Populations of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly are
dispersed throughout the sand plain in Saratoga County. This
sand plain, of which Albany's Pine Bush is a major part, contains
isolated pitch pine/scrub oak communities in Clifton Park, Wilton,
Moreau, and other areas.
In 1988, the Planning Board of the Town of Clifton Park entertained
several applications for subdivision and development in the
"Wood Road corridor.," a mostly pitch pine community. This is
roughly 600 acres east of the Northway and west of Route 9,
extending from Ushers Road to the Village of Round Lake. Despite
the sensitive environmental attributes, such as wetlands, important
aquifer recharge areas, and state protected streams and wildlife
habitat, the Town had zoned this area for light industrial and
business development. Applications presented for approval include
a 200 acre lumber yard, a beer warehouse, an asphalt paving
plant, a sand mine, a heavy construction facility, and other
In August 1988 the Town Planning Board was informed by the Nature
Conservancy that important habitats of Karner Blue were known
to exist there. Very quickly survival of the butterfly became
a rallying point for citizens and civic groups opposed to destruction
of this natural resource.
Faced with mounting pressure, the Town hired Dr. Dale Schweitzer
that autumn to survey the corridor for the presence of Blue
Lupine, which is the exclusive food of the Karner Blue caterpillar.
Schweitzer's field observations were reluctantly accepted by
landowners and town planners as conclusive proof that the Karner
Blue could thrive on this land.
Preparation by the Planning Board of a Generic Environmental
Impact Statement (GEIS) began in earnest. A final "scoping"
document issued in Feb. 1989 set forth requirements for the
GEIS. In the summer of 89, Schweitzer prepared a "Wildlife and
Wetlands Report" for the GEIS, in which he estimated that about
1000 Karner Blues live on three sites in the corridor. In an
amendment to the report, he noted that since 1989 was an "an
exceptionally bad year" for the July butterfly count in the
Albany Pine Bush, that the Clifton Park sites would probably
support twice as many butterflies in normal years.
A troubling aspect of this report, however, is Schweitzer's
claim that the original habitat of the corridor was not a pitch
pine/ scrub oak community. He also made the absurd contention
that Clifton Park need only concern itself with preserving the
remnants of the Karner Blue population, and "enough habitat
to perpetuate them" and possibly establishing some linkage between
the communities. He feels that the original community, which
he claims was a black oak savanna, "could not be restored on
the proposed industrial Park site." According to Schweitzer
and the final GEIS, the minimum size recommendations for the
Albany Pine Bush do not apply to Wood Road corridor.
By Daniel Van Riper, Jan./Feb. 92
The fight by Clifton Park residents against their planning board
and developers over unnecessary destruction of a unique natural
resource in their community echoes the battles by SPB with the
City of Albany. There is big money in flattening virgin land
and slapping up ready-to-use buildings. Big developers make
big profits that can't be made in already developed areas, where
consideration for established neighbors limits the size and
use of new construction. There's always a little something for
local politicians also. More than one old boy from the Albany
Machine is enjoying a Florida retirement because of Pine Bush
developments. Let's not imagine that Clifton Park Republicans
have any more integrity in their back room dealings.
The hiring of Dale Schweitzer clearly underlines the Planning
Board's intentions. Schweitzer, who is in the same league as
the notorious Dennis Murphy, is a biologist for hire, available
to the highest bidder. Developers and politicians, who wish
to justify habitat destruction schemes to an outraged citizenry,
hire this person for a hefty salary because they know he will
give them what they want, despite evidence to the contrary.
For example, Schweitzer knows what the minimum requirements
of acreage are necessary for survival of a community. How could
butterflies survive alongside an asphalt plant?
Schweitzer's job is to destroy the legal handle that the citizens
of Clifton Park are using to stop the destruction of the Woods
Road corridor. How far will citizen's groups in Clifton Park
go to save the corridor? They will need to counter Schweitzer's
absurdities head on by finding experts of their own, and this,
of course, means money. Good luck to Mr. Engleman and others
in your fight against destruction. You'll need it.