It’s a hot May day in upstate New York, hitting 80 degrees already by late morning. I’m walking around a wide-open grasslands area with a group of people as Ralph Tabor, local Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer extraordinaire, points out the bobolinks swooping above the grass and the dying ash trees.
I’ve organized a hike at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, which is a mouthful. The event is an opportunity for people to get to know their local public lands and connect with other wildlife enthusiasts. This is part of what I do working for Defenders of Wildlife. The other part takes place in a different kind of wilderness.
A month ago, I was in Washington D.C., guiding a small group of New Yorkers between meetings. Shoes clicked down long marble hallways. We ducked in and out of offices, sometimes even standing in hallways to meet with a staffer and argue our case. Our nation’s bedrock wildlife protection laws – including the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act – are under attack. People from the Adirondacks down to Staten Island traveled to D.C. to remind their representatives why wildlife is important.
Shawangunk Grasslands reminds us of why this work is important. It’s one of two grasslands sites remaining in the Hudson Valley in New York. Birders drive from all over the region to catch sight of a particular migratory grasslands bird as it stops through this haven of suitable habitat. We can’t let these areas slip away. And it takes active work to ensure that our wildlife protection laws and public lands will still be around for future generations.