Engaging Schuyler and Seneca County Landowners in Habitat Stewardship
From her experience as Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon New York, Jillian Liner has witnessed the extreme pressures on landowners to convert their real estate to residential housing or other uses that are not compatible with wildlife habitat. In the Hudson Valley, she led a grassland protection effort with several towns and the local Audubon chapter to convince the state agency (NYS DEC) to take an interest in protecting the area. After many years of educating and conducting outreach on behalf of the site, the state committed to creating a wildlife management area that will benefit grassland birds like the Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink and others.
With her Toyota TogetherGreen Fellowship, Jillian turned her attention to critical habitat in and surrounding the Finger Lakes National Forest in Schuyler and Seneca Counties. This area, which has been recognized by Audubon as an Important Bird Area (IBA), is a patchwork of federally-owned and private lands with 6,000 acres of grasslands, 2,500 acres of shrub lands, and over 7,500 acres of deciduous forest. Jillian applied what she learned from experiences in other parts of the state to the Finger Lakes region and continue to explore land protection measures that resonate with local private landowners. Seneca County is one of the poorest counties in NY and has very few conservation groups. Jillian reached out to the local communities to find out in what ways they value wildlife with the hope of increasing their interest in permanently protecting their lands through management and also easements and acquisition with the help of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
Jillian has discovered that conservation is not just about science, but about people. To be successful, messages need to be communicated effectively with program partners and the public. Through this fellowship, she was able to put into practice that precise philosophy and leverage the connections she makes with landowners to increase the number of acres managed for grassland and shrub species and to maintain the natural beauty of this important area.