Riexinger blazes trail First woman to head state 146 s Fish amp Wildlife

Riexinger blazes trail
First woman to head state’s Fish & Wildlife

BERNE — Patricia Riexinger is the first woman to head the state’s Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources Department.
A Girl Scout leader, she quotes a scouting slogan to describe the plans she has for her division of the Department of Environmental Conservation: "Make new friends and keep the old."
Riexinger said that she will maintain the state programs and also look for new opportunities "to preserve New York’s awesome biological diversity"to keep that resource around for many generations to come."
"I am very excited," Riexinger told The Enterprise of her recent appointment. "It was something I had always dreamed of." Being named director is "a huge honor," said the Hilltown resident. "I am so excited and thrilled."

Riexinger is a nationally-certified wildlife conservation biologist. She has worked with the DEC for 30 years.

Former Director Gerry Barnhart retired in August. Riexinger applied for the position after contemplating both the responsibilities of the job and its opportunities, she said. She was one of 13 candidates, but as a longtime DEC employee, the position became a promotion from within the same structure, she said.

The directorship required a background check. As a Girl Scout leader, Riexinger has already had her background investigated.
"I assured them that there was nothing wild from my college years," she joked.

The position also required a formal appointment by the governor, which she received.

Riexinger’s early years with the DEC were spent with the Waterfowl Unit, and then as a reptile and amphibian specialist in the Endangered Species Unit, according to information released by the DEC press office.

She was nationally recognized for her work preparing a state wetland conservation plan, and she administered more than $1 million in federal wetlands grants, the office reported.
"One is silver and the other’s gold"
"I look forward to maintaining and strengthening our existing programs," Riexinger told The Enterprise. She said that hunting and fishing programs in the state are strong and will be continued.
"I also look forward to strengthening habitat protection programs," she said. Riexinger hopes to update freshwater wetlands maps. She also wants to update the endangered species regulations.
"It was over 10 years ago that we last reviewed the species that should be listed as endangered," she said.

Riexinger wants the division to work better with landowners to protect fish and wildlife on privately-owned lands, she said. She hopes to support and complement existing federal programs for private land management, she said.
"The vast majority of land [in New York state] is in private lands," Riexinger said.

She said that the LIP, or Landowner Incentive Program, would continue. This program protects grasslands, which are declining around the state as old farmland lays untilled. Many of these grasslands are growing up into forests, she said. Establishing a mowing program would protect animals that are losing their grassland habitat, Riexinger said, by preventing the reforestation. Haphazard mowing too early in a season can also damage nesting birds, she said.

Riexinger also hopes to work with federal farm programs to establish buffers along stream corridors to keep sediments from farms out of natural water sources, she said.

Buffers can help filter excess nutrients from agricultural activity out of the streams, and stabilize stream banks, thereby protecting them from erosion, she said.
She called the programs "good for property owners, so their property doesn’t erode into the stream."

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