SIGNIFICANT HABITATS AND HABITAT
OF THE NEW YORK BIGHT WATERSHED
List of Species of Special Emphasis
I. SITE NAME: Montauk Peninsula
II. SITE LOCATION: The Montauk Peninsula is located at the easternmost end of Long Island's South Fork, about 170 kilometers (106 miles) east of New York City.
TOWN: East Hampton
STATE: New York
USGS 7.5 MIN QUADS: Napeague Beach, NY (40072-81), East Hampton, NY (40072-82), Gardiners Island, NY (41072-11), Montauk Point, NY (41071-18).
USGS 30x60 MIN QUADS: Long Island, East, NY (40072-E1), Block Island, RI-CT-NY-MA (41071-A1), New Haven, CT-NY (41072-A1)
III. BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION AND JUSTIFICATION: The Montauk Peninsula habitat complex includes the easternmost point of land on Long Island, the Montauk Peninsula, as well as the surrounding nearshore waters. The complex extends from Beach Hampton on the south shore eastward to Montauk Point, a distance of approximately 18 kilometers (12 miles). Width of the land boundary varies from less than 0.4 kilometer (0.25 miles) along the southern shore of Napeague Harbor to 5 kilometers (3 miles). The complex includes the entire peninsula bounded on the north by Block Island Sound and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. The outermost, or water, boundary of this complex includes the nearshore waters of these two bodies of water along the northern and eastern shorelines out to a distance of approximately 1 kilometer (0.5 mile) from the shoreline, except around the vicinity of Montauk Point where it widens to about 3 kilometers (2 miles) and then narrows again along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Included within the general boundary are the major embayments of Napeague Harbor and Bay, Fort Pond Bay, and Lake Montauk. Developed areas in the village of Montauk and in villages along the Atlantic Ocean coastline are excluded from the habitat complex. The accompanying map shows the general boundary outline as well as the specific significant fish, wildlife, and plant habitat sites included within the complex. The habitat complex boundary encompasses a system of contiguous beach, bay, nearshore, and upland sandplain habitats supporting regionally significant coastal plant and animal populations.
Seven ecological/geographical subcomplexes, or groupings, of sites can be identified within the greater complex as being of particular regional significance to fish, wildlife, plants, or biological diversity: Hither Hills Maritime Forest; Montauk Moorlands, including Culloden Point, Shadmoor Ditch Plains, Montauk Downs, and Montauk Point; beach dune interdunal swale complexes (Napeaugue Beach, Walking Dunes, Promised Land); Hicks Island-Goff Point beach nesting area; embayed aquatic habitats, including Napeague Bay, Napeague Harbor, Fort Pond Bay, and Lake Montauk; ponds (includes Oyster Pond, Big and Little Reed Ponds, and Fort Pond); and nearshore open water aquatic habitats. These subcomplexes and the individual sites they comprise are delineated on the accompanying boundary map of the complex.
IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTION/RECOGNITION: More than half of this area is under public ownership, and includes five New York State Parks: Napeague State Park, Hither Hills State Park, Montauk Downs State Park, Montauk Point State Park, and Camp Hero State Park managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Suffolk County holdings include Montauk County Park, Lee Koppelman Nature Preserve, and Hither Woods Preserve. Other public parcels are owned by Suffolk County and the town of East Hampton. The Nature Conservancy owns several preserves, including the Napeague Cranberry Bog Preserve, Montauk Mountain Preserve, and Promised Land Preserve. Despite this assemblage of protected lands, there are several large, privately owned, unprotected tracts that support ecologically significant areas and species populations. Napeague, Montauk, Oyster Pond, and Big Reed Pond have been designated and mapped as undeveloped beach units as part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System pursuant to the federal Coastal Barriers Resources Act, prohibiting federal financial assistance or flood insurance within the unit. Culloden Point has been recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a priority wetlands site under the federal Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. Big Reed Pond has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service. Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats recognized by New York State Department of State include, from west to east: Napeague Beach, Napeague Harbor, Hither Hills Uplands, Fort Pond, Culloden Point, Lake Montauk, Big and Little Reed Ponds, and Oyster Pond. The New York State Natural Heritage Program, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, recognizes several Priority Sites for Biodiversity within the Montauk Peninsula habitat complex. These sites are listed here along with their biodiversity ranks: Montauk Downs Grassland (B2 - very high biodiversity significance), Napeague/Hither Hills (B2), Shadmoor Ditch Plains (B2), Big Reed Oyster Pond Complex (B3 - high biodiversity significance), Easthampton Heathland (B3), Montauk Mountain (B3), and Montauk Point (B3). The Nature Conservancy has designated Montauk Point as a core area within its Peconics Bioreserve, one of its "Last Great Places." Wetlands are regulated in New York under the state's Freshwater Wetlands Act of 1975 and Tidal Wetlands Act of 1977; these statutes are in addition to federal regulation under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977, and various Executive Orders.
V. GENERAL AREA DESCRIPTION: The South Fork of Long Island, including the Montauk Peninsula, was formed by the deposition of the Ronkonkoma terminal moraine of the most recent (Wisconsin) glaciation. The Montauk Peninsula uplands occurring on the moraine have a hilly, rolling topography with numerous depressions. The soils are moderately well-drained, moderately coarse to medium-textured sandy loam/silt loam. Throughout pre-colonial and colonial times, this area was cleared by fire and grazing.
The complex as a whole contains an impressive diversity of upland, wetland, and shoreline habitats and communities of a maritime nature. The maritime oak-holly forest community found here is composed of American holly (Ilex opaca), black oak (Quercus velutina), or American beech (Fagus grandifolia) as dominant trees, often with sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and with an abundance of vines and ericaceous (heath) shrubs in the understory. A mosaic of open canopy maritime plant communities occurring on much of the peninsula, particularly grassland, heathland, and shrubland communities, comprises what is collectively referred to as moorlands. These maritime communities occur on sandy, glacially derived soils of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and are under the influence of a maritime climate, which is characterized by moderate temperatures, long frost-free season, ocean winds, and salt spray. The grasslands are generally dominated by bunch-forming grasses such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), common hairgrass (Deschampsia flexuosa), and poverty-grass (Danthonia spicata), often with low heath shrubs and reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina). The grasslands occur as small pockets in the Montauk Moorlands, especially on hilltops. Maritime heathlands on the Montauk Peninsula are dominated by bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), beach heather (Hudsonia tomentosa), blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), and beach plum (Prunus maritima); maritime shrublands include black cherry (Prunus serotina) and pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), sumacs (Rhus glabra and R. copallinum), bayberry, arrow-wood (Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum), hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), beach plum, wild roses (Rosa spp.), catbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), and blackberries (Rubus spp.). Wet depressions have ponds and red maple hardwood swamps dominated by red maple (Acer rubrum) and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) trees.
Large expanses of cordgrass-dominated (Spartina spp.) salt marshes and brackish meadows and sparsely vegetated, narrow, sandy or pebbly beaches and spits occur on the back, or Block Island Sound side, of the peninsula, especially in the vicinity of Napeague Harbor. On the Atlantic Ocean side, the shoreline is dominated in stretches by steep bluffs or large dunes and broad expanses of sparsely vegetated or unvegetated sandy to cobbly beach. There are several types of dune and interdunal plant communities in this area, for example, beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata)-dominated ocean dunes, mixed associations of beach heather (Hudsonia tomentosa), bearberry, and bayberry in interdunal areas, and extensive stands of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands.
The embayed aquatic habitats and coastal ponds include both estuarine-brackish water and freshwater systems. Napeague Harbor, Lake Montauk, and Oyster Pond are brackish, with openings into Block Island Sound; Little Reed Pond is transitional between brackish and freshwater ponds; Big Reed and Fort Ponds are freshwater ponds. Lake Montauk, nearly 365 hectares (900 acres) in size, supports a substantial growth of eelgrass (Zostera marina). Waters and bottom habitats in the nearshore areas here are fully exposed to storms and open ocean conditions. The mean tidal range of the open ocean waters at Montauk Point is 0.6 meter (2.0 feet).
VI. ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF SITE: The complex of undeveloped maritime communities on the Montauk Peninsula supports an unusual diversity of rare plants and animals, and the nearshore waters support important concentrations of marine species. There are 148 species of special emphasis in the Montauk Peninsula complex, incorporating 37 species of plants, and including the following federally and state-listed species. (Living resources and their habitats are dynamic; therefore, the ecological significance and species information presented here may not be complete or up-to-date. State and federal environmental agencies [see Appendix III for office contacts] should be consulted for additional information.)
Federally listed endangered
leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
Atlantic (=Kemp's) ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
roseate tern (Sterna dougallii)
finback whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)
humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
sandplain gerardia (Agalinis acuta)
Federally listed threatened
loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
Federal species of concern(1)
northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys t. terrapin)
harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
New England blazing-star (Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae [=L. borealis])
bushy rockrose (Helianthemum dumosum)
Nantucket juneberry (Amelanchier nantucketensis)
1Species of special concern listed here include former Category 2 candidates
eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma t. tigrinum)
least tern (Sterna antillarum)
curly-grass fern (Schizaea pusilla)
Mitchell's sedge (Carex mitchelliana)
seabeach purslane (Sesuvium maritimum)
water-pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata)
scotch lovage (Ligusticum scothicum)
field-dodder (Cuscuta pentagona)
red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)
northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
common tern (Sterna hirundo)
long-tubercled spikerush (Eleocharis tuberculosa)
marsh fimbry (Fimbristylis castanea)
orange fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
whorled mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. verticillatum)
sandplain flax (Linum intercursum)
featherfoil (Hottonia inflata)
lance-leaved loosestrife (Lysimachia hybrida)
clustered bluets (Oldenlandia uniflora)
State-listed special concern animals
southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala)
blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale)
common loon (Gavia immer)
least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)
eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis)
grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)
harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
State-listed rare plants
Emmon's sedge (Carex albicans var. emmonsii)
necklace sedge (Carex hormathodes)
coast flatsedge (Cyperus polystachyos var. texensis)
salt-marsh spikerush (Eleocharis halophila)
dwarf bulrush (Lipocarpha micrantha)
slender crabgrass (Digitaria filiformis)
swamp pink (Arethusa bulbosa)
grassleaf ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes vernalis)
pine barren sandwort (Minuartia [=Arenaria] caroliniana)
pine barren gerardia (Agalinis virgata)
The maritime moorlands and forest communities of the Montauk Peninsula are regionally significant and noteworthy not only for their uniqueness and restricted geographical occurrence, but also for their relatively pristine condition. Some upland areas on the Montauk Peninsula, especially on Hither Hills, contain some of the largest undeveloped tracts of maritime deciduous forests in the region, including stands of the globally rare maritime oak-holly forest. This forest type is restricted in the New York Bight region to undeveloped barrier beaches of Long Island and New Jersey and the eastern end of Long Island. Montauk contains the largest of two remaining maritime heathlands in New York: Montauk Mountain and the East Hampton Heathland. Maritime grasslands occur only on Long Island, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod on land formed from the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin glaciation. These communities on Montauk, including those found at Shadmoor Ditch Plains, Montauk Downs, Hither Hills, and the Big Reed Oyster Pond complex, provide essential habitat for a number of regionally and globally rare plant species, including two of only twelve known remaining populations of sandplain gerardia in the world. Nantucket juneberry and bushy rockrose are endemic to these maritime sandplain communities. A successional maritime forest along with maritime shrublands, a small example of a coastal plain poor fen, and an occurrence of the rare swamp pink occur at Caswell Cliff (Montauk Moorlands). Other rare plants found in the maritime grasslands/heathlands include New England blazing-star, lance-leaved loosestrife, pine barren gerardia, Emmon's sedge, dwarf plantain (Plantago pusilla), whorled mountain-mint, grassleaf ladies'-tresses, fringed boneset (Eupatorium hyssopifolium var. lacinatum), sandplain flax, and orange fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris). Grassland birds such as the upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) were once abundant on the grasslands on Montauk, but have disappeared as the grasslands succeeded into shrubs and forest. The blue-spotted salamander, a rare glacial relict, is found in this region only on the Montauk Peninsula, where it may occur locally in fairly high densities. This disjunct population is one of the few locations in the Northeast where this species has not hybridized with the Jefferson's salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum). The small freshwater ponds that are interspersed throughout the upland areas of the peninsula support several rare aquatic plant species such as featherfoil, water-pennywort, dwarf bulrush, and northeastern smartweed (Polygonum hydropiperoides var. opelousanum).
Napeague Beach is one of the largest remaining areas of undeveloped beach and back dune ecosystems on Long Island, with extensive dunes and maritime interdunal swale communities. These beaches, dunes, and swales support breeding by about 30 species of birds, including grasshopper sparrow which nest in the grassy dune areas at Napeague Beach. Seven species of amphibians and reptiles, including a large population of eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus h. holbrookii) as well as Fowler's toad (Bufo woodhousei fowleri), eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina), and eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos) are all known to occur in the swales and surrounding uplands. Abundant small mammal populations provide prey for raptors that feed in the area during fall migration; these include American kestrel (Falco sparvarius), merlin (Falco columbarius), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), northern harrier, osprey, peregrine falcon, and Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Northern harrier, merlin, and short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) also feed in this area in the winter. Dunes and interdunal swales at Napeague Beach, Walking Dunes, and Napeague Meadows (Promised Land) include some of the largest and most intact examples of pitch pine-dominated maritime dune woodlands in New York, and support several rare plant species, including pine barren sandwort, New England blazing-star, evening primrose (Oenothera oakesiana), and the best occurrence in New York of curly-grass fern. A large brackish/salt marsh area at Napeague Meadows supports several of the plant species occurring in the interdunal swales as well as necklace sedge, coast flatsedge, marsh fimbry, slender crabgrass, heart-winged sorrel (Rumex hastatulus), and seaside plantain (Plantago maritima ssp. juncoides).
Sand beaches along the Atlantic Ocean at Napeague Beach support nesting by piping plover and small colonies of least tern. The Hicks Island and Goff Point Beaches, at the entrance to Napeague Harbor along Block Island Sound, support nesting by these two species as well as roseate tern, common tern, black skimmer (Rynchops niger), American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), herring gull (Larus argentatus), and great black-backed gull (Larus marinus). Piping plover and least tern have also historically nested at the entrance of Oyster Pond near the tip of Montauk Point. Hicks Island is one of only a relatively few roseate tern nesting areas in the Northeast; this beach supported 80 adults in 1984 and 40 adults in 1989, much lower numbers in 1990-1992, and no documented nesting by roseate terns in recent years. The town of East Hampton, along with the state, county, The Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will be conducting a roseate tern restoration project at this site. The globally rare seabeach knotweed (Polygonum glaucum) occurs on both the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound beaches; the federally listed threatened seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilis) historically occurred on several of these beaches and this annual plant could potentially reestablish here or be reintroduced from other south shore populations.
The open waters of the embayed ponds and harbors along Block Island Sound, including Napeague Bay, Napeague Harbor, Fort Pond Bay, and Lake Montauk, are important waterfowl wintering areas for greater and lesser scaup (Aythya marila and A. affinis), red-breasted and common mergansers (Mergus merganser and M. serrator), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), American black duck (Anas rubripes), bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), and common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). These same areas and associated marshes are productive nesting and feeding areas for American black duck, least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), osprey, and northern harrier. Finfish and shellfish populations in both nearshore and embayed aquatic habitats in this area are diverse and abundant. The species composition varies over the area; silversides (Menidia spp.), killifish (Fundulus spp.), menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), and bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchill) are abundant forage species which make these areas important feeding and nursery areas for a number of estuarine-dependent commercially and recreationally important species, including bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), winter flounder (Pleuronectes americanus), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), northern quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria), American oyster (Crassostrea virginica), and bay scallop (Argopecten irradians).
Fort Pond is one of the largest freshwater ponds (65 hectares [160 acres]) on Long Island. It has a maximum depth of 7.9 meters (26 feet). Although there is significant shoreline development, this pond supports one of the three major smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) populations on Long Island. There is a significant recreational warmwater fishery here, augmented by stocking. Striped bass hybrid species were formally stocked; a new management strategy is to stock walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) in the future. The pond is also an important waterfowl wintering area, especially for Canada geese.
The complex of freshwater and brackish wetlands around Big and Little Reed Ponds support confirmed or probable nesting by northern harrier, red-shouldered hawk, least bittern, Canada goose, mallard, redhead (Aythya americana), American black duck, and blue-winged teal (Anas discors), as well as feeding by these species, other waterfowl, herons, egrets, and songbirds. Blue-spotted salamanders occur in the swales around Big Reed Pond. The pond and stream system of Big and Little Reed Ponds is one of the few spawning areas on Long Island for alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) which migrate from the ocean to spawn in shallow water in spring. Big Reed Pond also contains an excellent largemouth bass fishery.
Oyster Pond is probably the best example of a brackish and coastal salt pond with an undeveloped watershed in New York. The wetlands around the pond support blue-spotted salamander and southern leopard frog, as well as nesting and feeding by a variety of waterfowl and waterbirds. Rare plants along the shoreline include Mitchell's sedge and the only known population of seabeach purslane in New York.
The nearshore open waters surrounding Montauk Point provide regionally significant and critical wintering waterfowl habitat and concentration areas; they also contain extensive beds of blue mussel (Mytilis edulis) and kelp (Laminaria agardhii). Found here in significant numbers, particularly in winter, are several species of special emphasis in the region, such as common loon (Gavia immer), common eider (Somateria mollissima), white-winged scoter (Melanitta fusca), surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), black scoter (Melanitta nigra), bufflehead, common goldeneye, great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), and red-breasted merganser. Harlequin duck and king eider (Somateria spectabilis) occur here regularly during the winter, and this is the southernmost regular wintering population of harlequin ducks on the East Coast. On the Block Island Sound side of the peninsula, in somewhat more protected areas, American black duck (Anas rubripes) and oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis) occur in large wintering concentrations. The sea duck concentrations around Montauk Point are the largest nearshore winter concentrations in New York, and notable concentrations of pelagic seabirds occur in the spring, summer, and fall (see seabird chapter). The Christmas bird count on Montauk Point consistently tallies from 125 to 135 species, one of the best totals in the Northeast.
The nearshore waters off Montauk Point are one of the most important nearshore areas for sea turtles and marine mammals in the New York Bight region. Recent studies indicate that the nearshore waters within Peconic and Gardiners Bays, Block Island and Long Island Sounds, and off Montauk Point are critical developmental habitat for juvenile Atlantic ridley sea turtles, one of the rarest of the marine turtles, and a major feeding area for the loggerhead sea turtle. A regular feeding area for leatherback sea turtles also occurs just to the east of Montauk Point. Gray and harbor seals (Halichoerus grypus and Phoca vitulina) often use the rocks around Montauk Point and other shoreline areas, including Culloden Point, as haulout areas during the winter. Northern right whales (usually individuals) are regularly sighted migrating through the area, mostly from March through June. Small aggregations of finback whales feed close to shore from Shinnecock Inlet to Montauk Point from January to March. Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) occur along the south shore throughout the year but are more abundant in the summer. Humpback whales feed all around Montauk Point, primarily between June and September. An inshore population of bottlenosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) feed along Long Island's south shore from June through September. Regular sightings of harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in nearshore waters off Montauk Point and Block Island Sound occur from December to June.
VII. THREATS AND SPECIAL PROBLEMS: Although much of this area is under public ownership, there are several privately held sites of regional significance to fish, wildlife, or plant species. Poorly planned development could result in the destruction or degradation of aquatic and terrestrial habitats of species of special emphasis. Suppression of wildfires, essential to the maintenance of regionally important maritime and pineland communities, could result in vegetation changes and consequent loss of the characteristic biota of these communities, including several rare plants dependent on fire. Sensitive aquatic habitats of the area suffer from ever increasing nonpoint (contaminant/nutrient enrichment/sedimentation) pollution, which is inherent with development. Encroachment by exotic and invasive species such as common reed (Phragmites australis) is a threat. Recreational use and park management practices may be incompatible with natural resources, e.g., fragmentation of habitat by roads created to improve public access; vehicles and fishermen on beaches; erosion from heavy use of bridle trails; spread of exotic species' seeds in horse manure along bridle trails; and erosion from four-wheel drive vehicles.
Nesting populations of colonial waterbirds and piping plovers on sand or gravel beaches in this area, particularly around Napeague Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean beaches, are especially vulnerable during the nesting season (April to August) to human-caused disturbances such as trampling or destruction of nests from beach-walking, picnicking, boat landings, off-road vehicle use, predation by dogs and cats, and unregulated dredged material disposal. There are also unnaturally high population levels of predators such as gulls, crows, and red fox that coexist well with humans. Erosion of bluffs and beaches and attempts at stabilization which prevent natural coastal processes limit the amount of suitable nesting habitat. The nearshore and embayed open water habitats and associated waterfowl and marine mammal populations surrounding the Montauk Peninsula are vulnerable to oil spills, contaminants, waste disposal, boat and ship traffic, and dredging activities.
VIII. CONSERVATION RECOMMENDATIONS: Attention needs to be directed towards the continued protection of the offshore waters around Montauk Point and associated marine and estuarine communities, particularly as regards the area's regionally significant concentrations of pelagic species, especially seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should consider the designation of the offshore waters of Montauk Point as a Marine Sanctuary. This high-risk ocean-fronting area is subject to the full fury of winter storms and hurricanes and would be extremely vulnerable to an oil spill, ship collision, or contaminant discharge that, at certain times of the year, could result in devastating impacts on fish and wildlife populations in the immediate vicinity and throughout the region. Comprehensive containment and response plans and procedures should be developed, and equipment placed in readiness, to ensure the protection of this area and its living resources in the event of such a catastrophe. More regular monitoring of migrating and wintering seabirds would better define their critical areas and seasons. This monitoring could be done in concert with the Seawatch seabird monitoring program in Avalon, New Jersey, run by the Cape May Bird Observatory.
Disturbances to wintering and nesting bird populations need to be minimized or eliminated entirely, particularly for colonial beach-nesting birds such as federally listed terns and piping plovers. Human intrusions into beach nesting areas during the critical nesting season (April to August) should be prevented using a variety of methods, including protective fencing, posting, warden patrols, and public education. Additionally, closures to off-road vehicles at Goff Point, Napeague Beach, and other areas where off-road vehicle use is a problem are needed to protect piping plover nests and chicks in accordance with the guidelines in the piping plover recovery plan. When determined to be a problem, as it is at most mainland-connected nesting beaches, predator removal/control should be instituted. Those tasks and objectives of the piping plover and roseate tern recovery plans that might be applicable to beaches and nesting populations of these species in this area should be undertaken, including restoration or enhancement of degraded sites.
Many of the public parklands are in need of specific resource management plans directed at long-term conservation. Perpetuation of the area's unique maritime communities and associated rare plants, particularly those such as grasslands, heathlands, and pinelands, in which fire has historically played an important ecological role, needs to be the primary management goal for the individual sites and the complex as a whole. Fire management plans need to be specifically developed and implemented for the full spectrum of ecologically significant sites occurring over the general area; these should utilize the experiences and talents of such organizations as The Nature Conservancy and other groups in cooperation with state and county park resource managers and private landowners in the vicinity.
State and local government should cooperate in the development of plans for nonpoint source pollution reduction. Emphasis should be placed on the need to improve existing drainage situations that impact waters throughout Long Island. Riparian owners must be made aware of how their actions, e.g., graywater discharge, use of fertilizers, wetland destruction, impact the water they live on, so that they become better stewards.
While more than half of the land on the Montauk Peninsula is publicly owned, including the majority of significant sites, some of the regionally important sites are privately owned and vulnerable to development or mismanagement of the resources occurring there. It is not necessarily best, nor possible, for government agencies or conservation organizations always to acquire all the lands needed to protect a rare community type or important habitat. Various approaches and strategies exist for protecting valuable wildlife habitats; each provides different degrees of protection and requires different levels of commitment by regulatory agencies, conservation organizations, and landowners. These techniques include combined public and private financing, land exchanges, conservation easements, cooperative management agreements, mutual covenants, purchase of development rights, comprehensive planning, zoning, and land-use regulations, enforcement of existing local, state, and federal regulations, and fee simple acquisition. Techniques can be combined to develop a strategy for land protection that is tailored to a specific site. Partnerships among individual landowners within habitat complexes offer an exciting, practical, and innovative approach to the large, landscape-scale habitats recognized here. Government agencies or conservation organizations should also work with managers of public lands to insure that these lands are managed for conservation and protection of rare communities and species.
A comprehensive field survey and regional analysis of rare species populations, including endemics and near-endemics, and threats to "edge of the ice" communities associated with the terminal moraine from New York City to Cape Cod would be helpful in determining and protecting the most important remaining areas.
Antenen, S., M. Jordan, and P. Whan. 1994. Fire management plan: for restoration of maritime grassland in the Big Reed/Oyster Pond complex, Montauk Peninsula, Long Island, New York. The Nature Conservancy Long Island Chapter, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. 551 p.
East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department. Undated. Proposal for a five-year plan to reestablish Hicks Island as a roseate tern breeding colony site, East Hampton, NY
Guthrie, Charles. 1996. Personal communication. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 1, Freshwater Fisheries.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1985. National estuarine inventory: data atlas, vol. 1: physical and hydrologic characteristics. Strategic Assessment Branch, Washington, D.C.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1996. 1995 Long Island colonial waterbird and piping plover survey. Division of Fish and Wildlife, Region 1, Stony Brook, NY.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1994. 1992-1993 Long Island colonial waterbird and piping plover survey. A research report of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Stony Brook, NY.
New York State Department of State. 1987. Significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats program. Habitat narratives for Napeague Beach, Napeague Harbor, Hither Hills Uplands, Fort Pond, Culloden Point, Lake Montauk, Big and Little Reed Ponds, and Oyster Pond. New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and Waterfront Revitalization, Albany, New York.
Sadove, S. and P. Cardinale. 1993. Species composition and distribution of marine mammal and sea turtles in the New York Bight. Final report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern New England - New York Bight Coastal Ecosystems Program, Charlestown, RI.
Salzman, E. 1995. Birding hotspots, Montauk Point, New York. Birder's World, pp. 56-70.
Taylor, N. 1923. The vegetation of Long Island. Part I. The vegetation of Montauk: a study of grassland and forest. Brooklyn Botanical Garden Memoirs 2:1-107.
Woltmann, Edward. 1996. Personal communication. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 1, Regional Fishery Manager.
Young, B.H., K.A. McKown, V.J. Vecchio, J.D. Sicluna, 1989. A study of striped bass in the marine district of New York VI. Completion Report AFC-14-1. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Marine Resources, Stony Brook, NY. Mimeographed.
Young, B.H., K.A. McKown, V.J. Vecchio, K. Hattala, 1992. A study of striped bass in the marine district of New York VI. Completion Report AFC-16, jobs 1-4. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Marine Resources, Stony Brook, NY. Mimeographed.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1995. Piping plover (Charadrius melodus) Atlantic coast population revised recover plan, technical/agency draft. Region 5, Hadley, MA.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1995. Technical/agency draft recovery plan for seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus Rafinesque). Southwest Region, Atlanta, GA.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1991. Northeast coastal areas study: significant coastal habitats of southern New England and portions of Long Island Sound, New York. Southern New England - Long Island Sound Coastal and Estuary Office, Charlestown, RI.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1989. Sandplain gerardia (Agalinus acuta) recovery plan. Region 5, Newton Corner, MA.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1989. Roseate tern (Sterna dougallii) recovery plan, northeastern population. Region 5, Newton Corner, MA.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1983. Fish and wildlife resource studies for the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, beach erosion control and hurricane protection project reformulation study, estuarine resource component. Cortland Field Office, Cortland, NY.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1983. Fish and wildlife resource studies for the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, beach erosion control and hurricane protection project reformulation study, terrestrial resource component. Long Island Field Office, Upton, NY.
List of Species of Special Emphasis
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