In September, the North Shore Land Alliance acquired from the Smithers family two parcels totaling seven acres in the Village of Mill Neck. The Land Alliance has long been interested in acquiring and preserving this important area because it connects Nassau County’s Upper Francis Pond preserve (formerly known as Smithers Pond) to the south with the North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary’s Shu Swamp Preserve and the Land Alliance’s Humes property to the north. The acquisition of the Smithers connector parcel adds a critical piece to a wildlife corridor of 150 contiguous acres in the middle of the highly significant Beaver Brook watershed.

The property begins at the spillway at Upper Francis Pond and runs along Beaverbrook Road past Lower Francis Pond and ends just across from the Shu Swamp Trail. From there water runs under the road, emerging as Beaver Brook, which transverses Shu Swamp Preserve and carries water to Beaver Dam Pond and, eventually, to the Long Island Sound. A trail runs from behind the main house at the Humes property alongside a pond fed by a tributary stream feeding into Beaver Brook and meets a Shu Swamp trail.

Smithers Connector Parcel protects biodiversity and ecosystems

North Shore Land Alliance Shu Swamp and Francis Pond Conservation AreaConnecting or linking parcels of land and developing networks and systems of protected areas is very important in protecting biodiversity and ecosystem functions (like maximizing water quality and plant productivity). When most people think of biodiversity, they think of verdant rainforests in the Amazon or vibrant coral reefs in tropical seas, but we have great biodiversity here too.

These parcels, because they have been relatively untouched for many years, have some of the greatest biodiversity in our community. They also have an abundance of different species. Plants like marsh marigold, turtlehead, dog and primrose violets as well as the state endangered American strawberry bush can be found there. Birds like the wood duck, ruby-throated hummingbird, great-horned owl and the winter wren are joined by harvester and appalachian brown butterflies in making this property their home. Brook trout breed in Beaver Brook and mammals like the river otter, american mink and muskrat can be spotted too. Noteworthy or rare plants of this area include spring beauty, squawroot, hops, dwarf ginseng, red trillium, pinesap, umbrella and sweet bay magnolia and the ancient tupelo.

While a portion of the land that has been protected in this area was protected with public money, most of the land was protected by private groups like the North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary and the Land Alliance, along with private individuals. Private conservation plays a critical role in increasing the area coverage of habitat preserved, and in many cases, increasing connectivity in the wider landscape. In doing so, private land conservation plays a vital role maintaining and restoring vital ecological processes.

Increasing and improving conservation of private lands, in alignment with set national and state level conservation goals is crucial. It will not only work to counteract the decline of biodiversity but also make private lands more resilient to climate change and capable of sustaining the ecosystem services on which both current and future Long Island residents will depend.

Another terrific example of how public and private land conservation can create great impact has occurred in the Village of Oyster Bay Cove.

tiffany-creek-preserve-conservation-areaSince 2002, 385 acres of land have been preserved in perpetuity through a combination of public acquisitions and private conservation easements. Nassau County purchased the 197-acre Tiffany Creek Preserve from the Schiff family in 2000. In 2005 and 2006, Nassau County purchased the 30-acre Red Cote Preserve from the Pulling family and also Held Pond, expanding the Tiffany Creek Preserve by an additional eight acres. In 2008, the Town of Oyster Bay bought the 25-acre Farm at Oyster Bay (formerly the Littauer property). Since 2001, the Land Alliance (and its predecessor the Oyster Bay Cove Land Trust) has taken ownership and/or placed conservation easements on 143 acres of land. And, many years earlier the Roosevelt family protected the 11-acre Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary as American’s first songbird sanctuary.

As we continue to go about our work to increase the amount of habitat preserved and improve landscape connectivity, we are pleased to demonstrate that slowly but surely we are beginning to knit our landscape together in a very meaningful way.

You can read this article in our 2016 Fall/Winter Conservation News newsletter.