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Shawangunk Grasslands
National Wildlife Refuge

Hoagerburgh Road
Shawangunk, NY   12589
E-mail: wallkill@fws.gov
Phone Number: 973-702-7266
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge

Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge is one of New York's top 10 areas for grassland dependent migratory birds. This exceptional habitat was formerly the Galeville Military Airport. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense determined it longer needed the site. It was subsequently transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999.

The refuge is 566 acres. It is located in the valley below the Shawangunk Mountains near the Hamlet of Wallkill in the Town of Shawangunk, Ulster County, New York. Visitors are rewarded with spectacular views of the Shawangunks as well as many species of grassland birds.

This is an unstaffed satellite of the Wallkill River NWR. Call 973-702-7266 for more information.

Keeping this grassland and controlling the invasion of weeds, woody shrubs, and trees is the highest management priority for the refuge. Even though human created, this grassland is increasingly important for grassland-dependent migratory birds.

As part of its management strategy, the refuge strives to restore and expand the habitats of six species of declining migratory birds that currently or historically occupied the refuge. Bobolink, Savannah sparrow, Grasshopper sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, and Short-eared Owl are the focus of refuge management.

Getting There . . .
These directions are from I-84:

At Exit #5 off Interstate 84, travel north on State Rt. 208. Enter the Village of Walden. At the stop light, turn right, continuing north on State Rt. 208. You will then travel into the Hamlet of Wallkill in Ulster County. At the stop sign, turn left on Wallkill Avenue. Travel for 2/10 mile. Turn left on Bruyn Turnpike / County Rt. 18 (Post Office on corner). At stop sign, continue straight on Bruyn Turnpike. Travel for 1.4 miles Turn right on Hoagerburgh Road. Travel for 1.5 miles, passing Blue Chip Farm. The Shawangunk Grasslands NWR will be on your right.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Shawangunk Grasslands NWR was established in 1999 because it is one of the most important nesting and wintering areas for grassland birds in New York State. The refuge is one of only two grassland sites in the Hudson Valley large enough to support the entire assemblage of grassland birds.

Grassland birds have declined more consistently and over a wider geographic area than any other group of North American birds over the last 30 years. Grassland dependant bird species that use the refuge as a nesting, wintering, or migratory stop-over site include northern harrier, short-eared owl, upland sandpiper, horned lark, grasshopper sparrow, Henslows sparrow, savannah sparrow, vesper sparrow, eastern meadowlark, and bobolink.

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Today the refuge is about 400 acres of grassland bounded by hardwood forest. The refuge was a former military base established during World War II. It changed hands several times since then. Prior to ownership by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the land had been owned by the West Point Military Academy and leased to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. It was transferred to the Service in 1999.

The grassland present today was created when the military filled a wetland with tons of earth to make the airstrip in the 1940's. Seeds and runners from the original trees and shrubs remained in the soil and eventually started regrowing. The grassland persisted over the past 50 years by routine mowing and livestock grazing to remove emerging woody plants. When the air field was abandoned, mowing eventually stopped. Woody plants continued to encroach upon the grasslands creating the mosaic of shrubs, trees, weeds, and grass that you see today.

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Management Activities
Grasslands are a very management intensive habitat type. Grasslands quickly become dominated by trees and shrubs, and unsuitable to grassland birds, without frequent treatments. These treatments could include mowing, grazing, haying, discing, herbicide applications, or prescribed fire. Further, grassland birds require extensive fields to nest in. The diversity and abundance of grassland birds decreases as field size decreases.

Over the last several years the main grassland area of the refuge has shrunk as the woodlands and hedgerows around the perimeter have crept toward the center. Also, the core of the grassland is becoming colonized by shrubs. In response, the refuge has marshaled significant resources to mow, brush-hog, and Hydro-Ax the refuges primary grassland area to restore and maintain a grass-dominated plant community.

One of the most visible aspects of this strategy is the removal of the dense tree and shrub growth around the edges of the grassland. Also apparent is the decrease of trees in the core grassland area. Approximately 400 of the 566 acres on the refuge will be maintained long-term as grasslands for grassland dependant wildlife. The remaining 165 acres will be maintained as woodland and shrubland. Also, many mature trees will be left standing within the core grassland. These trees provide singing posts for grasslands songbirds, hunting perches for birds of prey, and additional diversity in the grassland ecosystem.

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