From the Conservation Director: MHLC Boosts Farmland Protection Efforts

The Eldridge Farm in Rensselaerville

Did you know that MHLC protects active farmland?

Our Conservation Priority Areas include working landscapes: properties which can be utilized for their natural resources, particularly farming and sustainable forestry.

Changing climate, increasing development pressures, and a growing population put pressure on our local farmlands. Local foods are an essential piece of sustainable and healthy living, and farmlands must be protected to ensure future food production. MHLC has long been a protector of working lands for farming and forestry, illustrated best by our conservation easement on Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, completed in 2003, and our conservation easement on 218 acres of farmland in Rensselaerville in 2017.

However, there has been an increasing need for financial and community support of farmland protection. The American Farmland Trust’s recent report states that 3 acres of farm land are lost every minute in the United States.

To respond to these pressures, MHLC has highlighted our farm protection efforts on our website as well as joined the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, a project of the American Farmland Trust which brings partners together to ensure “the availability of farmland in the Hudson Valley for the farmers of today and tomorrow”. As a partner in this endeavor, MHLC serves as the local resource for farmers in Albany, Schenectady, and Montgomery counties for farm preservation and also serves as a local contact for farmers looking for farmland. With 14 partners in the network covering 13 counties, we are now connected and better able to help farmers find viable farmland to work.

You can learn more about MHLC’s farmland conservation efforts at our Farmland Protection page and by reading our Featured Farm Stories. To learn more about the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, visit their website.

MHLC will have more exciting news on the farm protection front later this year, so please stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director
sarah@mohawkhudson.org 

 

Meet MHLC Members Lois & Don Porter: Ashford Glen Stewards

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. This month, we speak with Lois & Don Porter, MHLC members since the 1990s and Preserve Stewards of the Ashford Glen Preserve. The Porters have played a key role in bringing together a community of neighbors to protect and care for this preserve in Colonie. 

Would you like to join the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy? Become a volunteer, make a contributionprotect your land, or become an intern. We want to meet you!

Don and Lois Porter with Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator Sawyer Cresap at the 2017 Fox Preserve Grand Opening

When did you begin volunteering with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy?
Sometime in 2000.

How would you describe your roles as volunteers and supporters of MHLC?
We have been stewards of Ashford Glen Preserve for 18 years. Lois served on the MHLC (then the ACLC- Albany County Land Conservancy) Board of Directors for several years. We support MHLC financially as well.

How did you come to protect Ashford Glen?
There was a repeated threat of development of this parcel in the 1990s. We led an effort with our neighbors: first to reject the developers’ plans, and then to purchase the land and preserve it. A stream runs through the property, with steep slopes and wetlands. It’s a great small preserve that really is not suitable for development. We enjoy the plants, birds, and other wildlife on the property and we wanted to maintain their habitat.

A hiking group enjoys Ashford Glen Preserve in 2012.

What kind of community involvement have you seen in your work stewarding the Preserve?
Our neighbors are very supportive of the preserve. When we decided to put up a split rail fence to protect the preserve in 2018, the neighbors contributed over 100 hours of volunteer labor, plus the cost of the materials.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC?
Getting out into the preserves and meeting other conservation-minded folks.

What do you wish more people knew about volunteering with a local land trust?
That it is fun, healthy, satisfying, and a good way to encourage community spirit.

Community members build a fence in June 2018.

Why do you support land conservation?
Because sprawl has taken over way too much of our lovely landscape and we humans need to be in nature to thrive. The “commons” is an underrated concept in the United States.

 

The new Ashford Glen Preserve fence built by the community in 2018.

 

Guest Post: Conservation Intern Alec Fixes the Bennett Hill Bathtub!

Alec at Bennett Hill on National Trails Day

I’d like to start by introducing myself. My name is Alec Betancourt, and I am currently the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s Lisa Lyon Evans Conservation Intern for the summer of 2018. I’ve been a lifelong fan of the work MHLC has done in the past, and I am overjoyed to be contributing to its work this summer. Growing up in Altamont, much of my childhood was focused around the outdoors. Being able to roam the woods and play in the small creeks in the area fostered a passion for the environment. As I grew up, I realized that these natural areas, both big and small, require protection and care if they are to be enjoyed by both current and future generations. I decided I want to explore a career related to the environment, so I enrolled as a freshman studying Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo in 2016. Now, halfway through my education I have the opportunity to work in this great field and meet all kinds of amazing people. Within my first week, I had the pleasure of working at several of MHLC preserves with many dedicated and hardworking volunteers and I learned that these lands are in great hands.

Alec repairs bird boxes.

One of the first preserves I worked at was Bennett Hill. As many of the current visitors know, Bennett Hill Preserve has a small natural spring that flows into a bathtub. Once used by the original Bennett Family Farm long ago for a water trough for livestock, it now serves as an almost humorous historic landmark. The tub had slowly made its way down the hill away from the spring and needed repair. Fixing the tub became my introductory project. After excavating the mud that had accumulated, pushing the tub back in place, sealing the cracks with natural clay, and clearing the water pipe and holding box, I revived the water flow into the bathtub, and seated it into the hillside in a more stable manner.

Alec tables at the Empire State Plaza for NY Invasive Species Week.

While working at this preserve, I also had the pleasure of making friends (from a distance!) with the neighboring milk cows from Clarksville’s Meadowbrook Dairy on my way up the hill. The trail has a nice, meandering climb. The ascent begins about a third of the way in and will bring you to the top of the hill. Another yellow trail can be hiked that will take you along the edge of the wetlands atop the hill, as well as showcase some stunning views of the Helderbergs. I encourage anyone reading this, both returning hikers and new ones, to check out this preserve! Be sure to leave any comments in the trail sign-in box- we do read them!

You’ll see me this summer, working on preserves, fixing equipment at our office’s barn, or driving around in the MHLC truck. Say hello, hike a trail, or join a volunteer event: I’d be happy to meet you.

Alec

☀️📸 Photos: Summer Festival and Helderberg Hike-a-thon!

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Saturday, July 21 for our annual Summer Festival and Helderberg Hike-a-thon! In the morning, we enjoyed ten different outings across the Helderbergs: a cave tour, a waterfall hike, a treasure hunt, outdoor yoga, and more. In the afternoon, we gathered at Indian Ladder Farms for craft beer and cider, local food, blueberry picking, live music, Irish dancing, face painting, story time with the Albany Tulip Court, hay rides, pony rides, and more. 

Enjoy these photos from the beautiful summer day. If you have your own photos and would like to share, be sure to tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or send your photos to connect@mohawkhudson.org.

Putting Local Conservation into Regional Context: From the Catskills to the Adirondacks and Beyond

The Fisher Boulevard forests provide a buffer for wildlife in a suburban environment.

This summer, MHLC is in the midst of a campaign to save the 35-acre Fisher Boulevard property located adjacent to Five Rivers in the Town of New Scotland and the Town of Bethlehem. This parcel is one of the last open spaces in this suburban area. Parcels like the Fisher Boulevard property provide important buffers for local wildlife to live, nest, and hunt. Additionally, these open spaces provide ecological benefits to people who live in our area. Trees and grasses filter the air, removing pollutants and providing us with oxygen to breathe. These plants remove carbon from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases and combating global warming. Studies have also shown that the mere presence of green space can improve human health, reducing stress and providing us with a health-giving sense of calm and connection.

The Fisher Boulevard property is ecologically important on an even larger scale. The fields and forests of this parcel provide a resting place for migratory birds as they travel to their annual nesting grounds to the north. Migrating mammals, such as porcupine, beaver, and black bear, disperse as yearlings to find new partners and begin a new generation of their species. Undeveloped land gives these migrating animals space to travel as they look for new mates. As climate change takes place and we see species shifting their habitat ranges further north, conserved lands like the Fisher Boulevard property provide space for these shifts to occur and provide species with new homes as they adapt to changes in climate.

The protection of these 35 acres is part of a bigger movement to connect open spaces across the Northeastern US and Canada.

As you’ve likely noticed, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has been growing. Our community of supporters and volunteers is growing, we have more staff members, and we’re taking on more projects and land protection opportunities than ever before. As we grow, we’re taking some of these larger ideas- like connectivity and climate change- into consideration. We’re putting our local conservation work into a larger context.

To help guide our work on this larger landscape context, MHLC has joined the Staying Connected Initiative, an international collaboration which “seeks to conserve, restore, and enhance landscape connectivity across the Northern Appalachian/Acadian region of the US and Canada for the benefit of nature and people”.

As we look south to the Catskills and north to the Adirondacks, we work to create connections between these two larger conservation areas. Our partnership with the Staying Connected Initiative literally puts our work on a larger map. By joining in partnership with the Staying Connected Initiative, we are creating collective impact across this vast region, connecting our conservation work to a larger goal and truly making a difference for the environment and the organisms that live there.

You can read more about the Staying Connected Initiative on their website. You can read more about how MHLC’s conservation work combats climate change at our Conservation and Climate Change page.

 

 

 

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director
Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

 

Map provided by the Staying Connected Initiative.

 

Meet An MHLC Supporter: Suzette Tanis-Plant and a Family Legacy of Conservation Along the Bozen Kill

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. This month, we speak with Suzette Tanis-Plant, a long-time supporter of and advocate for conservation in the Capital Region (even from her home of France, Suzette plays a role in conservation work here!). Read on to learn more about Suzette, her family history of caring for the land, and the family’s special dedication to the Bozen Kill Conservation Corridor.

Would you like to join the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy? Become a volunteer, make a contributionprotect your land, or become an intern. We want to meet you!

Repairing the Christman Sanctuary Lean-to and Preserving a Piece of History

Suzette repairs the Christman Sanctuary Lean-to. Photo by Bill Little.

This May, Suzette spearheaded a collaborative effort to restore the historic lean-to at The Nature Conservancy’s Christman Sanctuary. The Christman Sanctuary, as well as MHLC’s Bozen Kill Preserve and Wolf Creek Falls Preserve, is within the Bozen Kill Conservation Corridor, one of MHLC’s Conservation Priority Areas. The Bozen Kill (Dutch for “raging stream”) runs through the Towns of Knox and Guilderland and is a significant tributary to the Watervliet Reservoir and watershed. The Bozen Kill ravine itself is recognized in The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Lands mapping project as a resilient area.

The Christman lean-to is a historic structure dating back to 1930. It was built by the Mohawk Valley Hiking Club under the leadership of its president, local conservationist Paul Schaefer. This lean-to was part of his plan to envision a route connecting the southern New York trails with the Adirondack trail system. That route is now known as “The Long Path,” and the initials MVHC and LP remain engraved on the side of the lean-to as a reminder of this history. The Mohawk Valley Hiking Club, of which Suzette’s parents were members, has been gathering every year for a Thanksgiving breakfast at the lean-to so beautifully situated at the foot of the falls. It is also a popular destination for hikers and park visitors. After years of use, the lean-to was in need of repair. A hole had developed in the roof, and after further inspection, it became evident that the entire roof needed repairing: at least half of the support beams needed to be replaced, and all the tar shingles needed to be removed in order to reroof with metal sheets, which are better for the environment. From France, Suzette planned the project and then flew back to Albany from across the big pond to work until the last screw was in place a week later.

Suzette led a dedicated group of staff, volunteers, and community members from MHLC, The Nature Conservancy, and the Mohawk Valley Hiking Club to join together and repair the lean-to in May. Together, this group was able to repair the historic structure, preserving a bit of history while enhancing the Christman Sanctuary for all visitors. Suzette has been working to protect land in the Bozen Kill for many years, and the restoration of the Christman lean-to is just one of the many projects in which she has played a role.

How did you become interested in land conservation?

Suzette with her father, Henri Plant.

My interest in land conservation is an inheritance passed down from my father, Henri Plant. He was part of a group of people implicated in saving the Christman property, which is now known as the Christman Sanctuary, located at the upper end of the Bozen Kill. It harbors a set of splendid waterfalls including one 30 feet high. Once the land was brought under the protection of The Nature Conservancy, my father served as steward there for over 40 years. He was also a member of the Mohawk Valley Hiking Club, which has a long history of enjoying the great outdoors, including the Christman Sanctuary. I often accompanied my father on such hikes. He shared his enthusiasm over the big and small wonders of nature. He also shared his worries that people would pave over every last acre of land if allowed to do so. He was convinced that the only way to save acreage from land development is to set it aside as forever wild. I am trying to remain faithful to my father’s vision of land preservation by carrying forward his concerns and plans for action.

What inspired you to continue your father’s work along the Bozen Kill?

To save the Christman property from highway development in the 1970s, when I88 was routed to cut across it, a small group of people, including my father, established the Save the Bozen Kill Committee. Its first objective was to preserve the Bozen Kill waterfalls on the Christman property. The committee’s ultimate dream, however, was a much bigger one: preserve all the lands along this unique brook. He transmitted that vision to me, and my heart and efforts remain focused on the Save the Bozen Kill project.

The repair of the lean-to is part of necessary maintenance. The recent acquiring of more property on the Bozen Kill is the really important action needed to accomplish the big dream. While I am relieved about that purchase, the full project has not yet come to fruition. Many acquisitions are still necessary if the entire Bozen Kill is to be preserved. It is not a long brook, but different people own property along the river and the project will take several more generations. So fears still reign. Firstly, I fear that as generations go by, people could lose sight of the overall dream. Moreover, if we do not acquire the land, developers will move in as they do and start dividing up the area for the individual pleasure of a few who can afford to own a home on a big lot. There is just no end to suburban sprawl. Some open spaces have to be left wild so that the general public has access to such land and can thereby experience what wild really means.

How would you summarize the importance of conservation work?

Teamwork on the Christman lean-to. Photo by Bill Little.

There is a renewed interest in the concept of “local” as in for example “grown locally.” For years, my father was an ardent promoter of this concept: buy locally, get organized locally, and begin land preservation really locally, like right at home in your own garden. MHLC takes this idea of “local” to heart: concentrating on conserving land in its own backyard.

If you were to recommend MHLC to your best friend, what would you say?

If you wish to invest funds, or if you simply wish to invest your energy , for example by organizing a school outing on MHLC protected lands, MHLC is only a few steps away. MHLC allows you to make a difference for those living right here and now in this community. 

In February,  MHLC added 29 more acres to the Bozen Kill Conservation Corridor! This donation of land from Don and Donna Kelly connected other open spaces, expanding the corridor of natural lands. With the support of community members like Suzette, Don, and Donna, we can continue to save and protect land in the Capital Region.

Help MHLC Save 35 Acres and Expand Five Rivers!

Have you seen our signs on Route 85 and Fisher Boulevard in Bethlehem and New Scotland?

These cherry-red signs sit on the borders of the Fisher Boulevard property, a 35-acre parcel of undeveloped forests and fields. For over a decade, the fate of this land has been under the threat of development. 

MHLC is poised to save this this unique property and add it to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center- but we need your help!

Click here to learn more about the Fisher Boulevard property, MHLC’s campaign to save this land forever, and our creative partnership with Five Rivers. Together, we can protect this land and ensure that these forests and fields remain for future generations to enjoy!

Help Us Protect This Land!

Rail Trail Paving Schedule Announced for 2018

In a press release this morning, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy announced the paving schedule for the final portion of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail:

“Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today announced construction will begin June 22nd on the final leg of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, connecting the Port of Albany to Voorheesville on a continuous nine mile paved recreational path that is safe for cyclists and pedestrians alike and handicap accessible.

The last 3.7-mile stretch of path extends between Grove Street in Voorheesville to just west of the Route 85 overpass in Slingerlands and the Albany County Department of Public Works.

‘The Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail has been a labor of love of mine for some time,’ said County Executive McCoy. ‘Each year it becomes more popular, with over 200,000 visitors in 2017 alone, which means more people exploring the county and getting great exercise, higher property values along the trail and less cars clogging our streets and polluting our air.’

The coming work includes paving, grade crossing improvements and wooden pedestrian railings for added safety and the funding was made possible by a Cleaner, Greener Communities grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and by Albany County. Future initiatives will add amenities to the Rail Trail for visitors while helping to support local businesses.

The Rail Trail land corridor, which winds through Albany, Delmar, Slingerlands and into Voorheesville, was originally purchased in 2009 at no costs to the county taxpayer thanks to a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that was matched by Scenic Hudson, Inc.

While under construction, the trail will be closed to the public during working hours, from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays. If conditions allow, the trail may be opened during non-working hours but residents should take caution and watch for changing conditions.”

For more information on how the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy  has helped to preserve the Rail Trail and open it to the public, visit our Rail Trail page.

Meet an MHLC Volunteer: Bob Frederick, Volunteer of All Trades

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. This month, we talk to one of our newest volunteers: Bob Frederick. Read below to learn more about Bob and his first few months as a volunteer with MHLC.

Would you like to join the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy? Become a volunteer, make a contributionprotect your land, or become an intern. We want to meet you!

Bob works on signage at Keleher Preserve

What inspired you to become a Conservancy volunteer?
I saw and felt common values expressed when I attended the grand opening of the Fox Preserve. My intention was just to do something different and hike around a new location with my wife and neighbor. But as I heard people speak at the ceremony and when we took our tour of the property with MHLC staff, I saw myself in the company of others I respected and valued. I realized I lived close enough to other preserves that I would like to explore, so I decided to ask how I could get involved.

When did you begin volunteering with MHLC?
After speaking with staff and giving my email address at the Fox Preserve grand opening last October, I was contacted by Sawyer Cresap, MHLC Volunteer Coordinator to walk the Keleher Preserve and get a feel for the property and the potential projects. A week before our scheduled walk about, I decided to walk part of the property with my wife to experience the trails with fresh eyes. We had quite an adventure on the miles and miles of winding trails, and I had many ideas for trail improvements. When Sawyer introduced me to the trail system, and with her support, we turned those ideas into immediate projects.

How would you describe your role as a volunteer?
As a rookie volunteer, I’m still learning what my main role will be. Since my introduction to the Keleher Preserve in November, I’ve been taking time to learn the existing trail system and terrain during the winter season in order to suggest improvements and options that users would enjoy. I have also taken some time to meet other volunteers and staff during mass mailing projects and when installing new sign posts at trail junctures. I like the fact that the MHLC staff doesn’t pressure you into a role, but rather provides opportunities for you to discover the role that fits you best.

Bob (at right) at a volunteer mailing get-together in March.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC?
I like to feel useful and enjoy working on collaborative projects that respond to the needs of a community while harnessing local resources to get things done. In this age of technology, it’s great to experience new spaces and communicate with new people in person. Volunteering allows you to “feel” the experience, rather than just reading or hearing about something being done. I also like to surround myself with positive and inspiring people who enjoy sharing their expertise and energy to benefit the lives of others. Overall, I feel great after each volunteer experience. I laugh more, learn something new, meet interesting people, and feel productive.

What do you wish more people knew about volunteering with a local land trust?
First, you don’t need to be an outdoor enthusiast or hard-core environmentalist to be part of this community of volunteers. But I do think it’s important to make some time to experience one or more of the 18 preserves in the capital region to better understand why people come together to support the MHLC’s mission. That and reviewing their website helped connect me to the opportunities available.

Second, understand that you have everything that’s needed to make a difference in the care, promotion and expansion of these properties. We all have talents, interests and access to information, people and resources that can support the wide range of responsibilities the land conservancy oversees. You can contribute your talents in solitude or amongst others, and have the flexibility to contribute when available.

Why do you support land conservation (generally and locally)?
I grew up camping on the Sacandaga River, worked at Camp Chingachgook along the shores of Lake George, and continue to climb peaks, cross country ski trails, and kayak waterways throughout the northeastern United States. I have always found peace and excitement when in nature and have come to appreciate and admire the efforts of others who commit themselves to preserving our natural resources that we tend to take for granted. After many years of enjoying the results of previous conservation initiatives, I’d like to learn how I can contribute my talents so future generations will have access to the natural habitats I have enjoyed throughout my lifetime.

Thanks to the MHLC staff and their mission, I’m feeling more connected to my immediate community and the natural habitats that surround me.

 

Buy Maple Syrup + Protect Wolf Hollow

Buy maple syrup and help us save Wolf Hollow!
 
MHLC is selling artisanal maple syrup, produced by Jeff Leon, steward of Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve, at our office. All proceeds go to MHLC for the protection of Wolf Hollow.
 
Jeff taps the early, sweet sap from maple trees on his property, boils it in small batches in the sugar house, and bottles and labels each batch in his kitchen. The end project is a light amber syrup with a delicate maple taste.
 
We have bottles of Jeff’s 2017 and 2018 syrup, and we’re offering a special promotion: buy 1 bottle for $15, or 2 bottles for $25! Why not try a bottle of 2017 and compare it to 2018? The slight variations in colors and tastes make for a fun (and delicious) taste test. Supplies are limited, so be sure to get your bottles soon- it’s the perfect gift for a conservationist with a sweet tooth.
 
You can stop by the MHLC office at 425 Kenwood Ave in Delmar during normal office hours to buy your syrup. Call us at 518-436-6346 if you want to make sure we’ll be here!
 
Your money will go directly towards preserving Wolf Hollow in Glenville- for more information on this ecologically and historically important ravine, visit our Where We Work page, or read these interviews with Hank Stebbins and Dud Crauer, two MHLC supporters also working to protect this area.

First Time Volunteering at an MHLC Work Day

Congregation Beth Emeth Albany helped on this volunteer work day. Thank you!

Our Communications Intern for Spring 2018, Meghan Kelley, wrote about her experience at an MHLC volunteer work day.

Are you interested in volunteering with MHLC? Read more at our Volunteer page and fill out a Volunteer Application: we have dozens of diverse and exciting roles for our volunteers.

Volunteering with an organization for the first time can sometimes feel daunting, but that’s not at all what it was like to volunteer with Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. It was a wonderful experience, and I would definitely volunteer again.

It was chilly for a Sunday morning in late April, but that chill in the air would become welcome once I started working. A small group of volunteers gathered around the entrance to the Normans Kill West Preserve and got to know one another a little before getting started. 

This work day was focused on cleaning up the preserve before all the plants and trees begin to bloom. The surrounding area was quiet, which made the cleanup feel peaceful. A handful of trees and bushes were trimmed before they bloomed and overtook the trail.

The truck full of debris.

A lot of the debris we cleaned up was from illegal dumping. There were numerous old tires and countless cinder blocks—some broken, some intact—that had to be carted away. The work was somewhat physically demanding, but in the end it was worth it. The satisfaction of seeing the truck filled up with debris cannot be put into words.

It was a great to be involved with cleaning up a preserve. To anyone with an interest in helping MHLC conserve the environment, I would highly recommend volunteering. It was worth the effort.

Birding with Rich Guthrie: Good for the Soul

Mid-to-late May is the time of year when our avian friends return from warmer places in order to nest and raise the next generation of birds which will delight our landscape. To celebrate this migration, MHLC hosted Wobbling with Warblers, a morning birding hike, on Saturday, May 12. This hike was led by Rich Guthrie, WAMC’s avian expert, at our Winn Preserve.

Participants watch a Brown Thrasher at the Winn Preserve.

More than a dozen participants attended, geared up with binoculars, birding books, audio recorders, and hiking boots to explore the birds of the preserve. MHLC’s Winn Preserve was a gift to the organization from Nancy and Hudson Winn of Slingerlands in 1997. The property was prized by the couple for its birding spots, being home to Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Peewee, and a host of warblers, which return each year to build nests and raise families in their woods. The Winn Preserve has had additional acreage added to it over time, with the last piece being added in 2013 and the total acreage now at 208 acres.

This birding paradise, due to its dense forest, lends itself to viewing all kinds of species that are not easily seen in suburban, fragmented landscapes. Our participants, guided by Rich, walked slowly and quietly through the wooded landscape. We looked and listened for birds in the early morning hours, and  spotted many species.

Rich talks about Northern Flicker feathers with the group.

Participants heard Wood Thrush and Black-throated Green Warbler and caught glimpses of a pair of Oven Birds and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers prepping for the nesting season. Other species seen include Tufted Titmouse, Brown Thrasher and Raven.

Thank you to Rich Guthrie for leading this hike and sharing his birding brain with our participants!

To learn more about our upcoming events, including a hike through a riparian forest at our Schoharie Creek Preserve on June 9, Family Wilderness Crafts with Ondatra Adventures on June 17, and our Summer Celebration and Helderberg Hike-a-Thon, check out our Events page.

 
To learn more about Rich and his WAMC radio show, check out his website.

Bike to Work Day: May 18!

Start your day with a light breakfast, connect with other community members, and take a spring ride on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail! Join MHLC, the New York Bicycling Coalition, and elected officials to celebrate and support the Rail Trail as a zero-carbon transportation option which connects the communities of Voorheesville, New Scotland, Bethlehem, and Albany.

This free event begins with a light breakfast at 8 AM at our office at 425 Kenwood Avenue. At 8:30, guests will hit the Rail Trail to ride. Bike to Work Day is open to anyone, whether or not they are able to bike to their place of work from the Rail Trail. RSVP Today!

Many elected officials and public servants will be joining us in 2018 to celebrate the Rail Trail, including Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, New York State Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, Bethlehem Town Supervisor David Van Luven, Bethlehem Town Board Member Maureen Cunningham, representatives from Congressman Paul Tonko’s office, and Deputy Commissioner Mindy Scott of the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation.

“After a long winter, I am happy to celebrate the arrival of spring with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s annual Bike to Work Day,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.  “Each year, the trail becomes more popular, and with the final paving from Slingerlands to Voorheesville, I think this year the trail will be busier than ever. Whether biking to work in the morning or walking your dog on the weekend, the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail provides an excellent means to get outside and enjoy the beauty of Albany County.”

“We look forward to Bike to Work Day each year,” says Mark King, Executive Director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. “This event is an excellent opportunity for Rail Trail users to show their support for this community treasure, and for everyone to enjoy a light breakfast and a nice ride before they head into work for the day.”

To register for Bike to Work Day, visit our Events Page. The event is free and includes a light breakfast, as well as the opportunity to shake your elected officials’ hands and tell them how much you appreciate the Rail Trail.

The Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail (ACHHRT) is a 9-mile trail providing exciting opportunities for recreation, exercise & fitness, and zero carbon transportation amidst beautiful vistas of natural scenery. The trail provides a safe and enjoyable bike-and pedestrian-friendly connection between the communities of Voorheesville, New Scotland, Bethlehem, and Albany. The Rail Trail is owned by Albany County and is a shared-use path that accommodates all types of non-motorized traffic. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy works in partnership with Albany County, the City of Albany, the Towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland, and the Village of Voorheesville to promote and advocate for this exceptional recreational asset. Volunteers from Friends of the Rail Trail (FORT), a committee of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, serve as Trail Ambassadors, guiding visitors, patrolling, and serving as trail custodians.

MHLC Annual Board Retreat Focuses on Climate and Conservation

In late April, MHLC staff and members of our Board of Directors spent a Saturday learning about new ways conservation organizations are combating climate change through the sale of carbon credits. Staff from The Nature Conservancy presented their recent conservation projects, which protect forests being managed to sequester, or store, atmospheric carbon, a greenhouse gas.

Gabe Chapin of The Nature Conservancy teaches MHLC about carbon sequestration by visiting a project carbon plot.

Managed forests can process and store more carbon than those that are left alone. The Nature Conservancy has been working with carbon companies to estimate the carbon sequestered in an unmanaged forest. TNC then creates forest management plans to enhance forest structure and increase this carbon storage capacity in the trees over time. Forest plots are placed throughout the forest and serve as locations which will be visited regularly over the next ten years to estimate the increase in carbon sequestered by managed trees.

In the case of The Nature Conservancy, their carbon credits are calculated and then placed on the voluntary carbon market, a new market which is not mandatory, but invites large companies to voluntarily off-set their emissions by purchasing these carbon credits. The funds generated from the purchase of these credits then goes back into more forest conservation and forest management to sequester even more carbon, thus reducing carbon in the atmosphere and combating global warming.

MHLC spent the morning learning about this up-and-coming conservation method to battle global warming, with the afternoon focused on upcoming conservation projects MHLC is working on which will protect climate-resilient lands. Special thanks to The Nature Conservancy and their project partners for hosting our staff and Board for this climate and conservation focused event!

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

Guest Post: Meet our Communications Intern, Meghan Kelley!

Hello!

My name is Meghan Kelley, and I am the Spring 2018 Communications Intern at the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, you can find me in the office working on all sorts of exciting projects.

I am a senior English major with minors in writing and business administration at the College of Saint Rose. As much as I have come to love the Albany area, I grew up in suburban Connecticut just outside of Hartford with my younger sister and our dog. When not in class or my internship, I spend my free time reading, writing novels, running, and knitting.

Throughout my time at the Conservancy, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects. I’ve written several blog posts, social media posts, and press releases about upcoming events. I’ve also put my abilities as an English major to work and copyedited documents. I’ve had the chance to work on a lot of projects I had never attempted before, and I am deeply appreciative for the guidance I have received.

Meghan visits an MHLC preserve with our Stewardship Coordinator

Working at the Conservancy has been a wonderful experience and has allowed me to reconnect with my environmental interests. I will admit that I don’t spend as much time outdoors as I would like, but ever since taking an AP Environmental Science class in high school, I have been interested in how I could put to use my skills as an English major to help preserve the environment. With the Conservancy, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a preserve and volunteer with a cleanup as well as write blog posts and press releases about all the ways the Conservancy works towards protecting the environment.

I thank Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy for the opportunity to learn from such an impressive organization.

Sincerely,

Meghan

MHLC at the NY Land Trust Symposium: 2 New Grants Received!

Earlier this week, MHLC staff attended the Land Trust Alliance’s New York Land Trust Symposium at the Albany Capital Center. Executive Director, Mark King, Conservation Director, Sarah Walsh, and Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator, Sawyer Cresap, spent two days meeting with representatives from land trusts across New York and neighboring states to discuss the latest issues facing land conservation. This year’s symposium theme was Investing in Healthy Communities, with more than 300 participants from land trust volunteers to professional staff and conservation advocates attending.

MHLC served as a lead patron on the “Climate Track” for this year’s symposium. This sponsorship, which supported the climate change sessions for the event, was generously funded by Jeff Leon. Jeff is a Preserve Steward and has a conservation easement on his property, which allows for public access known as the Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve. Jeff is a former MHLC Board Member, dedicated conservationist, and has been a long-time proponent of conservation as a means to fight climate change: we recommend visiting the Land Trust Alliance blog to read his recent post, “My response to our changing climate.”

LTA Symposium attendees visit Thacher Park and Helderberg Escarpment.

Climate change sessions at the symposium included information on integrating renewable energy into local communities and conservation projects, land trusts’ role in protecting water sources, and strategic mission development for clean energy and climate change mitigation.

In addition, MHLC Executive Director, Mark King, co-led one of the day’s field trips with our conservation partners at the Open Space Institute. The trip took attendees to Thacher State Park for a tour of the new Visitor Center, a short hike along the limestone escarpment, and a tour of Indian Ladder Farms, highlighting our conservation work and partnership with OSI along the Helderberg Escarpment. The group talked about the importance of viewsheds as a conservation priority, identifying projects which improve local habitat connectivity, and the critical need to focus on working lands for conservation.

Grants Awarded to MHLC

On Tuesday the 24th, the Land Trust Alliance announced the recipients of the 2018 grant awards through the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP). The NYSCPP is an innovative public-private partnership between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Alliance’s New York Program. This program offers competitive matching grants to qualified New York land trusts to advance land conservation, economic development, farmland protection, community conservation and recreation and tourism.

MHLC has been awarded two grants in 2018! As an accredited land trust, we were eligible to apply for project-specific matching grants which help us work towards our conservation mission.

The first grant is a Stewardship and Resource Management Grant, which will help us improve our public preserves through roadside and registration signage. With the resources from this grant, MHLC will put roadside signs at all preserves, improving public access and increasing our outreach. We will also improve our registration areas with improved signage- this will help us gauge preserve usage and  better manage our preserves for the public.

A view of the Montgomery County farm which will be protected.

The second is a Transaction Grant which will help us preserve a family farm in Montgomery County. This family farm consists of over 500 acres, and by conserving this land with an easement (made possible with the resources from the NYSCPP Transaction Grant), MHLC is expanding our reach in this county and catalyzing future farm conservation in the region.

Both projects are generously supported with funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. Stay tuned for more updates as we progress with these two exciting projects!

 

Earth Day Story Walk with the Bethlehem Public Library and MHLC

Ms. Michelle read us Earth Day, Birthday! by Maureen Wright and Violet Kim

Thanks to everyone who joined us for today’s Earth Day Story Walk!

We walked along the trails and boardwalks of Swift Preserve talking about Earth Day, listening to the birds in the wetlands, and picking up any litter we found. The walk warmed us up in the chilly spring air.

The sun came out for our outdoor story time with Ms.Michelle from the Bethlehem Public Library! Ms. Michelle read us several terrific and colorful books all about Earth Day, and we even sang a couple of songs about ways to save the Earth.

Thank you to the Bethlehem Public Library for choosing such wonderful stories to share with our audience at the preserve. Happy Earth Day!

Nature and Art: Why we must “cherish, connect, preserve…”

For the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, your Capital Region land trust, each day is Earth Day. The lands we protect are protected forever — for our children today, and our grandchildren tomorrow. 

These protected lands, which are kept green and undeveloped in perpetuity, provide critically important and tangible benefits to our ecosystems and communities. Natural lands provide wildlife habitats, open spaces, and viewsheds. Undeveloped spaces store more carbon than developed lands; this helps in the fight against climate change. By maintaining forests and wetlands, we maintain the natural filters which protect air and water quality in Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties.

Yet there are other benefits, less tangible but equally important, that these spaces provide. Our 18 public preserves provide 2,000 acres and over 36 miles of trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and other educational and recreational opportunities.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy provides more than just space. We provide opportunities for people to connect with each other and with the natural beauty which surrounds us. A walk in the woods, an afternoon sitting by a stream, a morning trail run… these are experiences to be shared, cherished, and protected. Without open spaces made available to the public, the constant thrum of development in our region will continue to take away our opportunities to enjoy, experience, draw inspiration from, and find solace in the natural world.

As MHLC provides nature experiences for our community, many of our organizational partners provide artistic, cultural, and musical experiences. Last June, we teamed up with the brass musicians of the Albany Symphony for our Celebration of Music and Nature in Rensselaerville. In 2018, we are offering another plein air painting workshop as part of our Summer Festival and Helderberg Hike-a-Thon: these workshops have been a beautiful opportunity for local painters to find inspiration from the sights and sounds of our preserves. Our Family Wilderness Crafts Workshops with Ondatra Adventures encourage young citizens to use their hands to engage with both the natural world and with their own creative spirit.

These connections between nature and the arts run deep. At our 2018 Annual Awards Dinner, guest speaker Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, spoke of her childhood in South Carolina, her connection to the land of her youth, and of the ties between conservation and the arts: we all must work together to cherish, preserve, and protect beauty in all of its forms.

“It is at that moment of shared beauty – birdsong, sunset, Mahler, Bach – that we are most utterly – and most fully  – human. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we are here to preserve and protect.”

Many of our guests asked for a transcript of Elizabeth’s speech, and Elizabeth has generously shared a written copy of her thoughts and words, as seen below.

In the spirit of Earth Day, we hope you’ll enjoy these words as a reminder that in order to enjoy the beauty around us, we must continue to protect it.

Elizabeth Sobol and MHLC Executive Director Mark King at the 2018 Annual Awards Dinner

Remarks by Elizabeth Sobol
Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Annual Awards Dinner
River Stone Manor, Schenectady, NY
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

“I am very honored to have been asked to speak to you tonight – and to have the opportunity to celebrate the important work you are all doing.

I was watching the beautiful video that is on the website and was very moved by it – the lovely images, the evocative use of music…but most of all, I was moved by the words I heard. Words like:

cherish, connect, preserve, beauty, future, respite, protect, urgent, enduring.

These words resonated with me because they are part of the same vocabulary I use when I talk about the importance of the arts and beauty in the world.  

This winter…this very, very long winter…. I have had a lot of time to think about all this – the essential, the powerful, the underlying link between art and nature – and the urgent and critical work that lies ahead of us all.

Whenever I think about what brings us to a love of nature, what brings us to a love of art, I always end up at the beginning. Well, I should say, to my own beginning. I grew up in small town in North Carolina – a mill town – where all four of my grandparents had second grade educations – and worked in the cotton mill.  Doesn’t sound very auspicious does it?  And yet, I had the luckiest of childhoods. When I was very young, of a Spring and Summer evening, my Grandmother, my Mother’s Mother, would wrap me in a blanket and hold me on her lap while we swung in the front porch swing and she told me stories and sang me songs, enveloped in the soft sweet southern honeysuckle breeze. When I was a little older, in the Spring, my Grandfather would take me for walks down a thickly-over-grown ravine near the house and he would pull out his prized pocket knife and show me how to make a little flute from poplar branches when the sap was high. Later still, on the weekends, my grandparents would take me for drives out long country roads and we would stop by a plowed field and search for arrowheads and then wander down and look for violets by the edge of the woods and my grandmother would tell me stories about how her Mother made medicine from plants for her and her 12 sisters when they were growing up on a remote farm. On hot afternoons, we would look for the shade of a tree and drink sweetened tea from mason jars and eat the violet blossoms and we would just listen – to the sounds of birdsong, the high soprano keening of crickets and to all the exuberant music of nature.

I was lucky – as a child I grew up seeing the stars in the night sky, eating the medicine of plants, listening to the sounds of the seasons, the music of the spheres. Though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, the seamlessness of being – the sense of being connected to earth and to others – was articulated through the full embrace of nature and my grandparents’ love.

Of course, like every Adam or Eve in the garden, I did eventually leave paradise. As a teen, I rebelled against the small town and left for a music conservatory in a City, my eyes on a career as a pianist. From there to New York City to pursue a career as an artist manager. From there, my career, frankly, consumed me. It’s not to say that I didn’t seek and enjoy moments in nature, but the thrust of my life became completely yoked to work and to the relentless, singular focus and linear direction that left little room for expansiveness and breath. But, no complaints! I had an incredible run of it. Decades spent at IMG Artists, the heady thrill of going from small start up artist management agency in the cultural sphere to global leader in the field, working with artists like Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell and Renee Fleming.  From IMG I was recruited to Universal Music to start a new record company.  Some people in the business called that going over to the dark side. But I relished the challenge of creating a successful, ethos-based “classics” label in the middle of the most difficult time in the history of recorded music. I worked – and worked – and worked – until Spring of 2013 – when I finally knew I had to stop. My psychic gas gauge was virtually on empty. I knew I needed to do something to refill that very subtle vessel called “the soul”. 

I did something I had dreamed of doing for years but had never made the time for. I signed up for an intensive course on Ethnobotany & Plant Medicine in the mountains of North Carolina. When I came down off the mountain, as it were, the universe asked its usual; “and now what?” I remember sitting with friends by a lake in Black Mountain. I knew at that point that my future had to involve the plants and nature I felt I had “forsaken” so many years before. At the same time, a future without music seemed unthinkable. I remember saying to my friends: Oh god, I despair. Where in the world am I ever going to find a place that calls upon my deep love of nature and my deep love of the arts? Back home several days later, the phone rang – and out of the proverbial blue – a voice said “Hi – I am with the firm conducting the search for the new President of SPAC and your name keeps coming up.”

So, you see, I come to my new job with not a little of the natural zeal of the true southerner – a native proselytizer – with also possibly with a refrain of “I was lost but now I am found” playing in the background.  But most of all, my sense of purpose and urgency comes from the knowledge of the profound importance of beauty – both man-made and natural – in this moment of deepening human crisis. 

For it is in moments of encounters with great beauty – the transcendent grace of a Mozart aria, the majesty of a cathedral of pines  – that we enter that state of wonder – a place without time or boundaries or strife or differences.  On the top of a mountain, under the canopy of the night sky, we are both infinitesimal and infinite, luminous, radiant and eternally interconnected. Is it a religio-mystical state – or just a primal, wordless recognition of our common cosmic-energetic origin.  Does it really matter?

It is at that moment of shared beauty – birdsong, sunset, Mahler, Bach – that we are most utterly – and most fully  – human. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we are here to preserve and protect.”

 

Three Niner Tango: Flying for Conservation

Sawyer and Charlie in front of the plane

Monday, April 9th dawned as one of the first sunny and spring-like mornings of 2018. By 10 AM, MHLC’s Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator, Sawyer Cresap, was flying 1,000 feet over the Capital Region in a four-seater Cessna Skylane plane, enjoying the sun and a new view of our protected lands with Charlie Burgess, Stewardship Manager for the Open Space Institute (OSI).

With the help of Lighthawk, an organization which donates flights for conservation professionals, and volunteer pilot Bob Keller, Sawyer and Charlie were able to observe MHLC- and OSI-protected lands in real time and in context with the larger landscape of eastern New York.

“With the Catskill Mountains as a backdrop, we flew along the Helderberg Escarpment, through Coeymans, Rennselaerville, and up the Bozen Kill ravine capturing the hills and valleys of protected landscapes and seeing our conservation priorities areas from a new vantage point,” Sawyer said of her the trip, which was her first time flying in a four-seater plane.

By taking photos from the sky with a high-resolution DSLR camera, Sawyer was able to capture visual documentation of tens of thousands of acres of land and water in just under two hours. This is a tremendous tool for MHLC in our work surveying protected lands. Not only does the aerial survey save valuable time in the field during the limited monitoring season, making our monitoring and documentation work more efficient, but the photos also provide u  s with a more comprehensive view of terrain that would be otherwise inaccessible on foot or by vehicle. By flying with Lighthawk, we can capture a more detailed snapshot of intricate water bodies, forest stock, mowed fields, ancient stonewall property lines, winding backcountry roads, and other unique features hidden within the landscape. This imagery helps us build stronger defense against encroachment, development, and other unwanted activities on conservation land. It will also play a large role in helping document properties for existing and future projects so that we can save more of the land that matters most.

In a changing climate, aerial monitoring also helps paint a picture of current water levels and forest composition to serve as a baseline for comparisons over time. As ecological features shift, baseline data such as these photos will facilitate better land management decisions in the future.

With much of the snow already melted and leaves not yet on the trees, early spring is the perfect time for aerial monitoring. Through the rest of 2018 and beyond, MHLC will be sharing the impacts of this data with announcements of new lands we are working to protect. Thank you to Lighthawk for making this mission possible, and to volunteer pilot Bob Keller! 

Aerial support provided by LightHawk. Thank you, LightHawk!

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC) and the Open Space Institute (OSI) often partner on conservation projects: click here to read about our recent partnership in Rensselaerville. This flight allowed each of our organizations to survey important properties, including those on which we partner. 

To learn more about LightHawk, an incredible conservation organization which works with over 200 volunteer pilots who fly to protect land, water and wildlife across America, visit their website: www.lighthawk.org

Guest Post: “My First Time Visiting an MHLC Preserve” by Meghan Kelley, MHLC Communications Intern

Meghan Kelley is in her senior year at the College of St. Rose and is preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in English. Meghan is our Communications Intern for the Spring 2018 semester, and she recently joined  Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator Sawyer Cresap for a trip to our Normans Kill Preserves.

Sawyer writes, “I love taking first-time visitors to the Normans Kill Preserves because they are so accessible and so beautiful. We call these our ‘pocket preserves’ because they are little pockets of nature within the town of Bethlehem; they are a favorite for lunch-time walkers who can quickly drive to the parking lot, walk a few steps, and be immersed in the sights and sounds of the woods. It was wonderful sharing this experience with Meghan and seeing the preserves through someone else’s eyes.”

Meghan shares her experience of the Normans Kill West and East below:

Visiting a MHLC preserve for the first time was a great experience. Even though the Normans Kill West Preserve is in Bethlehem, as soon as I started on the trail, I felt like I was in the middle of the woods. I heard only the calls of various birds and the water of the river. Walking alongside the river was beautiful and relaxing, even in early spring before the plants were in full bloom. Of all the birds I could hear, I only saw a robin and a pair of blue jays in the trees.

The trail was about an hour hike all the way around. It was a great hike for a beginner like me. It was a bit of a challenge with some of the hills, but not overly difficult. Normans Kill West is the preserve with the most bridges due to the high number of tributaries running into the river. Of the bridges, my personal favorite was the musical bridge. The trail itself was well marked, so following it was easy and allowed me to enjoy nature instead of worrying where to step next.

I also had the chance to briefly visit the Normans Kill East Preserve, which is smaller than its counterpart but just as enjoyable to walk through. This preserve also felt like it was in the middle of nowhere next to a beautiful river. Here I managed to catch a glimpse of a red-tailed hawk flying by, which was awesome. The hills at Normans Kill East were steeper, but for a short walk it was quite feasible.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit the Normans Kill Preserves. It was awesome to be able to experience nature near the heart of the Capital Region without having to drive very far.