New Yorkers and wildlife find solace in the city’s parks

Helen Forgione, Conservation of nature areas‘s senior ecologist, is one of those scientists. For more than 30 years, she has devoted her career to restoring the parks and natural, pristine green spaces of New York City.

“In some cases, we don’t really see animals coming back to New York, but we see the right habitat to make them more visible,” she said. “We also see animals walking around looking for the right habitat… They find the right space for them to breed and live.”

New York is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the country, but it’s also home to 30,000 acres of parkland — 14% of the city — teeming with wildlife, everything from skunks and deer, dolphins and seals to Staten Island, even Coyotes that live in the wooded areas of Central Park.

The New York City branch of the Audubon Society tracks the number of birds and species sighted in different parts of the five boroughs for their annual Christmas bird count. In 2015, they recorded 4,264 birds of 55 different species in Central Park. Five years later, in 2020, Central Park numbers increased by nearly 50% to 6,357 birds from 59 different species.

“What excites me today is not only the increase in the diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Big Apple, but also the public’s response to and enthusiasm for their urban wild neighbors,” Sarah Aucoin, head of the New York City’s Department of Natural Parks and Recreation and Education said in an email.

The proliferation of wildlife is a byproduct of extensive environmental advocacy and federal legislation aimed at protecting natural habitats.

The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, along with federal legislation such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, have made huge strides in cleaning up cities like New York and controlling pollution. This was accompanied by green initiatives to clean up New York’s green spaces such as Brooklyn’s Marine Park, 530 acres of grassland and salt marsh.

Forgione remembers working in this area before it was even considered a park. Today it is teeming with bird watchers, families and retirees.

“It’s really nice to see this space being valued for what it is and not considered a wasteland or a place to be abused.”

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And the city’s parks department is happy to see New Yorkers sharing the excitement of nature.

“Where in the past we had to assure the public that wildlife in the city belongs and could thrive here, we now spend more time answering questions about the best places to see wildlife in the city. This change in the public perception and attitude towards urban nature is as much a testament to the work NYC Parks has done on the benefit of wildlife as the overall increase in wildlife. And they go hand in hand,” Sarah continued. aucoin. “Wildlife doesn’t just need parks — the green space, the habitat, the ecosystem — to survive, they all need us as good neighbors.”

While New York’s greening was intentional, some of the species now observed were unexpected. Scientists and scientists are trying to keep track of exactly what is happening in the green spaces of the city.

Myles Davis is a graduate student at Columbia University studying the distribution of mesocarnivore in New York City — or medium-sized animals that require a combination of meat, inspect and other plant material.

“A lot of New Yorkers don’t even know what’s around,” Davis said. “I grew up in Brooklyn and until a few years ago I didn’t know there were raccoons around.”

Focusing on areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, he uses wildlife cameras to monitor the activity of animals in places like Prospect Park without disturbing them.

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“If we understand the trends here, we can really know what to expect going forward as more cities urbanize,” he said. “We can see New York as a model for that.”

New York is cleaner and greener than it’s been in centuries, but according to Forgione, the work is far from over. It takes the continued enthusiasm and persistence of scientists and New Yorkers to keep the momentum going. And in a city like New York, parks are an essential outlet for both wildlife and residents.

“This is the place where people have the most access to nature. It really emphasizes how important it is to manage these places, to keep our forests and our wetlands in good condition, for these people who have no other place to get to nature.” than in their own backyard.”

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