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Long Island species included in state conservation plan

A Piping Plover is shown in Westhampton in

A Piping Plover is shown in Westhampton in this undated file photo. Photo Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Action must be taken within the next decade to keep the population of dozens of Long Island's birds, fish and mammals from continuing to decline, according to a draft conservation plan released this week by the state.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a draft list of nearly 400 "species of greatest conservation need" in New York -- including 184 species that are considered high priority, for which conservation measures are urgently needed.

The high-priority list includes several species synonymous with Long Island -- the hard clam, oyster and piping plover among them -- as well as other fauna that are lesser known here, such as the blue-spotted salamander, the Kentucky warbler and the whip-poor-will, a bird with a telling call.

Animals on this list are considered to need conservation action within the next 10 years in order to stanch the drop in their populations, according to the DEC.

Habitat loss, climate change, pollution and invasive species are considered the most common threats to these species, the state said. The next stage of the plan will include strategies on how to address the threats.

The draft list also includes 11 species that were once of concern but are now considered stable -- including several that can be found on Long Island, such as the river otter, red-throated loon and the sharp-shinned hawk.

The draft list is part of the state's effort to update its State Wildlife Action Plan, a necessary step before the state is eligible for federal funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-administered State Wildlife Grants program.

The last State Wildlife Action Plan was completed in 2005, while the next one is slated to be completed next year, according to the DEC.

Mike Bottini, wildlife biologist with the Long Island Nature Organization, called the effort "important."

It "gives them a mandate to work on conservation plans," he said.

The draft list can be found on the DEC's website at nwsdy.li/species, while comments on the list can be sent to SWAPComments@dec.ny. gov.

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