For Immediate Release: 03/19/2018
Contact: Erica Ringewald | (518) 402-8000
Press Office | PressOffice@dec.ny.gov
DEC and New York Natural Heritage Program Announce First-Ever Statewide Riparian Opportunity Assessment Tools
New Online Tools Will Help Guide Local, Regional Stream Buffer Restoration and Protection Efforts
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) today announced the release of the Statewide Riparian Opportunity Assessment, which provides a suite of tools to help identify and prioritize riparian (stream side) sites for restoration or protection. This assessment will support DEC’s Trees for Tribs program, which is working with partners and volunteers to create and improve riparian buffers by planting native trees and shrubs along streams.
“Plants help stabilize stream banks to reduce soil erosion that causes sedimentation, nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful algal blooms, and stormwater runoff that contributes to flooding,” Commissioner Seggos said. “This first-ever statewide assessment and suite of tools is already raising community awareness and improving our understanding of the need for riparian buffers. Buffers improve climate resiliency, water quality, and wildlife habitat, and provide flood protection during storm events.”
The Statewide Riparian Opportunity Assessment packages geographical data into a suite of user-friendly, interactive online mapping and analysis tools for viewing comprehensive information about sub-watersheds and smaller catchments within them throughout the state. Geographical data layers include indicators of ecological health and stress such as land use, forest canopy cover, water quality, impervious surface, and habitat for rare species.
The assessment was funded by the Environmental Protection Fund and developed by NYNHP with guidance from DEC, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Department of State, The Nature Conservancy, and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition.
Conservation practitioners, watershed stakeholders and others can use the assessment to inform decisions about where to perform riparian restoration and protection in their regions, and to guide related conservation work such as land protection for drinking water sources and rare habitats. Users are encouraged to check assessment results by visiting riparian sites identified using the suite of tools. Based on site conditions observed in the field, users can seek solutions for improving or protecting the riparian area, including participating in DEC’s Trees for Tribs program to restore riparian areas.
Since 2007, New York State’s Trees for Tribs Program has been working to reforest New York’s tributaries, or small creeks and streams, which flow into and feed larger rivers and lakes. The program plants young trees and shrubs along riparian areas. Trees for Tribs has engaged more than 8,700 volunteers in planting more than 101,400 trees and shrubs at 614 sites across New York State. Trees for Tribs provides landowners, municipalities, and conservation organizations with low-cost or no-cost native plants and free technical assistance. Native bareroot trees and shrubs are provided by the Saratoga State Tree Nursery, which has specialized in reforesting New York State since 1911.
DEC and NYNHP are hosting a webinar for stakeholders to learn more about the new online tools on April 19, 2018, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. NYNHP will provide a tutorial on how to navigate and use these tools and DEC will share information on how the tools can be used in developing Trees for Tribs projects. To register for this webinar, go to https://meetny.webex.com/meetny/j.php?RGID=ra3123ddf068a6052e926b3f116d20a0e. The webinar will be recorded and posted to the DEC Trees for Tribs webpage.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said, “This project will be an important tool in assessing the needs of our most at-risk waterways and building a greater understanding for how to protect them. Riparian buffers are an effective way of preventing pollination and erosion while promoting a healthy ecosystem and community resilience. It supports the great work being done on farms and in communities across the State through the historic Clean Water Infrastructure Act, Climate Resilient Farming Grants and other State-funded programs that continue to strengthen New York’s commitment to environmental leadership.”
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “These tools are intrinsic to improving our state for future generations. The assessment will help fortify New York’s stream banks and waterways, leading to healthy ecosystems and resilient communities across New York. New York’s environmental wellbeing is a necessary foundation for the overall health of our state’s infrastructure and framework for community development planning and implementation.”
Senator Tom O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The state’s ongoing efforts to stabilize stream banks, control soil erosion, prevent runoff, and strengthen the overall stability and quality of these waterways are fundamental to the future of local communities and environments throughout New York State.”
Stevie Adams, Freshwater Specialist, The Nature Conservancy, said, “Having buffers of trees and shrubs around our streams is incredibly important for filtering water for people and providing habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic species. The Nature Conservancy was pleased to be part of this assessment, which will give public officials, land trusts, watershed organizations and private landowners an important tool for prioritizing water quality improvement efforts.”
The New York Natural Heritage Program is a program of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry that is administered through a partnership between SUNY ESF and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The mission of the New York Natural Heritage Program is to facilitate conservation of rare animals, rare plants, and significant New York ecosystems.