Albany, NY: Chris Hawver, Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Management Commission, spoke at our February 2017 Save the Pine Bush dinner. Chris began his presentation with a really sweet tribute to Rezsin Adams. Chris said that when he first started with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve commission that he was afraid of Save the Pine Bush, and Chris thought save the Pine Bush was mean. But, he said Rezsin was always so nice to him. Chris said that it was a great honor for him to be asked to speak at the dinner where Save the Pine Bush was honoring Rezsin for her 90th birthday.
Chris was very clear he said “the Commission
would not be here without Save the Pine Bush. Break it down further, there would be no protected Pine Bush without Rezsin Adams.” He then gave Rezsin a Karner blue butterfly patch and a Karner blue butterfly pin.
Chris then went on to tell us about what is new in the Pine Bush. Currently, the Commission
is working on habitat work such as removing the black locust. The Commission now removes black locust by ripping out the roots and has greatly reduced its reliance on the use of pesticides.
Last year, the Commission conducted only six burns, covering just 50 acres. This is not much, but, given the very dry conditions in 2016, Chris felt 50 acres was pretty good. Since the fire program started in 1991, the Commission has burned 2100 acres. One of the audience members asked about what happens to the animals during controlled Pine Bush burns. Chris responded that the fires are slow moving and the animals have plenty of time to escape.
The Commission is looking at ways to generate more public support for the fires and one of the ways that Chris mentioned was posting signs on prominent roads saying “Pardon our appearance — more Pine Bush coming soon.”
In 2015 scientists at the Commission studied the saw-whet owls. Turns out, these owls use the Pine Bush during their migration. In 2015, scientist
caught no owls in the mist nets, but, in 2016 Commission scientists caught 28 owls. These owls get their name from their call, which sounds like a saw blade spinning. The owls migrate from Canada to Albany to the south.
Of course no mention of the Pine Bush would be complete without talking about the Karner Blue. In 2002 Chris said there were about 500 Karner Blue butterflies in the Pine Bush. The federal recovery requires a minimum of 3000 butterflies
in order to classify the butterfly as recovered.
A large number of butterflies is required to protect the populations from catastrophic events and changes in the environments. Last year, scientists
from the Albany Pine Bush Management Commission counted 21,000 butterflies.
Chris described a new, really interesting exploration station at the Discovery Center. It is an interactive sandbox that uses augmented reality. The exhibit shows the topography of the sand dunes using a combination of real sand and video game technology.
Last year, the Pine Bush was included in the Albany Institute’s 50 objects of note for the capital region. This exhibit was shown last year for many months at the Albany Institute in downtown Albany.
In 2016 the Pine Bush was designated a National Heritage Area, which is an important and significant designation.
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission
has partnered with the Mohawk Hudson land Conservancy to work on acquiring more land.
Chris said there are currently 3300 protected acres of Pine Bush. The goal of the Commission is to preserve 5380 acres.
Last August, a man walked into Chris’s office and said he wanted to give some land to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Because of the collaboration with the land Conservancy, the Commission was able to accept the land and the deal was closed by December.
The Environmental Protection Fund is extremely important to purchasing land for the Pine Bush. The fund is down $7 million this year and there is a lot of competition to purchase land for preservation. The Commission itself is partly funded by the EPF.
The Commission collaborates with Friends of Woodlawn to protect the Woodlawn Preserve. Protecting this land is complicated as the preserve is in Schenectady County and the Commission is limited by statute to working in Albany County.
More work needs to be done to protect all of the Pine Bush. But, without SPB, there would be no Pine Bush left today.