SI plant project draws environmentalists' ire

February 3, 2012 2:06:29 PM PST
A project to replace invasive plant species with native trees and shrubs on Crooke's Point in Staten Island is making waves with environmentalists.

The two-acre pilot program of the National Parks Service and Million Trees NYC is a way to clear out brush that is choking out native plant life. But the protectors of Pine Oak Woods say they're going about it the wrong way.

Crooke's Point is situated between the Raritan Bay and Fresh Kills Bay is a prime birdwatching spot in the fall. The peninsula is covered in dense, thorny shrubs and vines that drape over trees.

"What it does is supplants the native plant ecosystem that should be in a coastal maritime environment," Gateway Recreation Area's Doug Adamo said.

So the parks service cleared away the brush, except for native trees marked with yellow and red ties. Everything else was removed. Environmentalists say the shrubs were critical to migrating birds that are looking for a place to rest on their journey.

"They fly all night and stop during the day to rest and refuel," said Ellen Pratt, of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. "And this is what you've got here, a wonderful, protected resting, and a very rich food source."

Another concern is that later this month, herbicides will be used to clear the rest of the vegetation.

"Sand is only 3 feet. Where's it going to go?" said Elaine Croteau, also of Protectors of Oak Woods. "It's going to go down. We have a water supply. We have fish."

The parks service says the herbicides should dissipate in a month's time. Once the area is cleared, roughly 1,500 trees will be donated by Million Trees NYC for re-planting in order to complete the project by October 2013.

The group has filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Environmental Conservation over the use of the herbicides.

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