A recent announcement that New York City will be turning off non-essential outdoor lighting on state buildings to protect birds during key migration times is welcome news. The article last week in the Guardian explains that disorientating outdoor lighting or 'fatal light attraction' claims the lives of an estimated 500million to one billion birds each year in the USA. Along the east coast, which follows the path of the Atlantic Flyway - one of four major migration routes for birds coming north from their winter habitats - New York State has become one of the pioneers of the National Audubon Society's 'Lights Out' program, becoming the second state to join up after Minnesota.
But reducing late-night light pollution from its most iconic city isn't the only way New York State is working to protect the Atlantic Flyway and other wild areas - the state also has an impressive commitment to developing tourism which works in harmony with, and for the benefit of nature. Encouraging travellers to look beyond the iconic city and promoting tourism which protects the wealth of natural resources in the wider state, a much bigger, greener apple, is a key part of this work.
The community of Canastota, NY for example, on the Erie Canal just to the south of Oneida Lake may be best known for its International Boxing Hall of Fame, but just down the road at the Great Swamp Conservancy a quiet wildlife tourism revolution is taking place. The small conservancy is the passion of eccentric but inspirational Michael Patane and a team of dedicated volunteers and is a key wetland habitat for wildlife including migrating birds, snapping turtles and endangered butterflies. Alongside the New York State Division of Tourism they are working to develop their tourism offer - walking, cycling and snow-shoeing trails - to bring in revenue to continue the protection of these species, and to drive their plans to develop a nature education centre for local school-children.
As the sections of the developing Erie Canalway Trail join up, offering 365 miles of cycling and walking freedom from Buffalo to Albany, then places such as the Great Swamp Conservancy also find themselves joined up with a wider network of nature-friendly New York tourism. Along the regenerated canal itself, nature is gradually reclaiming industrial land and at the same time breathing new life into a plethora of historic canal-side communities.
And the state is also keen to communicate these efforts. In a recent study of tourism boards released by Responsible Travel, the New York State Division of Tourism scored an impressive six out of six for their efforts in promoting and communicating responsible tourism through the 'I Love NY' website. Other, national, tourist boards which scored the maximum points on the first tourist board league table for responsible tourism included South Africa, Bhutan, Sweden and England.