Pine Bush honors conservationist

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and tribute to one of the original citizen members of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission was held at its Discovery Center Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation held the dedication event to honor the late Margaret M. Stewart and unveil the recent expansions to the preserve.

Stewart, a renowned herpetologist and an expert in reptiles and amphibians, died in 2006. She worked for more than 50 years as a conservationist and educator.

Stewart was also a key player in developing the interactive Discovery Center, a place where people can go to learn about the natural aspects and history of the preserve, as well as volunteer to aid in conservation efforts.

We are delighted to honor and remember our friend and supporter, Meg Stewart. Dr. Stewart provided students with an appreciation for their natural world for decades, using the unique habitat of the Albany Pine Bush as her outdoor teaching laboratory, said Katie Dolan, executive director of the Nature Conservancy's Eastern New York Chapter.

"Visitors can learn about native plant landscaping, how to plan a prescribed fire, how best to minimize the environmental impacts of their visit and much more," she added.

Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center Director Michael Venuti said the recent expansions to the Discovery Center were part of a larger initiative that began last June. He said the indoor portion was addressed last year, and this year

The commission focused on several outdoor enhancements.

The center is also attempting to attain a "silver LEED" rating for being a "green" building, according to information from the commission.

Venuti said 750 tons of asphalt was moved to make way for the new amenities, including an outdoor meeting area, an accessible trail and a new biological composting restroom, which will generate fertilize from waste, using relatively small amounts of water.

"It uses about 3 ounces each flush," Venuti said.

"The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is a fragile ecosystem that is home to a variety of rare plants and animals, including the treasured Karner blue butterfly. It is worthy of protection, and the Discovery Center will educate many children who we help will emerge as the next generation of environmental stewards," said Gov. David Paterson in a written statement.""

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