Nearly 100 volunteers showed up at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve on a warm, sunny day to lend a helping hand on a variety of important projects that help maintain the unique ecosystem.
On Saturday, April 19, volunteers from across Albany County came to the preserve to help plant pitch pines, remove invasive plants and pick up trash that was hidden under the snow.
Originating in 1970, Earth Day, which took place Tuesday, April 22, but was celebrated early by the Pine Bush program, was created as part of a movement that led to numerous acts to help protect the environment. The movement that brought attention to environmental problems paved the way for laws such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and many others and is now a day celebrated in more than 140 countries.
“Earth Day is a day of environmental stewardship and thinking about the earth as a whole and doing environmental work. It’s a day to be thankful for rare and unique habitats like we have here in the preserve — a globally rare ecosystem,” said Jesse Hoffman, a Preserve Steward at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
“Here, we’re celebrating by getting volunteers involved to do things like trash clean up and cleaning up roads in the preserve because obviously you don’t want trash all over the place. We’re doing invasive species removal, so ripping out plants that are not native, and we’re doing tree seedling planting. Some of our restoration sites are lacking pitch pine trees, which is one of the namesakes,” said Hoffman.
Created in 1988, the preserve covers 3,300 acres and is one of only 20 similar ecosystems in the world. It is also home to the Karner Blue butterfly, which is considered an endangered species. The butterfly is a native species to the preserve and requires the unique habitat for its survival.
“One of the mission statements is to protect the Karner Blue butterfly,” explained Ed McDonnell, who has been volunteering at the preserve for 11 years. McDonnell was on one of the teams that were ripping out honeysuckle, which is an invasive plant species that blocks out the sunlight required by lupin to grow. The Karner Blue butterfly depends on lupin as one of its main food sources.
Sarah Braken of Latham, who has been in Girl Scouts for eight years, was ripping up honeysuckle and volunteering at the preserve for her first time and said she was helping out because it was “fun and good for the environment and the Pine Bush.”
Sophomores from Bethlehem Central High School Evan Davis and David Kalmer were removing honeysuckle to fulfill an obligation to the Key Club. The club is an international organization that focuses on community service. They saw an advertisement in the paper and thought it would be a good project because they could help preserve the ecosystem at Pine Bush.
Many different groups of Cub Scouts and Daisy Scouts were out planting pitch pine seedlings in areas where the important flora was lacking. In some areas, the trees hadn’t grown or they could have been removed by development or by controlled burns.
Hoffman said one of the great things about the volunteers is that the when they come out and help, they learn about the preserve and then they want to help and come back. He said it’s when volunteers show up, the employees like to bring them from “awareness to knowledge to action.”
There are always opportunities to volunteer, and anyone who is interested can find more information at albanypinebush.org.