Two Adirondack scientists share best practices for development that minimizes impacts on wildlife
By Megan Plete Postol
Unregulated residential sprawl in the Adirondacks poses a threat to native wildlife habitat, say two Adirondack conservationists. Michale Glennon and Heidi Krester are working to help minimize the impact of development on wildlife that live in the park.
Part of that work means getting the attention of officials on a local level, the people who are involved in building and development codes that are set, updated, and approved by town boards and planning commissions. Wildlife depend on private lands and people making decisions about the design, configuration and stewardship of development that benefit conservation, they said.
In a joint webinar Dec. 7, the pair highlighted best practices of land use planning that promotes conservation and diminishes harm to the natural habitat of the Adirondacks’ wild creatures.
In the webinar, aimed at helping elected officials understand the impact of poorly planned development in a region like the Adirondacks, the two laid out how features such as clustering, open space, and ecological site analysis can have long term effects for neighboring populations of birds and other wild species.
“Birds are a great indicator of environmental condition,” Krester said. “We know that from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s work that most populations of bird species in North America are in trouble. We are witnessing a continental collapse of avifauna, largely due to multiple and interacting threats that are driven by habitat loss, agriculture intensification, and urbanization.”
They also unveiled an initiative dubbed “A Billion Acres for Wildlife,” which aims to create a fund to provide grants for be used for land use planning and conservation design implementation, with the long term goal of protecting the area’s wildlife.
“It’s our pie-in-the-sky idea of how to make private lands a lasting centerpiece for wildlife conservation,” Krester said.
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Glennon and Krester believe that relying on protected lands to sustain wildlife populations alone is not sustainable. Historically, they said, land set aside as protected are disproportionately places that are not ideal habitats for wildlife, such as vistas or rocky areas. Most protected lands serves multiple uses, such as recreation and conservation, which can be conflicting goals.
To achieve a sustainable balance of livable habitat for the Adirondack’s wildlife populations, private land with open space will need to be conserved and regulated.
The researchers think that local land-use regulations can influence development patterns and mediate some of the negative impacts of residential development on wildlife.
“It is town boards, planning boards, tribal governments, county commissions that make decisions about private lands that will impact the future of most wildlife in this county,” Krester said. “Individuals making these decisions have an opportunity to protect wildlife on private land.”