New York Field Office
Northeast Region

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world — to provide additional resources to make progress toward the most critical long‐term goals for this important ecosystem. In 2013, commitment for the next five years, 2015-2019, of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative work was announced. The September 2014 Action Plan provides details on the actions to occur over the next five years: federal agencies plan to continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals—by combining Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources with agency base budgets and by using these resources to work with non-federal partners to implement protection and restoration projects.

Aquatic Excavator in action, digging stream

So far, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources have been used to fund over 2,000 projects to improve water quality, to protect and restore native habitat and species, to prevent and control invasive species, and to address other Great Lakes environmental problems. Projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New York Field Office has lead and assisted, in 2010‐2014, include projects in the following programs: Endangered Species, Environmental Quality, Conservation Planning Assistance, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife. For Endangered Species, actions and activities that protect/restore habitat were conducted for bog turtle (Clemmys [Glyptemys] muhlenbergii), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), Leedy's roseroot (Rhodiola integrifolia subsp. leedyi), and American hart's‐tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum). In the Environmental Quality program, projects conducted included an emerging contaminants study, a fish tumor study, a colonial waterbird population study, a marsh anuran and bird study, habitat evaluation and restoration, and technical assistance to Areas of Concern. For Conservation Planning Assistance, projects conducted have enhanced information related to shoreline and open water migration corridors and utilization of Great Lakes islands by migratory and breeding birds and bats. In the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, projects restored habitats for native lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species populations within the Great Lakes Basin by removing fish passage barriers, stabilizing stream banks, improving instream habitat, and restoring wetland and upland areas to benefit priority species.

Niagara River Area of Concern Marsh Anuran and Avian Population Monitoring

American bullfrog Images: top, American bullfrog; bottom, survey point.

In April 2014 a Work Plan was developed that identified survey protocols to be used over a 5-year period (2014-2018) for assessing the "Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations" Beneficial Use Impairment within the Niagara River (NR) Area of Concern (AOC) and is hereafter referred to as the "Work Plan" (NewEarth 2015a). The Work Plan specifically identified methods used for conducting surveys to facilitate population trend assessments for sentinel native anuran species and focal marsh bird species known to occur in the NR AOC. Anuran species targeted for population trend assessments include the northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens), American toad (Anaxyrus americanus), and the bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). Targeted focal marsh bird species include the least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), sora (Porzana carolina), Virginia rail (Rallus limicola), king rail (Rallus elegans), American bittern (Botarus lentiginosus), common gallinule (Gallinula galeata), American coot (Fulica americana), and pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).

 

survey pointThe Year 3 Final Report (New Earth 2016c) marks the third year of the sampling conducted in support of the 2014-2018 NR AOC Marsh Anuran and Marsh Bird Population Monitoring Project.  The intensive level surveys within the NR AOC and represents nearly a full census of every location of habitat within the AOC that met the sample selection criteria (i.e., minimum size, location adjacent to the Niagara River, and direct hydrologic connection to the river) for the target anuran and marsh bird species. The study provides the baseline on which future survey events will be evaluated and offers a foundation for future comparisons with other studies locally and in the region. Year 3 surveys began in mid-April 2016.

It is well-known that nearly all of the former marshes in the region no longer exist, have been significantly reduced in size, and/or have had at least some of their primary wetland functions degraded. Despite this, seven of the eight targeted anuran species and seven of the eight targeted heron species were confirmed in the NR AOC during this study area. Future survey efforts will help assess population sizes and species use of the marshes found in the NR AOC.

 


Final 2014-2018 Anuran and Marsh Bird Work Plan

Final Anuran and Marsh Bird Survey Report: Year 1 (2014)
Final Anuran and Marsh Bird Survey Report: Year 2 (2015)
Final Anuran and Marsh Bird Survey Report: Year 3 (2016)

NewEarth Ecological Consulting (NewEarth). 2015a. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern Anuran and Avian Population Monitoring Work Plan, 2014-2018. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. January 13, 2015, 25 pp.

NewEarth. 2015b. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Marsh Anuran and Avian Population Monitoring Year 1 (2014) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. January 19, 2015, 165 pp.

NewEarth. 2016a. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Marsh Anuran and Avian Population Monitoring Year 2 (2015) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. January 21, 2016, 153 pp.

NewEarth. 2016c. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Marsh Anuran and Avian Population Monitoring Year 3 (2016) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. December 7, 2016, 85 pp.

 

Niagara River Area of Concern Heron and Osprey Nesting Success and Productivity Monitoring

ospreyImages: top, osprey; bottom, egret.

In April 2014 a Work Plan for monitoring heron and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nesting success and productivity was developed that identified the survey protocols to be used over a 5-year period (2014-2018) for assessing one of the criteria of the "Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations" BUI within the NR AOC and is hereafter referred to as the “Work Plan” (NewEarth 2015c). The Work Plan specifically identified methods used for monitoring nesting success and productivity of heron and osprey known to occur in the NR AOC. Heron species of particular interest and known to occur in the NR AOC include Great Egret (Ardea alba), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), and Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). 

The Year 2 Final Report (New Earth 2016b) marks the second year of the sampling conducted in support of the 2014-2018 NR AOC and represents a full census of every known location that supports nesting Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Egret, and Osprey species within the AOC. The study provides the baseline on which future survey events will be evaluated and offers a foundation for future comparisons with other studies locally and in the region.

egretIt is well-known that nearly all of the former open space, forest, and marshes in the region no longer exist, have been significantly reduced in size, and/or have had at least some of their primary functions degraded.  Despite this, all of the targeted heron species and Osprey were confirmed in the NR AOC during this study area. Future survey efforts will help to assess their population sizes and use of the NR AOC, and may identify potential future restoration needs for the region. Newly restored island sites (i.e., Frog Island) and other potential nest platforms and suitable sites should be added to future surveys as they are identified.

Measures to control threats to nesting egret and heron (i.e., Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) lethal removal, beaver removal, and beaver exclusion devices, etc.) may be somewhat disruptive to nesting birds. However, in absence of active management, the Motor Island colony (the largest known heron rookery in the Niagara AOC region) would be highly susceptible to failure. Management efforts are warranted, but should take place in a manner and time period to cause the least amount of disturbance to nesting birds. Extensive use and continued maintenance of exclusion fence may eliminate the need for use of lethal beaver control methods.


Final 2014-2018 Osprey and Heron Workplan
Final Heron and Osprey Survey Report: Year 1 (2014)
Final Heron and Osprey Survey Report: Year 2 (2015)
Final Heron and Osprey Survey Report: Year 3 (2016)

NewEarth Ecological Consulting (NewEarth). 2015c. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern Heron and Osprey Nesting Success and Productivity Monitoring Work Plan, 2014-2018. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. March 23, 2015, 42 pp.

NewEarth. 2015d. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Heron and Osprey Nesting Success and Productivity Monitoring Year 1 (2014) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. April 23, 2015, 111 pp.

NewEarth. 2016b. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Heron and Osprey Nesting Success and Productivity Monitoring Year 2 (2015) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. February 18, 2016, 111 pp.

NewEarth. 2016d. Beneficial Use Impairment Removal Project, Niagara River Area of Concern, Heron and Osprey Nesting Success and Productivity Monitoring Year 3 (2016) Survey Report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. December 20, 2016, 641 pp. 

 

 

 

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Last updated: December 20, 2016
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