New Report on Staten Island Open Space

New York, New York, 6/20/2001–The Trust for Public Land today announced the publication of An Islanded Nature: Natural Area Conservation and Restoration in Western Staten Island, Including the Harbor Herons Region, a study that celebrates nature as it persists and even thrives in one of the country’s most industrialized regions, Staten Island, New York. An Islanded Nature documents the insular existence of natural areas, both protected and unprotected, and the changes in open space and wildlife habitat on Staten Island and its network of coastal islands during the past ten years. Photography, pen and ink drawings and satellite imagery vividly bring to life the tenacity of nature, set amidst the rising tide of development.

An Islanded Nature, written by Peter P. Blanchard III, a naturalist with the Trust for Public Land, and Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., a consulting biologist with the New York City Audubon Society, updates the original Harbor Herons Report, a pivotal study of Staten Island’s flora and fauna which was also released by the Trust for Public Land and the New York City Audubon Society in 1990, prior to an Exxon spill that leaked 500,000 gallons of oil directly into the Arthur Kill.

While “Harbor Herons” refers to the region of northwestern Staten Island, the term also refers to a magnificent assemblage of wading birds who live there including a variety of herons, egrets and ibis. Wading birds are particularly important because they are “umbrella species.” In order for heron to survive, a wide array of plants, amphibians and fish species must also thrive. Any sign of decline within wading bird populations may indicate a much broader, underlying systemic breakdown. The herons are truly Staten Island’s analogue to the canary in a coalmine.

An Islanded Nature builds on the scientific research presented in the original report by providing a more comprehensive inventory of the diverse wildlife species that make western Staten Island their home. The report adds ten new sites to the original thirteen studied, measuring the gains and losses of open space on Staten Island and analyzing how land use has affected native plants and animals in the area. Each of the sites is described in a landscape “portrait” that details that site’s individual history, natural habitat value, wildlife presence, restoration potential, current development activity, and proximity to publicly owned and protected lands.

An Islanded Nature is a significant resource for land use planners and should serve as a catalyst for action on the part of agencies, organizations, and concerned individuals to protect open space. The report provides a model for developing practical and sound land use policies that are based upon scientific data collected over a significant period of time. The report will be a powerful tool for those who believe that land has historic and environmental value above and beyond its monetary value. While it studied a narrower geographic range, the Harbor Herons Report was a pioneering study that contributed to the permanent protection of nearly thirty percent of the properties it described.

Finally, An Islanded Nature offers tribute through words and images to nature’s remarkable adaptability in an urban setting and reminds us that nature will continually struggle to carve out space and light enough for its survival, despite all forms of industrial growth and human invasion. An Islanded Nature: Natural Area Conservation and Restoration in Western Staten Island, Including the Harbor Herons Region will inspire citizens and leaders in urban areas nationwide to plan, protect and preserve their precious open spaces.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect natural and historic resources for future generations. For more than two decades, TPL has worked to protect the New York harbor estuary and in particular the Arthur Kill corridor of northwestern Staten Island. To date, the organization has protected seven properties comprising 120 acres, working in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation. TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 50,000 acres throughout New York State.

Copies of An Islanded Nature may be ordered by contacting?The Trust for Public Land’s New York office at (212) 677-7171. A $10 donation is suggested to help defray the costs of publication. Additional gifts will help support TPL’s continued work on Staten Island.