New York Field Office
Northeast Region

Long Island Recovery Efforts


The Long Island Field Office works cooperatively with Federal, state, and local governments, private organizations, and private landowners on recovery actions supporting piping plovers. Each year the Long Island Field Office coordinates with its public and private partners in providing equipment, logistical, and technical assistance in matters related to threatened and endangered species recovery. Specifically, the Long Island Field Office assists in the NYSDEC's Long Island Colonial Waterbird and Piping Plover Survey, installation of symbolic fencing to protect breeding areas and nest exclosures to protect nests, outreach/public education, the creation of a natural resources user group, and site-specific coordination with landowners and managers on threatened and endangered species management, as well as field responses to potential and actual take situations. Piping plover steward training program: Two times each year the Long Island Field Office, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, Krusos Foundation, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - Region I, hosts a day-long piping plover steward training class on Long Island. This training is primarily targeted to volunteers and seasonal plover monitors which are employed by the various local government agencies on Long Island. The class provides participants an opportunity to learn the basics of plover biology and management, as well as how to monitor and protect threatened and endangered species.

Long Island shoreline

Plover taking flight


The Long Island Field Office is involved in recovery efforts for piping plover (Charadrius melodus), roseate terns (Sterna dougallii dougallii), seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus), and sandplain gerardia (Agalinus acuta). Recovery efforts include on-site monitoring, participation in plant and animal census surveys, predator management, oil-spill cleanups, public and private landowner assistance, public education, and outreach.
Biologist takes survey of seabeach amaranth
Piping plover (Charadrius melodus): All of the piping plovers within the New York portion of the Atlantic Coast plover population occur on Long Island. There are about 65 sites which are surveyed annually as part of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (NYSDEC) Long Island Colonial Waterbird and Piping Plover Census Survey Program. These active breeding areas are located across the north and south shore of Long Island from Queens County in the west to Suffolk County in the east. In 2001, the New York Atlantic Coast piping plover population was 309 pairs.
Sign for protection of plovers

Seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus):

NEW: See the Seabeach amaranth page! The Long Island Field Office has the primary oversight of recovery efforts for seabeach amaranth on Long Island, which supports the largest population of seabeach amaranth within its historical range, extending from South Carolina to Massachusetts. Each year Endangered Species biologists from the Long Island Field Office assist the New York Natural Heritage Program in conducting annual surveys for this threatened species. In 2001, a total of 179,300 plants were surveyed at twenty three sites stretching from Breezy Point, Queens County to Hampton Beach in Suffolk County along the south shore of Long Island.

Seabeach amaranth on beach

Roseate tern (Sterna dougallii dougallii): The Long Island Field Office is engaged in recovery efforts of the northeastern population of roseate terns which is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, one active colony of roseate terns occurs in the entire state at Great Gull Island, Long Island, which is owned and managed by the New York Natural History Foundation.
Sand dumping for habitat

In 2001, the Long Island Field Office worked with various public agencies and private organizations (e.g., the Long Island Beach Buggy Association, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Town of Southampton, Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and The Nature Conservancy) to restore roseate tern habitat in Shinnecock Bay at Warners Island. This island was the former site of a roseate tern colony, but has experienced severe erosion over the years which resulted in the abandonment of this site by roseate terns. In addition, in 2002, the field office partnered with the Boy Scouts of America and U.S. Geological Service - Biological Resources Division, on the development and construction of roseate tern nesting boxes which augmented the restoration projects and efforts to reestablish roseate tern colonies at some of their historic nesting areas.
Sandbags and beach stabilization for habitat protection

Sandplain Gerardia – A Success Story on Long Island
September 2003
Marilyn Jordan

Sandplain gerardia (Agalinis acuta) is the only plant in NY State that is on the Federal Endangered Species list. It is a small annual related to snapdragons that grows in native grasslands along the coast of the northeastern US. Once 60,000 acres of native grassland provided habitat for plants such as sandplain gerardia, and its pink blossoms by the millions colored the prairies in the late summer. Now, all but 200 acres of those grasslands have been lost to development or grown up in brush, and by the 1980s sandplain gerardia had almost disappeared.

On Long Island, significant remnant populations remain only at Sayville, the Hempstead Plains, and Montauk. Sayville supports the largest population of sandplain gerardia on LI, with 85–95% of the total number of plants. Protection of the Sayville grasslands is critical to survival of sandplain gerardia on LI.

Sandplain gerardia needs a prairie habitat dominated by native bunchgrasses, especially little bluestem. It is thought that a hemi-parasitic relationship exists between sandplain gerardia and bluestem, with the gerardia getting nutrients and moisture from the bluestem roots. This plant cannot be grown in your backyard; it needs high quality native grassland habitat. The best way to protect endangered species like the sandplain gerardia is to preserve and restore the ecosystems in which they grow.

In the past, fire, cutting and grazing maintained native grassy prairies, but these practices declined as the human populations grew. Without these special kinds of disturbance, grasslands are invaded by shrubs and weeds, and sandplain gerardia is crowded out. Sandplain gerardia is also threatened by the now common cotton tail rabbit, a species imported from Europe that can devour most of the gerardia plants before they can set seed. Most of the sandplain gerardia on LI have been surrounded by fences to keep the rabbits out.

The Nature Conservancy, with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the Federal Aviation Administration has been working for more than 15 years to improve sandplain gerardia habitat and increase the numbers of plants that appear each year. Dr. Marilyn Jordan, Conservation Scientist with The Nature Conservancy, has been tending sandplain gerardia on LI since 1992.

Keeping the area in a healthy prairie state is an ongoing process that involves prescribed burns by trained agency prescribed fire crews, cutting shrubs and mowing. Each fall mature seeds are collected by hand and resown, sometimes in totally new locations. As is true with most annuals, gerardia seeds can stay alive and viable in the soil for a period of time, possibly years. Scientists call that the Soil Seed Bank. Growing the plants in greenhouses has not been effective, for it is labor and time intensive, and for an annual plant it offers no benefits over direct sowing in the field.

Total numbers of sandplain gerardia on LI have increased from about 500 in 1990, to 14,000 in 2001, and more than 80,000 in 2003. This progress is very encouraging, but most of these plants occur at just one site in Sayville. It may take five to ten more years before sandplain gerardia can be securely established at additional sites, and be considered secure at on Long Island.

Marilyn Jordan, Ph.D.
Conservation Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
Long Island and South Fork/Shelter Island Chapters
250 Lawrence Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724


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Last updated: April 30, 2018
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.