Coastal Grasslands Restoration Project at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve

The photos show the transition from degraded to restored grasslands.

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, part of the Lloyd Neck Long Island Sound Stewardship Area, sits on a peninsula on Long Island Sound and contains tidal wetland, grassland, forest, bluff, and beach habitats. In 2011, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) received a LISS Futures Fund grant to take 25 acres of a 30-acre field that was historically used as pastureland, and was being maintained by New York State Parks as a successional field, and restore it to native coastal grassland habitat.

An old hedgerow bisected the site, diminishing the value of the existing grassland habitat through fragmentation, and areas of the fields had become dominated by invasive plants. As part of the restoration effort, invasive plants, such as mile-a-minute, porcelain berry, and mugwort, the hedgerow, and the woody plants were removed. Once the invasive plants and hedgerow were removed, the newly contiguous grassland habitat was ready to be planted with native grasses and wildflowers. In spring 2015, NYSOPRHP along with The Caumsett Foundation planted coastal grasses such as switchgrass, black-eyed Susan, and little bluestem. Initial monitoring of the site in 2016 indicated that native plants had successfully taken hold at the site but continued management of invasive plants would be needed in the near future in order to ensure restoration success.

Volunteers planting native grasses at Caumsett State Park.

Coastal grasslands are open glacial outwash plains dominated by tall grasses, such as little bluestem and switchgrass. They often have diverse wildflower communities as well. These areas provide critical habitat for many rare and endangered birds and butterflies, and are also important to birds of prey. Some of the species inhabiting the Caumsett grasslands are the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, eastern meadowlark, Savannah sparrow, bobolink, northern harrier, and short-eared owl.

Funding partners for this project included the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, a program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that receives support from LISS. In 2011, the Futures Fund provided a $40,000 grant to the project.

This article was written by Vicky O’Neill, Long Island Sound Study’s New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator. O’Neill provided technical advice during the restoration. Photos in the gallery are by S. Feustel. Visit the Caumsett grasslands restoration web pages for more photos and a complete description of the project.

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