A Riverhead-based environmental nonprofit says it will put a new $40,000 grant toward its ongoing efforts to protect over 3,000 acres in one of Long Island’s most ecologically sensitive areas — the East End’s pine barrens.
The Long Island Community Foundation issued the grant to the nonprofit Long Island Pine Barrens Society in December.
The funding will be used as part of the society's campaign to acquire and preserve pine barrens land in Manorville, Southampton, Riverhead, Hampton Bays and other East End communities.
The pine barrens stretch across more than 100,000 acres of Suffolk County woods and wetlands that officials say are home to hundreds of wildlife species, with 52,000 acres in a core area where no development is permitted.
Officials at the nonprofit said the overall campaign calls for 16 property acquisitions, including:
- The 800-acre Shoreham Forest property
- Hampton Bays parcels adjacent to Sears-Bellows County Park totaling 100 acres
- Hundreds of acres of grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands at Riverhead Town-owned Enterprise Park at Calverton property; and
- 700 acres between Brookhaven Airport and the Long Island Expressway that Yonkers-based developer Rose-Breslin Associates owns.
By acquiring the properties, the nonprofit seeks to accomplish goals such as:
- safeguarding groundwater and surface water quality
- preserving additional habitats and buffering existing habitats of area-dependent wildlife such as whip-poor-wills; and
- providing access to new landscapes and creating and connecting trails.
Nina Leonhardt, a member of the nonprofit's board, said each property was “especially curated for their ecological significance," including some aimed at protecting habitats of rare species.
However, looking ahead, environmental advocates say more needs to happen to protect the pine barrens.
Records show the Long Island Pine Barrens Society joined with other interests this week in filing litigation opposing the controversial Lewis Road golf community development in East Quogue — slated to be one of the largest developments in the pine barrens.
Last month, the Southampton Town Planning Board approved a subdivision and site plan for the project.
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman told Newsday before litigation's filing that while environmentalists might not be happy with building plans, "the law says that if you meet the standards, you're supposed to get a permit."