New! A Look into the Past – “Listen to the Sound 2000 Aims to Preserve Open Space”

This is the eighth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.”


“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 2000 No. 2, March-April 2000

Listen to the Sound 2000 Aims to Preserve Open Space

Listen to the Sound 2000By Jane-Kerin Moffat, Coordinator of the Listen to the Sound 2000 Campaign

In 1990, area residents described their vision for the Long Island Sound as “…waters are clean, clear, safe to swim in and charged with life…a vision of waters nourished and protected by extensive coastal wetlands, of publicly accessible, litter-free beaches and preserves, and of underdeveloped islands of abundant and diverse wildlife, of flourishing commercial fisheries, of harbors accessible to the boating public, and of a regional consciousness and way of life that protects and sustains the ecosystem.”

Those who are about the estuary are urged to testify at Year 2000 citizens’ hearings to create a Long Island Sound reserve ecosystem – a comprehensive set of permanently protected open space and underwater lands around the Sound. Public testimony will help establish a compelling record of citizen concern for decision-makers at every level of government. It will help establish a consensus on what lands to protect and how, and it will focus public awareness on the need for stewardship of our shorelines.

This process was a success ten years ago. At that time Federated Conservationists was a major cosponsor when National Audubon Society created the first Listen to the Sound Campaign. Subsequently, FCWC was founding member of the Long Island Sound Watershed Alliance, which grew out of that campaign. The 1990 Citizens’ Agenda, which drew on testimony from over 500 area residents, and the ensuing coalition laid the foundation of the federal-state Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the South, which was adopted in 1994.

FCWC has long championed preservation of such waterfront sites as Edith G. Read Sanctuary, Marshlands Conservancy, Jay Heritage Center, and advocated the acquisition of Huckleberry and, of course, Davids Island among other sites. Restoring wetlands and proving pubic access to the Sound are also important parts of FCWC’s mission.

A Look Into Our Past – “Ward Pound Ridge Reservation gets Biodiversity Preserves”

This is the seventh installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of environmental work in Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 


“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 97 No. 3 – March & April 1997

4059_001(1)Ward Pound Ridge Reservation gets Biodiversity Preserves

By Gudrun LeLash, FCWC Executive Director 1997

For several years FCWC studied how to protect biodiversity and habitat in Westchester. It received funds for computer hard and software for data gathering and public education through the good offices of State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. Preexisting and new data were collected.

In 1994, under the leadership of Michael Klemens, herpetologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, a cooperative effort among the Westchester County Parks and Planning Departments, WCS and FCWC began in county parks – land already protected and accessible to us. Since it is public land, we felt we might be able to influence the management and protection of sensitive natural areas.

After three years of field study, two areas of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, nearly 1,500 acres, were declared Biodiversity Preserves by the Parks Board. The land was deemed of significant value, and biodiversity protection will be a major consideration in future plans for the park. Although not as strongly worded as we would have liked, it is, however, a beginning in the effort to secure the species and habitat diversity.

Our efforts notwithstanding, safeguarding Westchester’s natural resources will still depend on interested public citizens 50 or 100 years hence. If the Reservation were developed outside the Biodiversity Preserves, these protected areas would be at risk. For that matter, if the rural neighborhood bordering the Reservation were paved up to its boundary, the preserves would be jeopardized.

As they say, in this democracy, educated citizens and eternal vigilance are vital. What we have achieved, however, is a heightened sense of awareness about the species and habitats that exist within Ward Pound Ridge Reservation and elsewhere in our region.

A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “Farmland in Westchester?”

This is the sixth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of environmental work in Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 

In this post we would like to highlight the importance of farmland in Westchester County, as per our theme for this month’s E-News. This article, written by Gudrun “Goodie” LeLash our then Executive Director, cites the need to preserve a local farm on the Cortlandt/Yorktown border called Hemlock Hill Farm and owned by the DeMaria family. The call to action was a success and today Hemlock Hill Farm is able to provide its community with farm-fresh products. Visit their website at http://www.hemlockhillfarm.com.


“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 96 No. 2 – March & April 1996

Farmland in Westchester?

By Gudrun LeLash, FCWC Executive Director 1996

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It may be hard to believe, but vestiges of the county’s rural heritage still exist. However, one of Westchester’s few remaining farms is threatened with foreclosure, and New York City may be the only entity that can preserve it.

The DeMaria Farm, “Hemlock Hill,” situated on a scenic hilltop straddling the Cortlandt/Yorktown border, is in grave jeopardy. With the help of Westchester Land Trust a conservation plan has been proposed to the owners, the mortgage holders and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. It would involve DEP acquisition of the land through its watershed protection program. The DeMarias would use the proceeds for settling outstanding debts and as working capital for the farm.

About half the farm’s roughly 120 acres is in active agricultural use. The rest is wooded buildable land, although some areas are steep, rocky or wet. The land drains into Hunter Brook which runs directly into nearby Croton Reservoir. The farm is one of just a few large parcels comprising the Hunter Brook drainage area and has been a top property conservation site for over 20 years. Efforts to develop a greenway along Hunter Brook are being renewed by the Westchester Land Trust.

It is urgent that the DEP make a commitment soon since foreclosure would result in a Sheriff’s sale of the farm and eviction of the DeMarias within the next couple months. If the lenders gain title to the farm, it will undoubtedly be developed. Time is of the essence.

The DEP has visited the DeMaria Farm but has not committed to its protection. However, County Executive O’Rourke has urged the DEP to pursue acquisition of the land’s development rights. The Watershed Agricultural Council, set up as a watershed farm assistance bureau, funded by the DEP and Cornell, has shown interest in helping the DeMarias develop a watershed-sensitive farm plan that also makes financial sense.

This would be a wonderful opportunity to save a farm, create a greenbelt and demonstrate environmentally sound farming.

“Greening Our Parks” – Conservation Café

autumn_hyde_parkOn Friday May 29, FCWC and our partners in the “Conservation Café” presented the latest Conversations on Conservation program entitled “Greening our Parks.”

Many parks and open spaces are increasingly looking at how they can advance their missions through sustainable operations on their lands. These can include but are not limited to alternative energy projects, waste reduction initiatives, and pollution prevention projects. By many accounts, our parks and open spaces are leaders in sustainability, yet many of these projects remain secondary attractions to the natural resources that we seek out when visiting these locations. The Conservation Café sought to highlight some regional sustainability initiatives taken by parks in our own backyards.

Alyssa Cobb, the Assistant Commissioner for Parklands and Planning for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation discussed the New York City Community Parks Initiative (CPI). The CPI is an investment in the smaller public parks that are located in New York City’s densely populated and growing neighborhoods where there are higher-than-average concentrations of poverty. The Initiative will engage New Yorkers in rebuilding local parks and reconnect communities to the green spaces right outside their doorsteps. ‘Greening’ is a targeted improvement that the NYC Parks and Recreation Department is looking to incorporate into the CPI. Cobb also noted that stormwater management was a big concern when updating some of the City parks that include significant amounts of impervious surfaces.

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A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “New York State Breeding Bird Atlas”

This is the fifth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 

In this post we would like to welcome spring and the start of the birding season with a piece on the first New York State Breeding Bird Atlas. This article, written by Berna Weissman our then Treasurer, delves into the planning and work behind the Breeding Bird Atlas Project 1980, which culminated in a published Atlas. In December 2008 a “Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State” was released with updated information and public Google Earth datasets. Details on this “Second Atlas in Breeding Birds in New York State” can be found here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7312.html


“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 4 No. 3 – April & May 1982

A Look Into the PastNew York State Breeding Bird Atlas: a work a scientific significance

By Berna Weissman, FCWC Treasurer (Excerpt from)

Even in New York, endowed with a long history of ornithology and the current activity of a large number of professional and amateur observers, the precise distribution of the more than 200 species of birds which breed here is imperfectly known. Previous publications have had to rely on scattered studies of single species and random observations. The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, seeking to fill this gap, launched the Breeding Bird Atlas Project in 1980, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, National Audubon Society, Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology and New York State Museum.

To accomplish the enormous task of mapping the distribution of all breeding birds, the entire state has been divided into approximately 5000 blocks of 25 square kilometers, each to be surveyed for the species breeding within it. The field work, which will last for five years, is being done by volunteers who, by visiting all the habitats within a block at various times throughout the breeding season, locate and identify birds, make observations of their behavior and code them as possible, probably, or confirmed breeders according to a list of established criteria. Publication of the Atlas is expected in the latter half of this decade.

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A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “Earth Day: Progress and Promise”

This is the fourth installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 
 
In this post we would like to celebrate FCWC’s favorite holiday, Earth Day. Follow along as J. Henry Neale, Jr., a previous FCWC board member, recounts the first Earth Day and the start of “Earth Day ’80.”

“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 2 No. 4 – April 1980

Earth Day 80Earth Day: Progress and Promise By J. Henry Neale, Jr. (Excerpt from)

April 22, 1980 will be “Earth Day ‘80”. It has been declared to be the start of the “second decade of environmental progress.

The Earth Day celebration this year had an auspicious and impressive beginning. It was officially announced on January 1, 1980, on the first day of the new decade, in a Presidential Proclamation. President Carter’s proclamation called upon all citizens and government officials “… to observe this day and appropriate ceremonies and activities” and that “…special attention be given to community activities and educational efforts directed to protecting and enhancing our life-giving environment.”

Although the characterization of this year as being the start of the “second decade of environmental progress” may seem overly optimistic about our future – and excessively charitable about our recent past – there have been many changes during the past ten years. Several of these changes might be considered improvements. Perhaps these are reasons for describing the last decade as one of progress and for hoping that this progress will continue in the future…

…One indication of the change in the past ten years is that the environmental movement has become even more diversified. In addition to the continuing commitments to achieving air and water pollution control, wilderness preservation and land use planning, which had been well established long before 1970 and are enough to keep anybody busy for a long time to come, the environmental movement now includes many persons advocating other themes and causes: energy conservation, workplace safety, cancer prevention, transit reform, neighborhood preservation, alternative technologies and labor-intensive economic development, to name only a few.

A rough way of estimating progress toward accomplishment of this expanding list of goals is by evaluating the actions taken by the New York State Legislature in response to the various conflicting pressures upon it.

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A Look Into Our Past – Westchester Environment, “Doom Is The Spur”

This is the third installment of our “A Look into Our Past” Series, honoring the past five decades of work done by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County. This series revisits some of our best accomplishments by featuring past articles from our original publication “Westchester Environment.” 
 
In this post we would like to highlight an issue still prominent in the environmental community today. Follow along as this article tries to answer the question: how do we best spread the message of conservation? While forty-five years later we are still trying to find the answer, it is interesting to look back and see how far we have come.

“Westchester Environment” – Vol. 2 No. 3 – March 1980 Doom Is The SpurDoom is The Spur By Patrick Allen In the early ‘70s the prevailing orthodoxy amongst conservationists was doom-gloom – the view that very nasty things will very shortly occur unless we very quickly mend our wicked ways. This was the period of A Blueprint for Survival, jeremiads from the Club of Rome – notably (or notoriously) The Limits to Growth – and the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. For a time a great many people were mightily exercised by these warnings and even a few of the mighty took time off from (mis)directing affairs of state to Express Considerable Concern. But when the end, so widely heralded as nigh, quite failed to show up, the boom went out of the doom business. Books with titles like The Hungry Future, Standing Room Only, Our Polluted World, Timetable for Disaster, no longer poured from the printing presses, and in the western world earnest young men and women, so lately converted to the edifying values of cycling and recycling, quietly reoccupied their former niches in the gas-guzzling, throw-away society. For all but a hard core of the faithful doom-gloom was out. Yet despite nature’s well-known abhorrence of a vacuum, no revised version of the gospel took its place. Nor has done since. With the result that conservation has joined the long list of Worth Causes of Our Time about which all men of goodwill are agreed that something should be done tomorrow once Pressing Matters have been dealt with today. Doleful finding But of course the main characteristic of Pressing Matters is that they are always with us. Which means that for other matters – conservation for example – tomorrow arrives, if at all, very late in the day. Nowadays even those who should be beating the drum for conservation appear instead to be beating a retreat. A recent polling of environmental journalists produced the rather doleful finding that while most of them accept that the loss of species leads to a world that is aesthetically poorer, most of them do not believe that the loss of species leads to a world that is economically poorer. In other words, while they regard conservation as a Good Thing – in that having animals and plants around jollies up our grey lives – they do not regard it as an Essential Thing. And this from a cross section of environmental journalists! Admittedly many decision-makers (those paragons of our day) are better informed. They readily concede that conservation does matter – in an economic, scientific, in a strictly utilitarian sense. But whereas in former days, when the fear of imminent doom rode high, there was the immediate payoff or popular applause for conservation rhetoric (with the promise of deeds to follow), now there is nothing of the kind. With the result that Pressing Matters (see above) have entirely taken over.

The missing factor, it is clear, is popular pressure – or in the jargon, “public awareness.”… Fearsome predictions where are falsified by events (or rather by non-events) spoil the market for truth.

The missing factor, it is clear, is popular pressure – or, in the jargon, “public awareness.” Of course the apocalyptic warnings of the early ’70s, with their naïve dependence on crude computer models, were counter-productive. Fearsome predictions where are falsified by events (or rather by non-events) spoil the market for truth. And yet… and yet. The environmental pundits of a few years back may have erred in believing that the planet’s life-support systems were heading for imminent and dramatic collapse. But if the truth is that the planet’s life-support systems are softly, invisibly coming apart, is the message very different? If the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, the result is the same. Doom deferred is still doom. Doom deferred, though, is not in itself a rallying cry to action. As who-was-it said: “There is nothing to concentrates a man’s mind as the knowledge that he is to be hanged in a fortnight.” But substitute 15 years for a fortnight and concentration vanishes. How then to recover that focusing public attention on the Conservation Issue? For this, after all, is the truth. The time scale of cause and effect in nature may sometimes be lengthy. But it is nonetheless very real – with the added caveat that the results of what we do or do not do now may prove irreversible. What we do or do not do now also serves to narrow or to expand our range of options. Choice dwindles as resources are used up. Rainforests are shrinking at a frightening speed. World catches of many fish species have plummeted. Deserts are growing at such a rate that one-third of the world’s croplands may have disappeared by the turn of the century. Or take the most obvious example of all: energy. Failure to conserve now makes a full-blown nuclear future – the “technological fix” for a world in a fix – almost inevitable, regardless of hazards. So long as politicians feel that they are more likely to receive kicks than kisses for acting so as to stave off distant and problematic calamity, they will act, if at all, only halfheartedly. But of course people want a healthy future for themselves and even more so for their children. So a public which perceived the real-life choice between Good and Ill – and understands that choosing starts now – will direct both kicks and kisses to Good effect. With a real-live chance of happy outcome. The enemy of action The doom-watchers of the early ‘70s got it wrong. But the doom-watchers of the present day also have got it wrong. They know full well the track we are on but believe a rose-tinted view is all that people should be given for fear of depressing them. This is psychologically inept. It makes for complacency, the enemy of action.

The doom-watchers of the early ’70s got it wrong.

The track we are on is bound for doom but we are not bound to go there. We can backtrack in time. Just in time. And this truth is a truth that should be told. Unavoidable doom breeds only despair but preventable doom is the best of all possible spurs to action. So come back doom, preventable doom – we need you. Originally printed in the bulletin of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.