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New York

Shawangunk Mountains


Located between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River, the spectacular Shawangunk Mountains are one of the most important sites for conservation in the northeastern United States. Popularly called the "Gunks" by locals, they support more than 35 natural communities, including one of only two ridgetop dwarf pine barrens in the world, chestnut oak forests, hemlock forests, pitch pine forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands. Twenty-seven rare plant and animal species have been documented here.

The Nature Conservancy recognizes that the Shawangunk ridge's scenic cliffs, plateaus and talus fields make it one of Earth's "Last Great Places." Since the first gift of land in 1969, the Conservancy has helped preserve more than 12,000 of the 40,000 protected acres on the ridge.

Threats
  • Encroaching development is the most significant threat here, permanently damaging habitat and ecological processes, particularly along the base of the ridge. 
  • Recreational use by almost a half million hikers, rock climbers, skiers and others each year can cause introduction of invasive species, erosion, soil compaction and loss of vegetation.
  • Fire suppression can negatively impact species that depend on a natural cycle of fire, and can lead to a buildup of flammable underbrush that may result in uncontrollable and devastating fires.
Plants

The ridgetop soils of the Shawangunks are shallow and acidic, supporting hardy plants such as pitch pines. Deep, cool rocky crevices create moist microclimates that nurture plants such as mosses and ferns. The crevices also support plants more typically found in subalpine forests and meadows such as creeping snowberry, goldthread and bunchberry.

Animals

The Shawangunks provide habitat for timber rattlesnakes, spotted salamanders, migratory birds, black bears, bobcats, foxes, fishers and over 200 species of nesting birds.

Our Conservation Strategy

The Nature Conservancy is working with land managers, scientists and communities to assure that the natural resources of the Shawangunk Ridge are protected, and where necessary, restored. Using the best conservation science, we are implementing the following core strategies:

  • Protect habitat. An aditional 15-25,000 acres should be protected through a combination of acquisition, easements and land use planning around the core protected area of the ridgetop.
  • Manage recreational use. Develop consistent management strategies designed to reduce impacts on conservation targets through trail design and use regulations.
  • Build a fire management program. Develop management plans to address the ecological needs of fire-influenced conservation targets by utilizing local expertise and educating the public about fire ecology and the use of fire in ecological management.
What We Do Here
  • The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership has adopted a Protection and Management Plan for the northern Shawangunks. The plan  actions by the partners that will sustain the ridge's ecosystem. 
  • Through a program called "Green Assets," the Partnership is providing communities around the ridge with planning assistance, to help implement conservation tools to help protect natural and scenic resources.
  • TNC is working with the NY State Natural Heritage Program to conduct a biological inventory of the southern Shawangunks, from Sam's Point Preserve to the New Jersey line. 
  • A state-of-the art, sustainable "green" conservation center recently opened at Sam's Point Preserve. The center provides a place of reflection, discovery and opportunity for thousands of visitors, while providing a base for the Conservancy's stewardship, science and outreach activities. 
  • Build a fire management program. Develop management plans to address the ecological needs of fire-influenced conservation targets by utilizing local expertise and educating the public about fire ecology and the use of fire in ecological management.
Partners
Cragsmoor Association; Friends of the Shawangunks; Mohonk Preserve; NY State Museum Biological Survey; NY State Department of Environmental Conservation; NY State Natural Heritage Program; NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Open Space Institute; Palisades Interstate Park Commission; private landowners and citizens

 

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