• Humes Preserve

    Grasslands Symposium Highlights Long Island’s Grassland Restoration Efforts

    On Thursday, October 26th, the Land Alliance and partnering organizations held a grasslands symposium. It highlighted the significant work occurring on Long Island to protect and establish grasslands, as well as ways we can grow more biodiverse landscapes. The event was held at the Barn at Old Westbury Gardens. The symposium opened with an inspiring keynote address by Dwayne Estes, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Southeast Grasslands Initiative, Professor of Biology and Director of the Austin Peay State University Herbarium. He discussed the fascinating but untold story of how Long Island’s grasslands, like the Hempstead Plains, connect to other grassy ecosystems of the eastern U.S. This is what E.O. Wilson termed the “Southern Grassland Biome”. Audience members learned about the variety and interconnection of grassland ecosystems of Long Island and across the U.S. as well as about systems that have survived centuries of degradation and the species that depend on them. They also learned how the Southeastern Grasslands Institute is restoring grasslands and seeks to build partnerships on Long Island to help bring more attention and resources to the Hempstead Plains and other grassland initiatives on Long Island. A second keynote program was delivered by Rob Longiaru, Habitat Director, Friends of Hempstead Plains, who spoke about the history of the Hempstead Plains. Its existing acreage is home to 250 species of plants, including six state rare and/or endangered species. It is a storehouse of genetic resources, a cherished part of Nassau County’s heritage and a globally significant natural asset. There were two panel discussions, the first of which, Local Stories: Large Initiatives and Public/Private Partnerships, was moderated by Polly Wiegand of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission. Polly is con-sidered one of Long Island’s most knowledgeable grassland experts and is the founder of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative. Her panelists described their projects, objectives, steps in implementing them, ongoing management and lessons learned. While all had some shared experiences and challenges, the variety of information and stories kept audience members entranced. Sue Feustel of the Caumsett Foundation, for example, alluded to damage caused during intense rain one year and cautioned that projects should be prepared for more extreme weather events occurring with climate change. Nelson Pope Voorhis Landscape Ecologist Rusty Schmidt introduced the audience to the new meadow at the Sisters of St. Joseph property in Brentwood and how fire might be used to manage it. Rob Longiaru spoke about the successful use of fire this past spring at Hempstead Plains. Stephane Perreault described management successes and challenges of Greentree Foundation’s 70 acres of a variety of grassland systems. The second panel, Smaller Scale Projects and Building Habitat at Home, was led by John Turner. John is one of Long Island’s best loved naturalists and author of the legendary Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island, now in its second edition. The panelists shared information on habitat values of grasslands and meadows, how audience members can create habitat at home and where they work. They also described steps taken to acquire and transform a highly disturbed four-acre site into a thriving grassy ecosystem, the plants and wildlife found there and the management challenges that continue today. Anthony Marinello of Dropseed Native Landscapes educated participants about sourcing native plants wisely. Frank Piccininni of Spadefoot Design and Construction provided the nuts and bolts of converting lawn to habitat welcoming to wildlife. Rick Cech of the New York City Butterfly Club pointed out that caterpillars of 56 species of eastern butterflies feed on grasses. He noted, sadly, that surveys at Westchester’s Ward Pound Ridge have shown that there are fewer butterflies since 1980, with eight species lost. The Land Alliance’s Jane Jackson provided a brief history of the Humes meadow and the steps taken to convert this 4-acre area covered with invasive species into a meadow filled with wildlife that now call it home. The afternoon provided opportunities for attendees to visit some of the project sites described during the morning panels. Sites open to the public included Caumsett State Park, Greentree Foundation, Hempstead Plains, Humes Preserve, Shore Road Sanctuary and William Cullen Bryant Preserve. Each of the locations was represented by a project manager to answer questions or provide a tour. The day left participants with a better understanding of the value and beauty of land, and, alas, threats to grasslands here on Long Island and around the world. Attendees learned not only how critical these grassy ecosystems are as wildlife habitat and in preserving quality of life but also the roles individuals can play in building these landscapes. In addition to providing wildlife habitat and aesthetic values, grasslands play a major role in ameliorating climate change impacts. While only a few pockets of grassland remain both here in the U.S. and around the world, grasslands support enormous biodiversity. Grasses’ deep, hairy roots remove carbon from the atmosphere, storing it in a mass of organic matter underground. When grasslands burn, carbon is locked below ground so it does not get released back into the atmosphere. Grasslands grow back quickly after burning. As our symposium attendees learned, individuals can take important steps to do their part, like planting warm-season native grasses, milkweed and other wildflowers. Maintaining grasslands is a wonderful example of how thoughtful stewardship of open space can conserve a critical landscape. It benefits native plants and wildlife while protecting our water supply and providing access to beautiful natural areas for our children and grandchildren. Many thanks to our wonderful partners in this endeavor. Thank You to Our Partnering Organizations Caumsett Foundation Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County Dropseed Native Landscapes Friends of Hempstead Plains Greentree Foundation Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District Nelson Pope Voorhis New York City Butterfly Club New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation North Country Garden Club North Shore Land Alliance Old Westbury Garden Seatuck Environmental Association Sisters of St. Joseph Spadefoot Design and Construction William Cullen Bryant Preserve (Nassau County Museum of Art)

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  • Wawapek Greenhouse Propogation

    Wawapek Greenhouse Restoration and Native Seed Propagation

    Last year, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Gerry Charitable Trust, the restoration of the historic greenhouse at Wawapek began. This Hitchings and Co. structure was once a small part of a very large complex of greenhouses. It was cleaned up, broken glass was removed and replaced, window frames were repaired and repainted and new planting beds were installed. While the full restoration isn’t yet complete, we couldn’t wait to start putting it to use! This fall, with the help of our volunteers, we’ve been collecting native wildflower and grass seeds from our preserves to propagate in the greenhouse. When collecting native seeds, it is important to remember not to take all the seeds in an area. Native wildlife relies on seeds and berries for their food at this time of year (when there aren’t many insects available to eat). Propagating seeds that will eventually be planted in places that have a winter season requires cold stratification. Stratification is a survival mechanism that ensures that seeds don’t germinate too soon. You may have heard of people putting native seeds in their refrigerator to mimic a cold period. This is the same process. The difference is, we will be leaving the potted seeds outside in the greenhouse instead of in the refrigerator. This will allow them to stratify naturally over the winter in a contained environment where birds cannot feast upon the seeds. The plants that we grow will be used in Land Alliance pollinator gardens and meadows (which include more than 50 acres at this time). Once the restoration of the full greenhouse has been completed, the possibilities are endless. We could expand to grow vegetables or annual flowers for use on our properties. We could host a plant sale and/or expand our growing efforts to other locations like Humes. For now, this is a good start but… as those of you who know us can understand… we dream big! Native Seeds We Are Propagating in the Wawapek Greenhouse False Blue Indigo False Blue Indigo (Baptisia species) is a perennial plant known for its attractive blue-green foliage and striking blue, purple, or white pea-like flowers. It’s a native wildflower that provides nectar for pollinators and is part of the legume family. Common Milkweed Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a native perennial plant that plays a vital role in supporting monarch butterflies as a host plant for their caterpillars. It has clusters of pinkish-purple flowers and produces a milky sap. White Wood Aster White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) is a native perennial herb with small, daisy-like white flowers. It’s often found in woodland settings and provides nectar for various pollinators. Switch Grass Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is a native warm-season grass with attractive, upright foliage that turns a beautiful golden color in the fall. It’s valued for its ornamental qualities and as a habitat for wildlife. Joe-Pye Weed Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium species) is a tall, native wildflower with large, domed clusters of pink to purple flowers. It’s a favorite among pollinators, particularly butterflies and bees. Foxglove Beardtongue Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) is a native wildflower with tubular, white to pale pink flowers and attractive foliage. It’s known for attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators. Little Blue Stem Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is a native grass species appreciated for its fine, bluish-green foliage and attractive seed heads. It’s a crucial component of prairie ecosystems and provides habitat for wildlife. Anise-Hyssop Anise-Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a fragrant, native perennial herb known for its lavender to blue spikes of flowers. It’s a favorite of pollinators, especially bees and butterflies, and has a sweet, licorice-like scent.

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  • Cushman Woods

    Cushman Woods Meadow Transformation

    About two years have passed since we launched site preparation for the Cushman Woods meadow. The first step was forestry mulching, which involved the use of a powerful brush-cutting tool to cut and shred years’ growth of undesirable vegetation. It included porcelain berry vine and multiflora rose on about five open (but badly) invaded acres of Cushman Woods Preserve. This area is located along a utility line in the northwest part of the property. Then came monitoring and removal of invasive mile-a-minute weed, unhealthy and invasive trees and vines (that clung to desired meadow trees). This was followed by the planting of new trees to screen the debris area.  The extensive tree work and the addition of four lovely benches were funded by Oliver Grace and the Oliver R. Grace Charitable Foundation. A milestone was reached when the Cushman Woods meadow was seeded late last fall with warm-season native grasses and wildflowers. Funding for site preparation, meadow design, seed and installation was provided by the Cushman family and the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District. The photo above shows the wild rye coming in early to help combat regrowth of invasives before the natives can establish.

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  • Volunteer to Plant A Woodland Pollinator Garden

    Restoration of the Williams Preserve

    Williams has come a long way since Mary and Tim Williams donated this beautiful 4.5-acre Lattingtown parcel to the Land Alliance last June. We are embarking upon an extensive preserve-wide habitat restoration. Our restoration ecologist consultant Peter Meleady generously donated the plan. Thus far, we have been readying the site for plantings. We plan to begin implementation this spring, thanks to a $42,000 grant from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. We are also installing irrigation lines. They will enable us to have water for plantings proposed for the lower part of the property, along the pond edge and to establish a small grassland area. Many thanks to Spadefoot Design and Construction for donating services related to infrastructure upgrades. Our volunteers have done a great job of cutting English ivy from majestic oak, tulip and sycamore trees, uncovering and extending the stone staircase that leads from near the pond to what will be the meadow and digging out multiflora rose from the creek. They uncovered an expanse of spring ephemeral trout lily where we found only a handful of flowers last year. Our latest Walk in the Woods on a rainy Saturday showed participants our progress and provided a bit of the property’s history, along with a glimpse of what’s to come. Additional funds will be needed to complete the project. If you would like to contribute to the development of this wonderful new public preserve, please contact Jane Jackson at 516-922-1028 or [email protected] or click here to donate.

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  • 2023-spring-conservation-news-newsletter

    Sisters of St. Joseph: Estate Planning on a Divine Scale

    We are delighted to report that the Sisters of St. Joseph have committed to donating to the Land Alliance a 47-acre conservation easement on a forested parcel of their 212-acre property in Brentwood (Suffolk County). This is just one of many actions the Sisters are taking to protect their valuable work and the future of our world. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, in communities of religious women, the number of aging members who are dying is much larger than the number of those entering. In an effort to continue their critical work, the Sisters are doing some very sophisticated estate planning. They are selling off hard assets such as buildings to create an endowment to ensure the continuation of their missionary work, which is at the heart of the church. The Sisters consider holding land as a sacred trust, believing that land should be maintained for the ecological health of the earth. In 2015, the Sisters adopted and affirmed a Land Ethic Statement to protect the Brentwood lands and other holdings now and into the future. In 2016 and 2019, they worked with Suffolk County and the Peconic Land Trust to preserve a 28-acre portion of their Brentwood property and return it to agriculture. Parcels of the land were leased to farmers. Fields have been restored for food and seed production. The organic vegetables that are grown there are available to the community for purchase at a farmstand. In 2018, the Sisters partnered with organizations interested in promoting clean, sustainable energy use and generation on Long Island. With a desire to control energy costs, reduce the environmental footprint and move toward energy independence, they installed a ground mounted solar array system on the Brentwood property. The 1MW system (3,192 panels) supplies approximately 63% of current campus energy usage. It is the largest privately owned solar array on Long Island and has been operating since January 2018. The Sisters are also recycling water for irrigation purposes. The Land Alliance looks forward to establishing a conservation easement later this year on 47 acres of pine forest in Brentwood. It will include both celestial and interpretive trails for the community to enjoy! According to Yale Climate Connections, the Catholic Church owns 177 million acres of land across the globe for its churches and schools. It also owns a lot of farmland and forest land. In comparison, the largest landowner in the United States, the Emerson Family of Sierra Pacific Industries, owns 2,330,000 acres. The decisions made about land use within religious institutions like the Catholic Church can have a huge impact on our environment. We hope all of these institutions are as good stewards of our planet as the Sisters of St. Joseph. More about the Sisters of St. Joseph The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France in 1650 to meet the needs of the people and to witness a unifying love of God and neighbor. They arrived in Philadelphia in 1836. At the request of the Bishop of Brooklyn, Mother Austin Kean was called to Brooklyn to found what is now the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. She was accompanied by Sister Baptista Hanson and Sister Theodosia Hegeman. They founded their first school in St. Mary’s Parish on Maujer Street in Williamsburg. In 1896, the sisters needed additional space. Mother Mary Louise purchased the 123-room Austral Hotel, the Pearsall House and other buildings on a 350-acre property in Brentwood. The Austral Hotel became the Motherhouse and novitiate, and the Pearsall House became a chaplain’s residence. Saint Expedite Cottage, another former hotel building, became the Academy Infirmary. The Academy Building, also known initially as St. Charles Hall, was completed in 1903 and opened to its first academic class on June 1. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, St. Joseph Commercial H.S. was founded in 1904. The congregation’s reputation in education and parish ministry spread. As the Catholic population grew, the Sisters were increasingly asked to staff schools and parishes. More congregationally owned schools were also opened: St. Joseph Juniorate, 1931; The Mary Louis Academy, 1936; Fontbonne Hall Academy, 1937; Stella Maris H.S., 1943; Sacred Heart Academy, 1949 and Academia María Reina, 1967. To learn more about conservation easements, please contact the Land Alliance at 516-922-1028 or email us at [email protected].

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