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Habitat Management and Access on WMAs

Enhancing our Wildlife Management Areas:

Balancing the Needs of Wildlife and Recreational Access

The primary goal of Wildlife Management Areas is to provide habitat to maintain our rich diversity of wildlife and ample opportunities for wildlife-related recreation. Whether you enjoy hunting, trapping, birding, photography, or just taking a hike and enjoying the sounds, sights, and smells of nature, these natural areas provide a pleasant and fulfilling experience.

From the pitch pine and scrub-oak dominated barrens of Long Island and extensive grasslands of the St. Lawrence Valley, to the mixed-hardwood and evergreen forests of central and western New York, DEC biologists are working together to provide excellent conditions for wildlife. But what is good habitat for one species may not be good habitat for another, so how do we decide what to manage and where? Rather than favoring one particular species or habitat type, biologists strive to provide a variety of habitat types, in harmony with the local ecology, habitat needs of the species present, and management history.

One particular goal of habitat management is to provide sufficient young forest or shrubland for a diverse group of animals including rabbits, game birds such as grouse, woodcock, and turkeys, songbirds such as warblers, thrashers, and thrushes, and several species of reptiles. As the forests have grown back and matured, this habitat type has become more scarce. Shrublands and young forests currently comprise over 13,000 acres on Wildlife Management Areas. Without management, these areas would grow back into mixed deciduous forests and we would eventually lose many native wildlife species dependent on young forests at those sites. Through periodic mowing, selective thinning, and targeted cuts, we maintain favorable conditions for these species which in turn, provide for viable populations.

Providing safe and convenient human access to these undeveloped areas is a challenging and complex job. Over 2,000 miles of roads, 180 miles of foot trails, 800 parking lots, 80 boat launches, and 45 observation towers, blinds, and facilities need to be maintained every year. This need for access is carefully balanced with protecting the ecology and wild nature of these undeveloped lands.

Fortunately, our extensive habitat management and access maintenance work has sufficient and secure funding from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program (also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act or “P-R”). This program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is funded by an excise tax on your purchase of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment.

The Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources is currently engaged in a major effort to improve access to WMAs for people of all abilities as part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative.

In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone largely untapped until now. Ten of these 50 projects will be located on Wildlife Management Areas and will include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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