08/28/18 6:00am
08/28/2018 6:00 AM

Keep looking up at towers and telephone poles and you will see more osprey than in years past as the population of young osprey on the North Fork has grown by about 50 percent over the last five years.

According to the Group for the East End, there were 198 active nests across the East End in 2014 and 301 active nests in 2018, resulting in a 47 percent increase of young produced over the five-year span. Additionally, The North Fork also has the densest population of breeding osprey, specifically in Southold Town.

There are 143 active known nest sites in town, with 60 of them on Fishers Island, Plum Island and Robins Island. Southold Town has nearly 50 percent of all osprey activity on the East End, the Group said. It is also the birthplace of 48 percent of all young.

Conversely, Riverhead has the lowest amount of nests, with 19 noted so far in 2018 with a little more than half were occupied. The Group said strong winds and surf due to Riverhead’s large shoreline frontage on the Long Island Sound contributes to the lower number of nests there.

The Group has been working with local organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Long Island Audubon and North Fork Audubon, since 2014 gathering osprey breeding data in the five East End towns.

Of the 519 known sites, 420 of them were active or in potential use in 2018.

Nesting site data was collected each summer, with Southold averaging 196 nests over the five years. Southampton averages 106, 64 on Shelter Island, 28 in East Hampton and 12 in Riverhead.

Shelter Island also has the highest occupancy rate, the release said, at 80 percent. Comparatively, the five-year East End average is 69 percent.

But as the population increases, so do concerns. One such is the amount of birds nesting on utility poles.

“Nesting in trees we want, which is what some osprey once did, but nesting along electrical liens not so much,” Aaron Virgin, vice president of Group for the East End, said in a release. “I learn about a few instances each year, but PSEG has become a good partner by working with the local community to safely remove a nest and replace with a nesting platform disc.”

One example of this occurred in Flanders in April. One concern is that when osprey return to their nests with fish it could lead to electrical shortages, sparking fires and resulting in the death of a young bird unable to fly.

However, the increase in osprey has led to residents asking to erect manmade homes for the birds.

“On average I receive an inquiry a week seeking information about how to place an osprey pole on private property or to see if someone has the right habitat,” Mr. Virgin said in a release.

He added that the Group is particular about where poles can be placed as the goal is for birds to nest in natural places, such as trees or old boat docks and other natural places in disrepair.

“At some point it would be nice if osprey could make it on their own and with the current robust population we may be near that time,” he continued.

According to Mr. Virgin one of the main reasons for the increase in the birds is the changes in fishing regulations over the last decade, specifically regarding the amount of menhaden or “bunker” fish.

The recent increase of osprey on the East End has brought the birds into “species of special concern” distinction in 1995, which is its current status. The species was previously listed as endangered in 1976, and later began to rebound. Its distinction became “threatened” in 1983.

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04/14/16 6:00am

North Fork volunteers

In December, Bill Toedter, a longtime environmental advocate and president of the North Fork Environmental Council, announced he would be stepping down from the position to move to Arizona.

But as of this month, Mr. Toedter is still in charge of the Mattituck organization.

READ

12/07/15 6:00am
12/07/2015 6:00 AM

IMG_7964_web

Visitors to the North Fork next year may find new sculptures of wildlife made of untraditional materials — say, a jellyfish with fishing line as tentacles or a sea turtle whose shell is made of green sea glass. READ

01/07/15 2:00pm
01/07/2015 2:00 PM
 Plum Island (Credit: file)

Plum Island. (Credit: Times/Review, file)

An advocacy group is threatening a lawsuit against two federal agencies in the latest attempt to halt the public sale of Plum Island, claiming officials have failed to protect endangered species inhabiting the isle.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment, along with the Long Island version Save the Sound, issued notice Monday to the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration — the two agencies that oversee the island — of an intent to sue under violation of the Endangered Species Act.

(more…)

09/04/14 8:00am
09/04/2014 8:00 AM
Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Considering the disappointing numbers reported last week from the controversial deer cull that took place earlier this year, a call is going out to get all stakeholders — especially environmentalists — involved as state and regional authorities regroup and figure out a plan to tackle Suffolk County’s overpopulated deer herds.  (more…)

03/17/14 12:00pm
03/17/2014 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

Saying a lawsuit against the Suffolk County isn’t quite enough, environmentalists have taken to parking lots from Southold to Huntington to get a referendum on this fall’s ballot to halt a county effort to use $33 million in reserved Drinking Water Protection funds.

Dollars are raised for the Drinking Water Protection Fund through a 1/4 percent sales tax, and several dedicated programs exist within the fund. One of those, the sewer stabilization fund is meant to offset large spikes in sewer rates for residents, and the last fall the county decided to budget $32.8 million from that fund to help balance the 2014 spending plan.

While the Pine Barrens Society of Long Island, along with the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, filed suit last week against the decision, Group for the East End has joined the Pine Barrens Society in gathering 10,000 signatures before the end of April. The hope is to get a measure to overturn the decision to use the funds this year.

“We’ve been arguing against it pretty vociferously,” said Bob DeLuca, president of GFEE. “But you hit that point when you realize nobody’s listening.”

Suffolk voters last agreed to renew the tax in 2007 — approving a ballot measure to maintain the tax through 2030.

The PBS sued Suffolk after it decided in 2011 to use close to $20 million to balance its budget previously. That litigation is still making its way through the justice system, though is expected to be heard later this year.

In order to qualify to get on the ballot, according to PBS president Dick Amper, the groups have to gather 2.5 percent of the population in each town who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

That equates to about 10,500 signatures, or a town-by-town breakdown as follows:

  • Shelter Island: 39
  • Southold: 237
  • Riverhead: 268
  • East Hampton: 205
  • Southampton: 475
  • Brookhaven: 3,137
  • Smithtown: 974
  • Huntington: 1,623
  • Islip: 1,917
  • Babylon: 1,623

Mr. Amper said on Monday morning that he’s been “amazed at the number of people who know about” the issue as PBS and GFEE petitioners have approached citizens in public places such as parking lots at supermarkets or post offices.

County Executive Steve Bellone’s original budget last year had not called for dipping into the sewer stabilization fund at all, but rather closing the budget gap in the $2.7 billion budget through borrowing from the New York State Dormitory Authority, a path that would have required legislation approved at the state level. A report from the County’s Budget Review Office identified that plan as a risk because of the necessary legislation.

Justin Meyers, communications director for Mr. Bellone, said last week that the county exec plans on replenishing the fund.

“The fact of the matter is that there are two overarching concerns,” he said. “First, if the money is being taken and used for something other than drinking water, it must be repaid. The county executive completely supports that.”

He added that also, the county “needs to engage the public and voters on the issue if it moves forward.”

Mr. Meyers added that once the county decides to spend the money from the sewer stabilization fund, the county legislature would have to pass a measure approving the spending. Within the language of that approval would be a repayment structure outlining when the county would pay the fund back.

Mr. Amper said a ballot referendum would be the only way to ensure that the funds are paid back, noting that a similar use of Drinking Water Protection Program money in 2011 did not require county legislation.

“We want to guarantee” that the money is paid back, he said. “And we’re going to do that through courts, or the court of public opinion.”

The plan laid out by the county last fall intends to start paying back into the sewer stabilization fund in 2017, though the county would still have to formally adopt a repayment schedule. Last fall, the balance in the sewer stabilization fund hovered around $140 million, leaving over $100 million left, should the $33 million be allocated this year.

However Mr. DeLuca noted that part of the Drinking Water Protection Fund already reserves a portion of revenues raised for balancing the budget. According to the county charter, about 32 percent of the proceeds raised by the tax go toward reducing county property taxes.

“You got money for the purpose of reducing taxes,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Stay away from the other part.”

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02/28/14 5:00am
02/28/2014 5:00 AM

mic

News-Review and Suffolk Times editor Michael White will be appearing Friday morning on the “Going Green” radio show hosted by Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca.

The show airs at 11 a.m. on WPPB (Peconic Public Broadcasting) at 88.3 FM and runs until noon.

Mr. White will be joined by fellow East End newspaper editors David Rattray, editor of the East Hampton Star, and Joe Shaw, executive director of the Press News Group, which publishes The Southampton Press eastern and western editions, and the East Hampton Press.

The journalists will take to the studio for an in-depth discussion on the region’s top environmental issues.

“From the controversial culling of deer, to the future of water quality, learn how the local media decides what issues matter and where the truth lies,” reads a press announcement from WPPB, “while we consider the impact these decisions have on community perceptions and attitudes about the future of our environment.”

Listeners are invited to join the conversation by posting questions on the WPPB Facebook page.

The show is produced by award-winning broadcaster Bonnie Grice.