Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, which protects 597 acres in Ulster County, NY, was established in July 1999 to support grassland-dependent migratory birds and wintering raptors. With views of the majestic Shawangunk Ridge, the refuge is among a dwindling number of sites in New York State (one of only two sites in the Hudson Valley) large enough to support the entire assemblage of northeastern grassland birds. The refuge has been identified as a Biodiversity Focus Area and an Important Bird Area (Audubon New York), a designation given only to places that support significant abundance and diversity of birds. Many of the birds found on the refuge are included on lists of endangered, threatened, special concern or priority species, including the Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Upland Sandpiper, Henslow’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Horned Lark, and Bobolink.
Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.
The official refuge purpose listed in the Refuge System database is to provide its “…particular value in carrying out the national migratory bird management program” (16 U.S.C. 667b, An Act Authorizing the Transfer of Certain Real Property for Wildlife). However, this purpose was further refined in a memorandum dated October 17, 1997, to the General Services Administration from our Regional Director, emphasizing the importance of the site to wintering raptors and breeding and migrating grassland birds. The memorandum formally requested the transfer of land and defined the primary reason for establishing the refuge as: “[the site] provides critical habitat for migratory birds and raptors. More than 120 species of birds have been identified at the Site. It supports approximately 20 species of Federal or State ‘management or special concern.’”
Other Facilities in this Complex
Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location. Refuges are grouped into a complexbecause they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Typically, a project leader or complex manager oversees the general management of all refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals, are centrally located and support all refuges within the complex.
Other refuges in the Lenape Complex include: Cherry Valley NWR, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, Wallkill River NWR and Great Thicket NWR..