New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

ConservationPosted June 2008
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NYSOA Joins EPCAL Coalition
Andy Mason
Published in the July 2008 issue of NY Birders

NYSOA recently joined with a number of conservation partners in an effort to ensure proper consideration and review of environmental issues, including birds, prior to development of the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL), a 3000 acre site in Suffolk County in eastern Long Island.

EPCAL contains the largest remaining relatively undisturbed grasslands on Long Island.  The area provides documented breeding and foraging habitat for numerous grassland birds, including at least one threatened species (i.e., northern harrier) and five species of special concern (i.e., common nighthawk, grasshopper sparrow, vesper sparrow, horned lark, and whip-poor-will).  In fact, these grasslands are the most productive breeding grounds for grasshopper sparrow in all of New York State.

In addition, the grasslands were frequented by Short-eared Owls, a state endangered species, this past winter and well into spring.     

The EPCAL lands comprise the former Grumman Aerospace property transferred by the US Navy to the Town of Riverhead for economic development purposes in 1998.  The town is considering plans including a 350-foot-high indoor ski mountain, a 90-acre excavated lined lake, surrounded by eight themed subresorts.  Other development proposals include a sprawling equestrian complex, a 10,000-seat auto racetrack and a looping motorway to attract automobile enthusiasts.  Also envisioned are a convention center, hotel rooms, retail businesses, and shared-ownership vacation homes.

The town was moving ahead with development preparations with little or no environmental review, not just of wildlife impacts, but also ground and surface waters, air quality, and inducement of further growth in the area.  The Coalition for Open Space at EPCAL came about to address this failing, and push for preservation of the most environmentally sensitive and important portions of the property.

Among coalition members are:  Group for the East End; The Nature Conservancy; Audubon New York; Eastern Long Island Audubon Society; Four Harbors Audubon Society; Great South Bay Audubon Society; Huntington Audubon Society; North Fork Audubon Society; North Shore Audubon Society; South Shore Audubon Society; The Linnaean Society of New York; Brooklyn Bird Club.

The coalition recently met with success in convincing the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation to assert jurisdiction over environmental review of the property, and ask for a halt to development activity until proper surveys and studies were completed.

However, the EPCAL lands are far from safe.  Letters are needed to decision-makers to make certain the millions of dollars from development of EPCAL do not trump proper consideration of environmental impacts.  Among the important lawmakers to contact are Gov. David Paterson, Executive Chambers, Albany, NY  12224; NYS Dep’t. of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233; and Town of Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale, Town Hall, 200 Howell Ave., Riverhead, NY 11901.  A letter from NYSOA President Bill Ostrander to Gov. Paterson is available at www.nybirds.org (click on the link in the line above to read the letter).

NYSOA is pleased to join with the coalition in this worthy effort to protect the habitat of some of the state’s most at-risk birds.

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