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Waterfowlers ?celebrate ?50 years

Serious area duck and goose hunters had devoted many hours and much of their talent to retaining and expanding waterfowl presence and hunt options throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century.

But it was in the early 1960s that waterfowl hunters and fanciers at the west end of New York State began holding informal meetings to address issues.

Hunters were encouraged by increasing numbers of diving ducks and sought to establish late-season hunts that would allow access to hunting opportunities without harming bird populations.

In 1962 these hunters formally established the Finger Lakes and Western New York Waterfowl Association (FL&WNYWA), which worked directly with Department of Environmental Conservation waterfowl personnel to address issues.

Many members of this newly-formed association were U.S. Fish and Wildlife certified duck banding experts who knew the flight patterns, duck densities and overall duck dynamics and goose gendering throughout the Finger Lakes and Western New York.

A summary of individual club members included Rodger Case from Canandaigua, Chris Pitman from Skaneateles, Gerry Farrell from Lewiston, John Daniels from Grand Island and Mike Rosing from Dunkirk.

These five men were credited with banding more than 75,000 ducks in this area during a 45-year period of conservation work.

Several of these five members also served as officers and directors. A few even served two terms as president, including Gerry Farrell, Ed Fiorino of Albion, Ken Zolnowski of Cheektowaga. John Michalovic of Amherst took one term as president. Both Zolnowski and Michalovic have logged more than 30 years as Waterfowl Education Identification instructors.

In 1991, Zolnowski began work with DEC wildlife biologist Dan Carroll on a mallard nest box program on state wildlife management areas. That effort has increased the presence of this duck species throughout the state and federal refuges in Western New York. By 2011, project volunteers had expanded the 40 structures to 120 secure nesting sites for mallard ducks.

As a means to attract young waterfowlers in the mid 1980s, FL&WNYWA members worked with Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge personnel to establish a youth waterfowl hunting program. Youths learned waterfowl identification, hunting safety, ethics, equipment usage and hunt formats; volunteers helped as guides on these youth hunts, as well as class instructors.

FL&WNYWA assistants helped prepare season-setting reports and offer substantial input on area information. The DEC established a Task Force program in 1999, which divided the state's areas into five zones. During the 13 years of this program, season-setting complaints have dropped dramatically and monitored hunts have gone more smoothly than in years earlier.

FL&WNYWA members look with pride at past accomplishments during the past half century and look forward to another 50 years of conservation. Difficulties lie ahead for waterfowl concerns. A club summary stated: "The recruitment of waterfowlers continues to decline in the face of competition from many sources, including the ever-expanding electronic entertainment media."

Nonetheless, serious devotees know that their efforts and input are essential in sustaining, and possibly expanding, the North American waterfowl resource.


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Phosphorous discharged

Phosphorous loading into Chautauqua Lake has been beyond water quality standards since 2004, according to Department of Environmental Conservation studies.

Excess phosphorous triggers algae bloom, which includes a toxic blue-green bloom.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens noted, "This past summer was a particularly bad one for the lake, with beach closures and numerous complaints of algae blooms."

To comply with federal Clean Waters Act (CWA) requirements, the state will have to reduce pollutant loadings. Three sewer and water agencies serving the Chautauqua Lake area will be required to implement chemical additions to remove phosphorous discharges by next summer. Significant upgrades in phosphorous treatment facility operations will be required for CWA compliance by 2018.