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News from MRG

Applications for 2019 Summer Interns are up!

The application periods for our 2019 College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) for undergrads has begun.

The CISE program offers summer or semester internships to college students and recent graduates who are interested in learning about the unique challenges facing urban/suburban natural resource managers. Through a variety of research and land management projects, interns are trained in the skills needed to pursue a successful career in the environmental sciences. College interns work individually and collaboratively with RAP students, and also serve as additional mentors to WTP students.

More info and the application forms for CISE are here .  CISE applications are due April 1, 2019.  Email research@mianus.org or call Chris Nagy at 914 234 3455 if you have questions.

Should We Accept the New Norm?

The Outdoor Observer by Rod Christie

Should We Accept the New Norm?

Driving around at this time of year one gets a chance to look into the forest and view firsthand the changing of the northeast landscape. Forest trees are getting older (the better to store carbon), fields are growing into forests as farms are no longer in production and the woods are dominated by many species that were not here 30 years ago. Soils historically rich in mycorrhizal fungus have been changed by years of cultivation and animal grazing. These changes have made them susceptible to an invasion by a vast array of new species of plants and animals, an unfortunate side effect of our robust trade with other countries. Japanese barberry has overtaken the understory in many places along with autumn olive, bush honeysuckle, euonymus, common privet, and others. Roadways, once bordered by rich forests, are now draped with exotic vines like Japanese bittersweet, porcelain berry, mile-a-minute weed, and more. So as our landscapes change and adjust to this “New Norm”, should we give up and just let it happen? Are these new species that bad? They provide some habitat for native wildlife and surely some native species eat the seeds of non-native plants? What is all the fuss about?
In an effort to unravel the good and bad of invasives, let’s first look at what they provide. Species like Euonymus (burning bush), bush honeysuckle, common privet, non-native viburnums, and numerous other shrubs and trees provide structural nesting and resting habitat for native birds. And native birds do eat their seeds; that we know because birds transport the seeds everywhere. Of course it can be debated among biologists as to whether non-native seeds are as nutritious as natives. They may just fill birds up, but not fuel them as much as needed. But what I think is the most significant problem with non-native plants is what they are not providing – food for our native insects.

I recently saw a presentation by Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware, which pointed out that on any one native oak tree one may find thousands of caterpillars. And even more important, those thousands may be hundreds of different species. Why is this so important? Because many birds and other predators feed their young almost exclusively on high protein and fat containing caterpillars. Each spring they target specific native trees and shrubs to supply the thousands of caterpillars they need to raise a nest of young. And with a diversity of insect species on each tree, they are not out of luck if a certain insect population is low that year–they can mix and match to find the numbers they need.

On the other hand, a non-native species of tree like Ailanthus (tree of heaven) provides very little food for native insects. It just hasn’t been around long enough for native insects to figure out how to get past its toxic defenses to eat it. Therefore, Ailanthus thrives without any predators to help keep it under control. Ailanthus is also capable of suppressing competition with its allopathic chemicals, another great advantage. Ailanthus is more likely to be eaten by a non-native “invasive” species of insect from its native land like the recently reported invasive spotted lanternfly. Unfortunately, Ailanthus has evolved along with the lanternfly and has adapted to its predation. Even more unfortunate, the lanternfly eats Ailanthus during certain times of the year, but also is quick to adapt and eat native plants like apples, grapes, and other species as well.

With plants being the start of most food chains, non-natives are a dead end for native predators. With less insects there are fewer birds, small mammals, and so on all the way up the food chain. When natives are present, wildlife can easily feed and rear young, but non-natives actually function as a sink – sucking up time and energy without the food reward. The result is non-native plants that thrive without any insect or mammal predators to keep them under control, enabling them to take over areas and create dead zones for native wildlife.

So can we do anything about this? We can remove invasives where we find them and try to replant natives. This may be effective, but its success depends on what we plant. We don’t just want to plant the “pretty” landscape trees and shrubs, but those that have the greatest potential to provide food for native wildlife. Trees like oaks (Quercus), cherry (Prunus), willows (Salix), poplar (Populus), birch (Betula), and maple (Acer) all host huge numbers of caterpillar species. In fact, according to Doug Tallamay’s research cherry hosts over 400 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars and its fruit is also eaten by numerous other types of wildlife. Oaks are one step better, hosting over 500 species and feeding countless species of wildlife with their acorns.

 

How can you help? Be sure to cultivate native species as much as possible. And when you do replant, plant those native species that have the greatest potential to do the most good. If we don’t, our future forests and fields may not be too lively with the native species we have all come to enjoy.

Challenge Grant Extended!

CHALLENGE GRANT EXTENDED! Our would-be benefactor has generously offered to extend the “Challenge Grant” that she offered to help us raise the remaining capital to fully fund the historic High Tor acquisition. We now have until January 31, 2019, to raise $20,000.

As a reminder of how a challenge grant works, the generous donor will match the total amount raised up to $20,000. Most important: We can go over, but we can’t go under!

High Tor was MRG’s highest priority property to protect. This critical parcel in the heart of Mianus River Gorge Preserve features rare species of flora and fauna, healthy wetlands habitat, and, most impressive, a rock outcropping on its eastern-most boundary. The rock outcropping known as High Tor hangs over the steep slopes that descend to the Mianus River far below.

MRG has received generous leadership support from several individual donors, local private foundations and also a $50,000 gift from The Nature Conservancy in New York. If we can raise another $20,000 to meet the Challenge Grant, we will be $40,000 closer to realizing our goal.

With your help, Mianus River Gorge will not only protect High Tor from development but will preserve the land that buffers the old-growth forest and serves as a corridor for the movement of wildlife throughout the area.

Please help us meet the challenge! Click here and be sure to indicate that your donation is for the Challenge Grant.

Or you may mail a check to:
Mianus River Gorge
167 Mianus River Road
Bedford, NY 10506

Thank you!

Remember to Donate Before December 31

Snow & treeMaking a gift to Mianus River Gorge this holiday season can be a gratifying experience that also will help us fulfill our mission in the coming year. Whether you choose to make a cash gift, a gift of securities, or join The Anable Society by indicating a bequest or giving a major gift for land acquisition, you will benefit if you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return. For more information, see the “Get Involved” tab on the Home Page. THANK YOU!

MRG Needs Your Help to Meet a Challenge Grant!

Mianus River Gorge has received an enticing “Challenge Grant” to boost our efforts to raise the remaining capital to fully fund the historic High Tor acquisition.

It’s simple. If MRG can raise an additional $20,000 for the purchase by December 31, 2018, a generous, anonymous donor will match the total amount raised up to $20,000. We can go over, but we can’t go under!

As you know, High Tor was MRG’s highest priority property to protect. This critical parcel in the heart of Mianus River Gorge Preserve features rare species of flora and fauna, healthy wetlands habitat, and, most impressive, a rock outcropping on its eastern-most boundary. The rock outcropping known as High Tor hangs over the steep slopes that descend to the Mianus River far below.

MRG has received generous leadership support from several individual donors, local private foundations and also a $50,000 gift from The Nature Conservancy in New York. If we can raise another $20,000 to meet the Challenge Grant, we will be $40,000 closer to realizing our goal.

With your help, Mianus River Gorge will not only protect High Tor from development but will preserve the land that buffers the old-growth forest and serves as a corridor for the movement of wildlife throughout the area.

To help us meet the challenge, please click here and be sure to indicate that your donation is for the Challenge Grant. Or you may mail a check to Mianus River Gorge, 167 Mianus River Rd., Bedford, NY 10506. Thank you!

Mianus River Gorge to Make Historic Land Acquisition

Mianus River Gorge (MRG) is closing in on an important acquisition for an 11-acre parcel bordered on three sides by the Mianus River Gorge Preserve. With recent funding commitments including from The Nature Conservancy, MRG needs $275,000 more to fully fund its highest priority property. This critical parcel features rare species of flora and fauna, healthy wetlands habitat, and, most impressive, a rock outcropping on its eastern-most boundary. The rock outcropping known as High Tor hangs over the steep slopes that descend to the Mianus River far below.  High Tor–tor meaning a high craggy hill in Middle English–has been on the MRG’s list of property deemed critical to protect for over 30 years.

 

MRG has received generous leadership support from several local private foundations and individual donors, including a $50,000 gift from The Nature Conservancy. MRG and the Conservancy have a long, shared history that dates back to the original land parcel preserved in the heart of the Mianus River Gorge. That property, saved from development by local citizens, became the first land conservation project of the Conservancy back in 1953.

“It was sixty-five years ago that concerned citizens and the newly formed Nature Conservancy banded together to protect the centuries-old hemlock forest in the Mianus River Gorge in what was to become the Conservancy’s first land protection project,” said Jim Attwood, Chair of The Nature Conservancy’s New York State Board of Trustees. “The Nature Conservancy is                                            a proud partner and happy to support the Mianus River Gorge to ensure the protection of this special place for generations to                                              come.”

“It is wonderful to extend our long partnership and very gratifying to receive this gift,” notes Mianus River Gorge Board of Trustees Chairman Tim Evnin.

The acquisition of High Tor will not only protect it from development but will safeguard numerous wetlands, vernal pools, and underground streams that feed the Mianus River. This property also will serve as a significant buffer to the unique old-growth forest comprised of 400-year-old hemlocks and it will act as a vital corridor for the movement of wildlife throughout the area.

 

Land preservation is at the very heart of Mianus River Gorge’s mission 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. Over its 65-year history, Mianus River Gorge has successfully completed over 200 land projects and protects over 1,200 acres of land in the Mianus River Watershed.

As a 501 (c) (3), not-for-profit organization, Mianus River Gorge relies solely on donors like you to fulfill its mission. To donate to the High Tor Fund, please note the specific instructions below when you visit the “To Donate” page. THANK YOU!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

Winter Trail Rest Dec. 1 to Apr. 1

WinterTrails are Closed for their Winter Rest December 1 to April 1

Ever since 1986 the preserve has been closed to hikers for its winter trail rest to prevent the Gorge from being loved to death. We all know the damage caused by uncontrolled visitation in some of our state and national parks. Overuse of wild land is the result of irresponsible management.

We have more visitors using a shorter trail than do neighboring preserves. Our trails cross steep hillsides with fragile soils and so are exceptionally vulnerable to overuse.

It is the responsibility of all of us, stewards and visitors alike, to protect this unique and fragile wilderness island. Our mission is to preserve the integrity of the Gorge for scientists, students, and hikers of tomorrow. Please help us by cooperating with our stewardship guidelines today.

Winter walking is available at many nearby parks and preserves. Butler Sanctuary, Westmoreland Sanctuary and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation are within a few miles of here. Please do call us at (914) 234-3455 if you have any questions.  We look forward to seeing you in the spring. Thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.

Tree ID Pop Quiz

MRG’s Budd Veverka led an enjoyable and informative walk through Mianus River Gorge Preserve to help participants learn to identify trees by their bark, leaves, and fruit. Budd helped us answer some of these questions:

1. Which native species is allopathic, sending out a poison of sorts to discourage other trees from growing in its vicinity? Black oak, black walnut, or black birch?

2. How many needles does a white pine have?

3. Which tree’s bark appears to have silvery stripes that look like a tiger’s?

4. What does dendrology mean?

5. Which native shrub has a name that is associated with a magical being but really means “bendy”?

6. What is the fastest growing tree in the forest, identifiable by its tall, straight trunk and leaves with a cat’s ears shape?

7. Which tree sheds large pieces of leathery bark from its trunk that then remains smooth and white?

8. What are two types of hickory trees commonly found in our area, discernable by their compound leaves with 7-9 leaflets and very different looking nuts?

Answers:

1. Black walnut
2. Five (remember it by the five letters that spell white)
3. Red oak
4. The study of trees
5. Witch hazel, from Middle English “wyche” meaning pliant or “bendy”
6. Tulip poplar
7. Sycamore
8. Shag bark and Pignut hickory

That’s just a small sample of what participants learned on the Tree ID walk. After the walk, participants may look at trees in a whole new way, looking for clues that help one tell a white oak from a red oak, a black birch from a yellow birch, and a red maple from a sugar maple. And that’s just the beginning! If you missed this year’s Tree ID walk, we hope you’ll join us next year to hone your skills or learn about simple leaves, composite leaves, needles, lobes, and more to determine a tree.

Invasive Species Update

Invasive Species Update

A major component of the Mianus River Gorge strategic management plan is invasive species control. The task of eradicating invasive vines, plants, and other pests, such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, seems endless. However, MRG remains optimistic that many can and will be controlled, and others may become naturalized over time.

In the meantime, Mianus River Gorge has approached the challenges presented by a wide variety of invasive species in a number of ways:

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
MRG embarked on a two-year campaign to save the ancient hemlocks in the forest from a destructive, aphid-like insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid that literally sucks the life out of a tree. After careful consideration and consultation with Cornell Cooperative Extension, MRG contracted with a DEC-certified chemical applicator to spray the bark of infected trees to kill both adelgid and hemlock scale, a second pest. We have treated over 1,400 trees to date, and the trees appear to be healthier. The treatment lasts for up to seven years, so in the interim, MRG is evaluating biocontrols that prey on the adelgid and could keep it under control naturally.

 

NYS DEC Invasive Species Rapid Response & Control
MRG is in the second year of a three-year grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to respond to and control outbreaks of several invasive species on their target list. With funding from DEC, we engaged the Invasive Task Force Crew to help with efforts to remove Japanese barberry, Mile-a-minute vine, and other invasives from the old-growth forest.

 

 

Invasives ID Walk
Director of Land Management Budd Veverka led a group of visitors to the Gorge on a walk to identify the invasive species that are of particular concern to the Gorge and to homeowners. The list of invasive plants is as long as Mile-a-minute vine can grow in a day and includes Oriental bittersweet, winged euonymus, Japanese barberry, mugwort, phragmites, garlic mustard, allanthus, bishops weed, and more.

 

 

College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE)
Each summer MRG hosts four college-age students who work on applied-ecology research projects and help staff with the day-to-day management of the Preserve. This includes some days spent pulling vines and other invasive species. Interns help replace the removed invasives with native wildflowers and other herbaceous plants in the deer exclosures and other areas in the Gorge. MRG staff, interns, and volunteers spent over 300 combined hours removing invasive plants and vines from in and around the Preserve.

 

Volunteer Days
In addition to scheduled Volunteer Days, MRG hosts corporate groups who volunteer to spend a day at the Gorge helping with a variety of projects. This year, several groups from Xylem came and helped pull Oriental bittersweet, winged euonymus, and several other species from along the side of the road to prevent them from spreading into the Preserve. MRG is grateful to the volunteers who donated their time and effort to help us get ahead of the invasives curve.

 

 

Land Acquisitions
Mianus River Gorge has been fortunate to acquire several parcels of land over the past several months that will now be preserved and protected in perpetuity. Some parcels are in better condition than others, so MRG begins with a survey of flora to determine the relative health of the land. MRG develops a stewardship plan for each property to determine how serious an invasives problem may be and how best to tackle it. We also look for the presence of native wildflowers, plants, shrubs, and trees and endeavor to keep them healthy.

 

PRISM
MRG partners with Partnership for Regional Invasives Species Management, an organization that conveys awareness of invasive species in the Lower Hudson region and provides solutions for tackling them. PRISM organizes the Invasive Task Force Crew that is available to help organizations like ours accomplish a lot more than we’d otherwise be able to. Thanks to the DEC grant mentioned above, MRG will continue to engage the Crew for the next couple of years.

Invasives Management Plan
Openings in the canopy have allowed invasive species to flourish, out competing native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. Over the summer, Matt Gomes, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Eric Cioci, a graduate of Stamford High School and current student at the University of Rochester, assessed forest openings in the old-growth hemlock forest and its upland buffer. They cataloged 54 forest openings and began management efforts on 13, which included planting 500 hemlock trees and fast-growing tulip trees.

 

Invasive species management is an ongoing part of properly stewarding Mianus River Gorge Preserve and the other land we protect. Thank you for your support of our efforts.

Donation adds 13 acres to MRGP

Thanks to an extremely generous donation from Susan Heller, Mianus River Gorge (the Preserve) has just added almost 13 acres of sugar maple woodlands along Mianus River Road. This beautiful land was once the site of an orchard in the late 1800’s and now is a mature sugar maple grove. Laced with ancient stone walls and other remnants of its past use, this maturing forest provides an important buffer for older forest lands within the interior of the Preserve.

Ms. Heller’s family at one time owned much of the land along this part of Mianus River Road, and her parents gave donations of vital pieces of land to the Gorge in the past. “It is extremely rare to receive such a gift in this day and age when land is worth so much,” said Rod Christie, Executive Director of Mianus River Gorge. “We are extremely grateful to Susie for this gift and promise to take as good care of it as she and her family have for so many years. It is truly a spectacular addition to the Preserve.”

Walkers and other people enjoying Mianus River Road are very familiar with this land and can now take comfort in knowing that its beautiful vistas can be enjoyed by all for years to come.

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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