Group for the East End website turns spotlight on protected wildlife species

05/03/2018 12:00 PM |

Group for the East End unveiled a website last Thursday that’s designed to get the public more engaged in conservation efforts. 

The website, nyswap.org, includes information on more than 50 high-priority Long Island wildlife species that the state has deemed in need of protection.

It highlights the New York State Wildlife Action Plan and explains how the public can get involved. The plan was developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which due to limited resources needed help getting the word out. Group for the East End volunteered to help relay the message.

Over the last decade, the state essentially tried to determine the status of roughly 600 species across New York, said Group for the East president Bob DeLuca. Of those species, 166 were deemed to be high priority for conservation action and 55 of those are found on Long Island, according to the plan.

“Where it gets handed off to those of us in the public is how do we take those recommendations and convert them into specific programs or actions, working in partnership with the state,” Mr. DeLuca said.

The website offers details on threatened species and provides information about where people can see wildlife, learn more about species in their community, how to properly interact with wildlife and ways to get involved with the group’s efforts.

Mr. DeLuca said he was surprised to see some local species, such as the box turtle, on the “high priority” list. Other species in that category include horseshoe crabs, bay scallops, oysters, hard clams and blackfish.

Broadening the public’s understanding of these species could lead to partnerships and funding for conservation studies and projects, Mr. DeLuca said.

“It elevates the urgency of people feeling like something needs to be done here — and that often turns into resources, which turns into change,” he said.

Other organizations, including the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society and Long Island Nature Organization, have partnered with government agencies and civic groups to spread the word about the action plan and work toward new projects to protect species.

Interns from Dartmouth College and George Washington University participated in developing the website.

A press conference was held April 19 to celebrate Earth Day and the launch the site, which was two years in the making. It was attended by leaders of conservation groups, DEC representatives and local officials, many of whom noted the importance of getting youth involved in conservation projects.

“This is a good time to get the public engaged and involved,” state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said in a news release. “When we look at our habitat, it is constantly being challenged. I think it’s critically important for our young people to start getting involved, and I think today the general public are more into protecting the habitat.”

Group for the East End is collaborating with the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund to get a live osprey camera installed soon.

“That’s a window that could be a wild moment for a seventh-grader who’s on the web and they come across our camera and say, ‘Wow, I think I’ll watch this for a while,’ ” Group for the East End vice president Aaron Virgin said in a news release. “That could be the turning point that allows that child to go to study wildlife ecology.”

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