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Dig The Falls has been blessed with the passing on of decades worth of research!

…and we need to give a formal thank you and recognition to both Steve Young and Laura Young (although this blog focuses on much of Steve’s work, we want to be sure to give equal credit to his wife Laura who had a large part in collecting much of the data passed on to Dig The Falls!!). Too much time has passed and we would be remiss to not get this blog out before too much more time has passed. First, a little information on Steve and what he does for the state and local ecology:

Chief Botanist, New York Natural Heritage Program

Steve is the chief botanist for the New York Natural Heritage Program, a program of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry but based in Albany. He holds a BS in Environmental and Forest Management from SUNY ESF. After college, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia and later a plant explorer for the Smithsonian Institution’s botany department in Ecuador. He later obtained an MS in plant taxonomy from the University of Florida where he studied the taxonomy of the Latin American bamboo genus Guadua. He was a botanist at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Houston before returning to New York to continue his work with rare plants. He has visited sites in every county across the state inventorying and studying its plant diversity and rare plants. He is an author of the online New York Rare Plant Conservation Guides and the New York Rare Plant Status Lists. He is also the founder of the Adirondack Botanical Society, coordinator of the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area from 2010-2016, and secretary of the New York Flora Association.SUNY ESF

Steve and Laura had also considered the creation of the NY Waterfall Association before the new addition to their family, years back. (We could only hope that comes to fruition in the future!)

Natural Heritage Program

BECAUSE THIS TOPIC IS SO EXPANSIVE I CANNOT COVER IT ALL IN ONE ARTICLE. (This was written years ago with the assistance of Steve Young and may need to be updated in the future. Please excuse any out-of-date info.)

What is New York Natural Heritage Program and what does it do?

Put simply, the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP) “facilitates the conservation of New York’s biodiversity by providing comprehensive information and scientific expertise on rare species and natural ecosystems to resource managers and other conservation partners… to help land managers, decision-makers, planners, scientists, consultants, and the interested public better understand the rare species and natural communities that characterize New York.” (http://www.acris.nynhp.org/) “Our mission is to facilitate conservation of rare animals, rare plants, and natural ecosystems, which we commonly refer to as “natural communities.” (http://www.nynhp.org/)

Or a little more simply put; the program helps to protect what is most important about our State and its natural resources. The program is essential in the continuing success of many endangered and protected land and wildlife species inside of New York Sates borders, as well as many very unique ecosystems only found in a handful of areas throughout the world!

NYNHP is derived from a partnership between two very active agencies within New York State; the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) and the Nature Conservancy.

“We combine thorough field inventories, scientific analyses, expert interpretation, and comprehensive databases on New York’s flora and fauna to deliver quality information to partners working in natural resource conservation. The end result of our actions will be more compatible management activities around our most imperiled species, ecosystems, and high-quality natural areas, in order to have significant and lasting effects on the preservation of New York’s biodiversity. Our program was established in 1985 and is a contract unit housed within NYSDEC’s Division of Fish, Wildlife, & Marine Resources. We are staffed by more than 25 scientists and specialists with expertise in ecology, zoology, botany, information management, and geographic information systems.”

They have the most comprehensive database of New York’s imperiled biodiversity and are pioneering the movement!

“In 1990, NY Natural Heritage published Ecological Communities of New York State, an all-inclusive classification of natural and human-influenced communities. From 40,000-acre beech-maple mesic forests to 40-acre maritime beech forests, salt marshes to alpine meadows, our classification quickly became the primary source for natural community classification in New York and a fundamental reference for natural community classifications in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. This classification, which has been continually updated as we gather new field data, has also been incorporated into the National Vegetation Classification System that is being developed and refined by NatureServe, The Nature Conservancy, and Natural Heritage Programs throughout the United States (including New York).

NY Natural Heritage tracks the known locations of rare natural community types (such as inland Atlantic white cedar swamp in southeastern NY) and the state’s best examples of common types (such as shrub swamps).”

Assessing New York’s Biodiversity

NY Natural Heritage data provide a picture of the status of biodiversity in New York. The graph at left represents all 2,863 vascular plants, natural communities, and vertebrate animals native to New York State. It does not include data regarding invertebrate animals. Although NY Natural Heritage tracks several invertebrate groups (notably butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies, beetles, and mollusks), insufficient data are available to make general statements about the status of native invertebrate species. In the graph, New York’s biodiversity is separated into six categories as described below.

Half of New York’s biodiversity appears to be secure, but 37%
of the state’s native plants, vertebrate animals, and ecosystems
are in jeopardy of extirpation, and 7% may have been lost already.

Presumed extirpated – 4%: All known occurrences are gone and there is little chance of finding new populations.

Historical – 3%: No occurrences have been reported in the last 15 years, but more survey work is needed. These may still be present within NY or they may be extirpated.

Critically imperiled – 15%: Known at five or fewer locations in the state.

Imperiled – 10%: Known at just six to 20 locations.

Vulnerable – 12%: Known at 21 to 100 locations.

Believed Secure – 56%: Known at more than 100 sites.

Again, this information was current at the time of writing but does need to be updated. Should Steve be willing, we will reach out to him for further updates, as needed.

As for all the research/information we received; we are currently digitizing what we can, updating our current information, and storing the original copies of everything for future reference and historical purposes. Steve and Laura’s attention to detail has been amazing to witness, along with many postcards (which will be shown on their respective waterfall pages), and an original print copy of Scott Ensminger’s book ‘A Waterfall Guide To Letchworth State Park’ which has been almost perfectly preserved!

About Author

Site administrator and lover of all things waterfalls, outdoors and nature.

Principle photographer for Waterfalls of New York State and overall "nice guy".

Send me an email if you have any questions!!

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