Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 63.76
Liaison Levi Rogers
Submission Date March 10, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Skidmore College
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Levi Rogers
Sustainability Coordinator
Sustainability Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:
No

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:
---

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

For over 25 years, faculty and students have conducted research projects within Skidmore's 155-acre North Woods to assess the state of the forest community and monitor its health. Comprehensive assessments of flora, fauna, and studies of its geology and history have guided decisions around land use, stewardship efforts, and pedagogy. Year after year, faculty across disciplines use the North Woods as a classroom, introducing students to the incredibly unique and valuable resource at our doorstep. Together, the numerous reports and ongoing research allow the College to monitor the North Woods and adapt stewardship efforts. Most recently, student North Woods Stewards completed an inventory of our most vulnerable plant species and mapped their location to inform future invasive species management tactics.


A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

Below are excerpts from Skidmore's North Woods Stewardship Plan, published in 2001 and edited in 2002 and 2005. In addition to the Stewardship Plan, Skidmore published two books titled Treasure in the North Woods, edited by Sue Van Hook, and Wildflowers of the North Woods, by Kara Cummings '02.

Flora

The North Woods is a moist, mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland that encompasses several wetlands, a pond, streams, and a range of ecosystem types that vary with the underlying geology. There are 680 species of vascular plants documented for this area. Among these flowering plant species, several dozen are protected by New York State Law (Environmental Conservation Law SS 9-1503, Section 193.3). The North Woods remains the single locale in Saratoga County for five species, and another six exist only in one or two other locales in the county (Howard 1996, Miller 1999).
Most remarkable is the diversity of ferns. Skidmore’s fern flora comprises 33 species, not including hybrids (Miller 1999). It is rivaled only by two or three other habitats, where 36 species can be seen. (All ferns and fern allies are protected in New York State).

It is difficult not to notice the abundant fungi in the fall. While the survey of fungal species is not complete, well over 500 species of macrofungi are known to fruit here.

Claire Schmitt, New York State botanist and co-author of Natural Areas of Saratoga County, New York (1998), has stated, “The flora of Skidmore’s North Woods has the greatest species richness of any area in Saratoga County that is available to the public.” With increasing public use of the woods, the diversity of the flora is at risk—both from habitat destruction and erosion and from the spread of non-native invasive species (such as burning bush, garlic mustard, and oriental bittersweet).

Fauna

the North Woods make up an area sufficient to support large vertebrates such as deer, red foxes, coyotes, beavers, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, and weasels. As of 2001, the area was known to support 23 mammal species and perhaps serve as home to 15 others. It is also an important stopover for migrating birds, as it is the first large area of intact woodlands north of the city of Saratoga Springs. A total of 106 species of birds have been known to occur here as residents, breeders, or migrants (Willson 1994, Freeman 1996). In 2001, there were 15 known species of reptiles and amphibians, with an additional six species expected to occur here (Freeman 1996).

Less noticeable are the invertebrate species, primarily insects and other arthropods, which number in the thousands. Most of them we know little about, but their survival is dependent on the preservation of the forest habitats, both visible and microscopic.

Geology

Its underlying geology makes the North Woods of Skidmore College unique. The North Woods are bound on the east by the Woodlawn Park fault, an offshoot of the larger MacGregor fault that runs north-south along Route 9N. The campus also straddles the interface between the Adirondacks and the sandy soils of glacial Lake Albany. To the south of the railroad tracks lies a calcareous Gailor dolomite that supports a botanical diversity considered by many to be a New York State treasure. A prominent limestone ridge traverses the woods, creating a topographical divide between a relatively level plateau and a moist ravine. The northern slope of this ridge is characterized by seeps that create a favorable habitat for many species of ferns, fungi, amphibians, and reptiles.


A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

North Woods Stewards Program:

The North Woods Steward program provides students with experiential learning opportunities in conservation work and leadership opportunities as they coordinate peer and community education programs. The Stewards complete several projects that help maintain the health, diversity, and accessibility of the North Woods. Each steward is responsible for removing invasive species, maintaining the trail system, and leading educational tours and programs for groups on campus and in the community. Summer projects have included proposals for improved trail signage, developing a protocol to remove specific invasive species from our lands, educational videos about the North Woods, and much more. The Stewards also maintain the North Woods social media pages as a way to share their experience and encourage visitors to explore the area. One Steward continues working through the Academic Year to help plan North Woods service days, maintain the trails, and lead other projects.

Over the years, the Stewards have completed many significant projects to advance the College's land stewardship efforts. In 2013, a North Woods Steward presented a proposal to remove all invasive species from the developed portion of campus. The proposal was accepted, and the College made a commitment to remove all burning bush and Japanese barberry from the developed portions of campus. The North Woods Stewards have also collaborated with Facilities Services, an Environmental Sociology class, and the Skidmore Student Conservation Corps to build boardwalks on the Red Trail and Blue Trail to minimize soil erosion and improve accessibility.

North Woods Stewardship Plan:

The North Woods Stewardship aims to:
1. to maintain (and, where possible, restore) the ecological character and integrity of the North Woods by preserving the habitat, the organisms, and their interactions, and by discouraging the introduction of invasive, exotic organisms
2. to educate people on and off campus about the value of the North Woods, and
to promote it as a college and public resource for environmental education and research
3. to teach and model environmentally responsible citizenship to Skidmore students and other campus members, as well as to alumni, parents, and supporters, and to the college’s neighbors in the Saratoga community
4. to encourage responsible, nondestructive behavior by all users of the North Woods and to discourage activities that harm its environment or ecological integrity.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.