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Grant funding will benefit Grand Island’s wildlife and environment

Grant funding will benefit Grand Island’s wildlife and environment

The trail at the Margery Gallogly Nature Preserve, owned by the Western New York Land Conservancy, is a bog bridge. It's a raised surface, as the ground in spring tends to be very wet. Jajean Rose-Burney said, `There is standing water throughout most of the preserve in the spring.`
The trail at the Margery Gallogly Nature Preserve, owned by the Western New York Land Conservancy, is a bog bridge. It's a raised surface, as the ground in spring tends to be very wet. Jajean Rose-Burney said, `There is standing water throughout most of the preserve in the spring.`

The Margery Gallogly Nature Preserve trail, which is owned by the Western New York Land Conservancy is a bog-bridge. It has a raised surface because spring ground tends to be very moist. Jajean Rose Burney stated, “There is standing water throughout most preserves in the spring.”

Sat, Jan 29th 2022 at 07:00 AM

By Alice E. Gerard

Two hundred years ago, Grand Island was covered with dense forests of oak and hickory trees. The pileated woodpecker began to build its nests each year and raise its young.

“The pileated woodpecker is the large one with a big crest. It makes a lot of noise,” explained Jajean Rose-Burney, deputy executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy. “They need something like 10 square-miles of mature forest in order to raise their young. They need large, old trees and trees that aren’t dying. Tree cavities are home to many insects. So, this is the kind of forest that they need to feed their young, have a territory.”

In the early 20th century, almost all the Grand Island white oaks had been cleared. The wood was then transported down the Erie Canal to be made into masts for tall ships. The island was made into farmland and the pileated Woodpeckers were extinct.

“They would have been abundant on Grand Island 200 years ago, and they would have disappeared from Grand Island when the forests were cut down,” Rose-Burney said. “They do not live in farm areas. They don’t live in pastures. A patch of forest isn’t enough for them. Around 10 years ago, Grand Island was first home to pileated woodpeckers. As no nest has been found, pileated woodpeckers have not been confirmed to be nesting. We do know that they are nesting somewhere. Maybe it’s at the Margery Gallogly Nature Preserve (adjacent to Assumption Cemetery on Whitehaven Road). Maybe it’s near Gallogly in someone’s private forest. But it’s really special to think that, after 200 years, the woodpeckers are back, and the next person to find a nest on Grand Island in one of these forests, in one of these big old oak trees, will be the first person to see a pileated nest in 200 years.”

On Dec. 22, it was announced by the New York State Attorney General’s Office that the Western New York Land Conservancy, Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, and the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning won three of the 14 grants provided under the Tonawanda Community Environmental Benefit Program (EBP), which was designed to protect Tonawanda’s environment and public health. These three organizations will use their grant money to support programs that directly impact Grand Island.

The community residents voted between September 20 and 26, for the environmental programs they desired to see funded, and selected the recipients of grant funding. According to a press release issued by Attorney General Letitia Jones, the grant funding, which came to $909,384, was part of a settlement between the Office of the Attorney General of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of the Attorney General. This settlement covers environmental violations at the former Tonawanda COke facility.

The Margery Gallogly nature preserve.

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Dave Reilly, who runs Citizens Coalition for Wildlife and the Environment with Nicole Gerber, said, “The grant is intended to address very specific communities that were affected by Tonawanda Coke. So, we need to be in a location where all of them can attend. This includes North Tonawanda and Tonawanda as well as Kenmore, North Buffalo, Grand Island and Wheatfield. Each of those is our target audience.”

The $160,777 grant to the Western New York Land Conservancy was $160,777. The program is titled “Creating New Nature Preserves, Improving Public Access, Restoring Wildlife Habitat, and Offering Environmental Education.”

Rose-Burney said, “On Grand Island, we have three nature preserves – the Margery Gallogly Nature Sanctuary, which is adjacent to Assumption Cemetery; and the Nike Missile Base Park, which the town owns; with a new trail system that the town just built that connects with our trail system. There, we’re going to be doing more habitat restoration for wildlife – invasive species controls, plantings, trying to improve the habitat for the forest wildlife.

“The Love Road preserve is a property that we purchased with the Niagara River Greenway’s Ecological Standing Committee funds last year. We bought it from the Buffalo Ornithological Society. We’re going to try to do some habitat restoration. We will make it easier to access the site. That preserve is not going to be generally open to the public all of the time because there’s no parking. The street access is very narrow. So that preserve will be open to the public on guided hikes and by reservation, but we will do improvements, so it’s possible to go there when we do organized hikes.

“The Funk preserve, which is 10.5-acre property that we purchased in November 2021 on Staley Road, is mostly wildlife restoration. We’ll be dealing with invasive species, improving the forest. There are wetlands. We will plant some.

“That’s the big picture of what all of that funding will allow us to do. Four nature preserves will be improved, including the North Tonawanda Audubon Nature reserve. There will also be improvements to public access and a lot more wildlife habitat restoration. It will create habitat for wildlife and help to filter the water. It’s a nice amount of money. It’s a great opportunity. It seems that the community is really interested in the quality of the environment and with being able to access nature in their back yards.”

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In addition to habitat restoration, the Land Conservancy will also team up with the Buffalo Audubon Society to do educational programming “so kids from these communities – Grand Island and North Tonawanda – can have an opportunity to learn about nature, ecology, potential future careers, and the environment,” Rose-Burney said.

Citizens Coalition for Wildlife and the Environment has tentatively scheduled June 4 for educational programming.

“Our event has three specific elements to it,” Reilly said. “There will be presentations on topics of ecological and habitat restoration in our backyards and in our community spaces so that people can think about how this all fits into a bigger picture of responsibility and what our role can be at the individual level. We will also have many community organizations that are focused on environmental issues. We’re thinking 10 to a dozen, maybe even more, that will all be there to share their specific expertise on different aspects of that. These are many of the organizations that do a great job on anything from sustainable energy initiatives, mitigation of pollution, restoration of specific habitats.”

“And waterways,” Gerber added. She explained, “When you think of bringing education to the community, it’s really about education on changing our mindset on the importance of plants and animals and habitats. We need to learn how we as individuals can contribute to healthier ecosystems that will benefit biodiversity, but also improve our community health.”

“They (environmental organizations) will table (at the event),” Reilly said, “and they will work with us to share information and to educate all of the participants and the attendees. And then, third, what we have is a native plant giveaway so each attendee will get a tree, a bush, or a flowering plant so they can start the process of transforming their own spaces into a more healthy environment.”

He added, “I think that the more you know, the more you recognize how critical it is that we respect each living creature and its role that it has to play within ecosystems. The best indicator of ecosystem health is biodiversity.”

Reilly said that it is possible for the program to last half a full day, possibly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The third funded program that directly impacts Grand Island is being provided by the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, which was awarded $25,000 for “Subsidized Community Rain Barrel/Compost Bin Sale.”

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