NYDEC Prepares Final Plan for Doodletown WMA

By Ann Friedman, Columbia-Green Media, HudsonValley360

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is gearing up to unveil its final plans for the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area in Columbia County, NY.

Several trails and parking areas were made public in late April at the nearly 700-acre property, which was formerly abandoned farmland that in the towns of Ancram, Taghkanic and a portion of Gallatin.

New England cottontail

New England cottontail, a species of special concern in NY, is found near Doodletown WMA and could be helped by new young forest habitat scheduled to be created there./Amanda Cheeseman

DEC Public Affairs Officer Rick Georgeson said the Habitat Management Plan for the area aims to guide habitat management decisions in support of wildlife and wildlife-related recreation.

“By design, Wildlife Management Areas are intended to be managed for wildlife conservation and public access,” he said. “To do this effectively, the DEC applies the most up-to-date science and best management practices to create, maintain and enhance wildlife habitat.”

The DEC’s Young Forest Initiative seeks to increase young forest habitat on Wildlife Management Areas to benefit wildlife such as the golden-winged warbler and New England cottontail.

“The Initiative applies forest management principles to wildlife conservation with the goal of managing at least 10 percent of forested habitat in Wildlife Management Areas as ‘young forest,’ with trees and shrubs that are less than 10 to 20 years old,” Georgeson said. “Diversity in forest age, composition and structure is key to wildlife conservation and fostering resilient, healthy forests.”

The Ancram Town Board called on the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council, a committee that identifies human activities or developments that may pose a threat to environmental quality, to provide review on issues related to the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area.

The Ancram Conservation Advisory Council is concerned that the destabilization of soils during clearing could lead to increased erosion, as well as that opening up woodlands would create an opportunity for invasive plants to become established, which would then require the routine use of toxic herbicides.

The council released its recommendations on Sept. 13, which include a statement from Erik Kiviat, executive director of Hudsonia, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Annandale.

“I recommend the DEC proceed slowly, if at all, with the young forest initiative, concentrate on managing existing old fields and shrublands instead of cutting mature forests, do small cuts only or cut on a very few sites, and sample shrubland and forest wildlife and plant species before and after [over] many years, as well as monitoring soil erosion and compaction, and colonization or spread of nonnative weeds,” Kiviat said.

Ancram Conservation Advisory Council member Jamie Purinton said the council wants to work with DEC on its plans for the area.

“We’re preparing ourselves for the plan and asking for the opportunity to provide detailed input,” she said. “They have their own management goals such as hunting and trapping interests, and we hope they [try] to balance those with the concerns we’re raising.”

young forest habitat

Biologist examines young forest habitat. Many kinds of wildlife rely on this thick cover, which has been dwindling throughout the East in recent decades. Management practices, such as timber harvesting, can create young forest on carefully selected sites. NYDEC is a partner in the 17-state Young Forest Project./Kelly Boland

Town Supervisor Art Bassin said the town board always asks the council for their opinion regarding environmental issues. “The town has no role in deciding what to do with the management area and we don’t have an opinion as to whether it’s a good or bad thing,” he said. “We’re trying to be responsive to the concerns of the residents and pass them along to the DEC.”

Bassin said residents are concerned about an increase in traffic on relatively narrow country roads and trash left behind by visitors.

Georgeson said the DEC has been working with local highway authorities. “There have been no significant issues or concerns raised by the highway officials,” he said.

Georgeson said DEC expects to announce its plan for the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area this fall. “Once the DEC finalizes the plan, a public meeting will be held to present the plan to the public and answer any questions the public may have,” he said.

Purinton said she hopes the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council can work with the DEC.

“We hope they pay attention to our concerns,” she said. “Hopefully, we can play a role in how the area is managed.”

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Read the article online.

Learn more about the 690-acre Doodletown WMA. NYDEC states that “Several areas of this parcel provide excellent opportunities for the development and expansion of young forest/early successional habitat. The Doodletown WMA will provide areas of shrub habitat that can support the New England cottontail, which is found nearby and is a state wildlife species of special concern. In addition, the parcel contains upland habitat that supports important migratory songbirds, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, scarlet tanager, Louisiana water thrush, and wood thrush.”