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Shawangunk Mountains of Eastern New York

Much of the information on this web page comes from The Nature Conservancy's web site. Click here to view TNC's web page concerning the Shawangunks. Also check out the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership's site on Fire Management.

Site Description

The Shawangunk Mountains are located between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River in southeastern New York. Popularly called the "Gunks" by locals, they support more than 35 natural communities, including ridgetop dwarf pine barrens, chestnut oak forests, hemlock forests, pitch pine forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands. Twenty-seven rare plant and animal species have been documented in the Shawangunks. Protected lands of the Shawangunk Ridge are managed by The Nature Conservancy at Sam's Point Dwarf Pine Ridge Preserve, and by the not-for-profit Mohonk Preserve.

Encroaching development is the most significant threat to the Shawangunks, permanently damaging habitat and ecological processes, particularly along the base of the ridge.  Additionally, recreational use by almost a half million hikers, rock climbers, skiers and others each year can cause introduction of invasive species, erosion, soil compaction and loss of vegetation.

To read an informative paper on the Vegetation and Fire History of the Dwarf Pine Ridges of the Shawangunk Mountains, click here (7.0 MB pdf).

Ongoing work by The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working with land managers, scientists, and communities to assure that the natural resources of the Shawangunk Ridge are protected, and where necessary, restored. They are implementing the following strategies:

  • Protecting, 15,000-25,000 additional acres of land in the northern Shawangunks.
  • Managing recreational use by developing management strategies designed to reduce impacts on conservation targets through trail design and use regulations.
  • Building a fire management program by developing management plans to address the ecological needs of fire-influenced conservation targets by utilizing local expertise and educating the public about fire ecology and the use of fire in ecological management.

Fire suppression has caused a build-up of highly flammable debris and undergrowth, which could result in an uncontrollable and devastating fire. TNC is leading the development of a ridge-wide fire management plan that includes controlled burning. The plan seeks to restore and maintain fire-dependent ecological communities within the Shawangunks. TNC is planning a demonstration burn in the fall of 2005 in grassland habitat, to be followed eventually by burns in chestnut oak forest and pitch pine communities.

The last prescribed burning at the Gunks took place in 1978-79, in chestnut oak forest. Permanently-marked plots within the burn perimeters were re-surveyed in 2004 to monitor changes in the vegetation. The data have been published by the Mohonk Preserve and is available upon request.

Contacts for more information about work in the Shawangunks

Stephanie Gifford
TNC-New York
200 Broadway, 3rd Floor
Troy, NY 12180
sgifford@tnc.org

Hank Alacandri
Mohonk Preserve
PO Box 715
New Paltz, NY 12561
halicandri@mohonkpreserve.org

John Thompson
Daniel Smiley Research Center
Mohonk Preserve
1000 Mountain Rest Rd
New Paltz, NY 12561
jthompson@mohonkpreserve.org

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