Millbrook, New York, August 14, 2013
The winter of 2012-2013 was a big year for bog turtle protection in the Hudson Valley as restoration efforts started on a record number of acres. With funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and technical assistance from the Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC), six sites representing 140 acres were able to be permanently protected under a conservation easement and restored for bog turtle protection in Dutchess County.
“This represents more acres than have been restored by NRCS New York in all the previous years combined (2003-2011),” said Jason Tesauro, a turtle specialist with MACHAC.
Bog turtles (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) are the smallest and one of the rarest turtle species in North America. They live in calcareous wetlands throughout the Hudson Valley.
Restoration of their habitat involves removing overgrown trees and invasive plants which can shade out the sunny areas bog turtles need for basking and nesting. A rich diversity of native plants, many of which are only found in these rare, calcareous (limestone) wetlands, can then thrive. This provides excellent habitat for the bog turtle. Sometimes livestock like cattle, goats, or sheep are pastured in the wetlands which help control the growth of unwanted vegetation. When grazing does occur, it is carefully monitored and only a few animals at a time are allowed so wetland plants aren’t overgrazed or turtles trampled.
NRCS through WRP has funded approximately 15 bog turtle protection projects in the Hudson Valley. Other projects in New York have been funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Defense Fund, and The Nature Conservancy.
“The WRP program has successfully restored millions of acres nationwide providing habitat for lots of wildlife including water fowl and rare species like bog turtles. On a volunteer basis, landowners can enroll wetlands that have been modified for agriculture. USDA NRCS pays the landowner for a conservation easement which takes the property out of agricultural production and prevents future development. We then work with the landowner to restore the wetlands back to their original function,” said Elizabeth Marks, a biologist with USDA NRCS.
With offices in nearly every county in the United States, NRCS works with landowners and communities to improve our soil, water, air, plants, wildlife, and energy use. If you have a farmed wetland or one containing bog turtles, or if you are interested in how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your local NRCS office.