of the river.

The land parcel also is home to rare species of flora and fauna, and is relatively free from invasive vines. Mianus River Gorge will create a management plan to ensure the Taylor Preserve remains a healthy and vital part of the Mianus River Greenway that stretches from the Mianus River Gorge Preserve to Long Island Sound.

For many years, Mianus River Gorge has worked on creating an open space greenway that stretches from the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in New York State to Cos Cob in Connecticut where the Mianus River empties into Long Island Sound. Designated an official greenway by the State of Connecticut in 2001, the Mianus River Greenway is a riparian corridor whose primary goal is the protection of the water quality of the Mianus River and the preservation of the adjacent uplands. The greenway extends north with the river into New York and includes properties owned by the State of Connecticut, municipalities, and private conservation organizations, including the Mianus River Gorge.

Long on Mianus River Gorge’s list of critical properties to protect, Taylor Preserve creates a bridge between protected land owned by Stamford Land Conservation Trust and the State of Connecticut in the southern region of the Mianus River Watershed. The southern region of the watershed is a focal point of Mianus River Gorge’s conservation plan as the Mianus River is a drinking water supply for over 130,000 residents in Greenwich and Stamford, CT, and Rye, Rye Brook, and Portchester, NY. The Mianus River has a AA Special rating and also is a breeding site for populations of alewife, blue-backed herring, and brown trout that run up the lower river to spawn in fresh water.

Upon the finalization of the management plan and installation of signage, Mianus River Gorge looks forward to inviting the community to enjoy this new Preserve.

For more photos, please click here.

 

Bird Walk in the Gorge

(Un)Successful Bird Walk?

MRG’s Budd Veverka and Bedford Audubon’s Tate Johanssen led a group of bird enthusiasts on an early-morning bird walk in the Preserve on Saturday, June 2. The morning dawned humid and windy, so the birds weren’t calling much. When it’s windy, birds tend to stay farther in on the branches, closer to the tree trunk, making spotting them more of a challenge.

Brightly colored Scarlet Tanagers were lower down on the trees than usual, so spotting them was a bonus. We saw a good number of Ovenbirds and Louisiana Waterthrush, both in the warbler family. But we missed out on other varieties of warblers usually abundant in the Gorge, such as Worm-eating warbler, Yellow warbler, and the Common Yellowthroat.

Thank you Xylem!

Xylem Volunteers Help MRG Get a Jump on Spring Projects

Invasive Species Control—Thanks to a volunteer group from Xylem’s Watermark Outreach Program, we made a dent in the ongoing battle with invasive plants and vines that constantly threaten the Preserve. Volunteers helped pull and bag garlic mustard to prevent the plants from re-seeding. They also pulled and cut oriental bittersweet, which seems particularly prolific right now, winged euonymus, Japanese barberry, multi-flora rose, and Tartarian honeysuckle.

 

Wildflower Restoration Garden—Building on the success of the project started in 2016, and with help from a grant from Westchester Community Foundation, MRG recently added 10 new raised beds to the garden. Another volunteer group from Xylem helped line the new beds with weed-resistant plastic, fill them with rich soil / compost, and weed the older beds. The beds contain a variety of native plants grown from seed that will ultimately be re-planted in the Preserve. They will be planted in deer exclosures and in areas where invasives have been removed.

 

Building Deer Exclosures—Two teams of Xylem volunteers worked on erecting a permanent deer exclosure and smaller, temporary exclosures to protect young plants. Exclosures are typically constructed of black wire mesh fencing that blends into the scenery, and are high enough so that deer can’t jump over them. The Exclosure Trail located at the far end of the parking is open for visitors to see what a healthy forest floor looks like in the absence of hungry deer.

 

Mianus River Gorge is grateful to the Xylem volunteers who pulled vines, hauled dirt, and carried heavy rolls of wire into the forest. We are able to accomplish so much more with the help of wonderful volunteer teams like the Xylem employees. THANK YOU!

 

Old-Growth Forest Walk

After a morning of solid rain on Sunday, May 6, the weather was accommodating for the afternoon’s Old-Growth Forest Walk led by MRG Executive Director Rod Christie. Participants were guided through a portion of the Preserve not regularly open to the public to learn about what makes the old-growth forest in Mianus River Gorge Preserve so unique and so important to manage.

We learned that key to the above-ground health of old-growth forests is the age and complexity of the soils beneath them. These soils are the result of centuries of evolution and adaptation, hosting and nourishing a rich community of flora and fauna. In the case of the Gorge, we have learned that the soils contain hundreds of species of mycorrhizal fungi that are critical to a hemlock seedling’s germination and growth, as well as the tree’s ability to use the nutrients in the soil. These fungi do not exist in the adjacent lands that had once been cultivated.

We also learned why it’s a good thing when the forest looks “messy.” Downed trees in the forest may serve as a reservoir of water, provide habitat for insects and small vertebrates, and continually replenish the soil by slowly releasing nutrients. Rod showed us a good example of a “nurse” tree on which tiny beech and hemlock trees were beginning to grow.

An added benefit of the walk was an opportunity to see a variety of wildflowers that all seem to be blooming at once after the prolonged winter.

 

 

 

The Importance of Wetlands

The Importance of Wetlands

Some people don’t think of wetlands in a positive way, if they think of wetlands at all. They may think the words swamp, bog, and marsh—all wetlands–have a negative connotation, and completely overlook the immense value of wetlands and the countless benefits they provide. But wetlands are a vital resource and worthy of conservation and protection.

What are wetlands? Wetlands are areas where water covers soil all or part of the year. The vegetation and wildlife found in a wetlands have adapted to thrive in saturated soil conditions.

Value

Wetlands help dissipate floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, filter out pollution, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and, in riparian wetlands such as those in the Mianus River Watershed, sustain the health of downstream water sources.

Function

–          In the event of a flood, wetlands can act as a sponge to soak up extra water. Wetlands also dissipate floodwaters and slow down rushing water.

–          Wetlands contribute to the groundwater supplies that feed private wells, the drinking water supply for so many in this region.

–          Wetlands filter pollution from runoff from roads and storm water.

–          A wide array of fish, amphibians, and other wildlife depend on wetlands throughout their lifecycles.

Regulations

Wetlands and buffer areas around them are protected by law to preserve, protect and conserve freshwater wetlands and their benefits. Wetlands are protected on the local, state (The Freshwater Wetlands Act in NY and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act in CT), and national (The Clean Water Act) levels. Localities often have a Wetlands Control Commission whose mission is to implement Freshwater Wetlands Protection Law.

Please visit your town’s web site to learn about permit requirements for construction, excavation, or anything that could cause disturbance to a wetlands or wetlands buffer.

Click here for the full brochure on The Importance of Wetlands.

Healthy wetlands by William Abranowicz

Volunteer Trail Crew

MRG is grateful to the volunteers who came out for our most recent Volunteer Work Day. Preserve Steward Veronica Leeds wants to keep the energy going and invites you to join the MRG Trail Crew! The Trail Crew gets together once a month to do what it takes to keep the Gorge’s hiking trails in pristine shape for its visitors.

Meet new people! Make new friends! Get satisfaction from a job well done!

The Trail Crew will meet next on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturday, June 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

RSVP to info@mianus.org or call (914) 234-3455. Bring your own lunch and plenty of water!

THANK YOU!

Westchester Community Foundation Awards Renewal Grant

Renewal Grant from Westchester Community Foundation

Thanks to a generous renewal grant from Westchester Community Foundation, Mianus River Gorge will continue its work of Protecting Biodiversity in the Mianus River Watershed.

Over the course of the last two years, Mianus River Gorge successfully completed its Source to Sound initiative in two phases. The main focus of the Source to Sound Initiative was wetlands evaluation and analysis to determine health and function, followed by a comprehensive wetlands restoration project.

The 2018 grant addresses an inter-connected, multi-level challenge that aims to restore the health and improve the diversity of the old-growth forest in Mianus River Gorge. From the mycorrhizal fungus living in the soil to the canopy of eastern hemlock trees up to 100’ tall, this project aims to restore an ecological imbalance that threatens their very survival.

In addition, MRG has an opportunity to expand its successful native species garden. The goal is to re-introduce native wildflowers, plants, and shrubs to restore parts of the Preserve where invasives have been removed to restore biodiversity. With funding from Westchester Community Foundation, MRG will build 10 more raised beds with animal-resistant covers; create a “wet garden” dedicated to growing rare wetland plants like turtlehead, cardinal flower, and marsh marigold; and plant a variety of native shrubs from locally collected seed to be used in restoration activities.

Westchester Community Foundation’s (WCF) mission is to develop and manage philanthropic resources, and to distribute them in a way that is responsive to donor interests and community needs. The Foundation actively promotes charitable giving on behalf of the area’s nonprofit organizations. WCF is a division of The New York Community Trust, one of the largest community foundations in the country, with assets of approximately $2.6 billion.

 

Opening Day Delayed

What a long winter it’s been! We’re still working hard to clear the trails of debris from the most recent Nor’easter. Not only that, there is a lot of snow in the woods that hasn’t yet melted. We’ll give the trails another week to dry out a little bit and plan to welcome you on Friday,  April 6.

Spring is coming …

Application period for 2018 RAP grant now open

The application periods for our 2018 Research Assistantship Program (RAP) for graduate students has begun.

Each year, MRG awards a RAP grant to fund a graduate-level study that investigates environmental challenges in urban and suburban ecosystems. RAP students are awarded a grant of $5,000/yr for two (Master’s) or three (Doctoral) years.

More info and the application forms for RAP are hereRAP apps are due May 15. Email research@mianus.org or call Chris Nagy at 914 234 3455 if you have questions.

The mission of Mianus River Gorge, an independent, not-for-profit organization, is to preserve, protect and promote appreciation of the natural heritage of the Mianus River watershed through land acquisition and conservation, scientific research and public education throughout the region.
Mianus River Gorge, 167 Mianus River Road, Bedford, New York 10506     914-234-3455     info@mianus.org

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