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DEC Opens New Dr. Kerpez Memorial Eagle-Viewing Blind
New York Ag Connection - 11/05/2019

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Monday announced the opening of the newly designated Dr. Ted Kerpez Memorial Eagle Viewing Blind in the town of Forestburgh, Sullivan County. Dr. Kerpez was a long-time DEC employee who passed away suddenly last December. A ceremony to dedicate the eagle viewing blind and celebrate Dr. Kerpez's contributions to New York State was held with his family and friends on Saturday.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Dr. Ted Kerpez was a true public servant and spent his career working with the public and our partners to protect native wildlife species and preserve natural habitats. The dedication of this viewing blind in his honor is extremely fitting as Dr. Kerpez also dedicated much of his time to getting people connected to the great outdoors."

"Dr. Ted Kerpez spent nearly 30 years working for DEC in the Bureau of Wildlife and revolutionized Region 3's Wildlife program," said DEC Regional Director Kelly Turturro. "He championed many innovative wildlife programs, always with a goal of improving biodiversity and connecting people with nature."

Dr. Kerpez worked at DEC's Region 3 Office in New Paltz and directed the region's Wildlife Program, which includes the regional Endangered Species program. Under his leadership, New York State was successful in achieving protections for endangered and threatened species and critical habitat. The recovery of the bald eagle in New York State is illustrative of the many successes Dr. Kerpez contributed to during his career.

Ted was also the founding member of the Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership and was instrumental in starting an outreach program within DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program that works with municipalities, land trusts, and regional partners to conserve the region's rich biodiversity through education and informed land-use planning. He also helped DEC build strong relationships with partners, including the Delaware Highlands Conservancy.

The Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area protects more than 11,000 acres of land (fee and easement) and was initially acquired for the primary purpose of protecting critical wintering habitat for bald eagles, making it well-suited for this memorial to honor Dr. Kerpez's contributions. The project to renovate the existing blind cost $40,000 and was funded by the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The eagle blind was completed by DEC operations staff and is accessible to all ages and abilities. It provides an ideal location for the public to view wintering eagles in a shelter that minimizes any disturbance to wildlife. The eagle viewing blind is located on Sullivan County Route 43 facing the Mongaup Falls Reservoir in the Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area.

Eagles typically spend winter months in the Mongaup Valley WMA because of the series of reservoirs on the Mongaup River, as well as its undeveloped, wild character. Eagles are especially attracted to the Mongaup Falls Reservoir because water releases by the utility that operates this and other reservoirs in the system for power generation keep the reservoirs from freezing over completely and provide plenty of fish for eagles to feast on. This makes the area popular for eagle viewing, especially in the winter months.

DEC has long had a Volunteer Stewardship Agreement with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy to provide a corps of trained volunteers that staff the blind on weekends throughout the winter, providing the public with information about eagles, as well as proper viewing behavior. Volunteers also collect data on eagle sightings and about eagle-viewing participants.

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