On October 22, 2019, with a backdrop of the impressive Alcove Reservoir surrounded by a vast array of trees in full fall glory, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Albany Water Commissioner Joe Coffey announced the permanent preservation of Albany Water Board forestlands and the sale of carbon credits to combat climate change. This tremendous feat is the result of a visionary collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the City of Albany, and the Albany Water Board, to safeguard clean drinking water, preserve 6,400 acres of forestland and generate $1MM in revenue for the city from the sale of carbon credits. Joining Mayor Sheehan and Commissioner Coffey at the podium were Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Executive Director Mark King, The Nature Conservancy Forest Restoration Ecologist Gabriel Chapin, and Albany Water Board Chairman Charles G. Houghton, III.
This partnership has established the Albany Water Board’s property as one of the largest preserved tracts of land in Albany County and is the first time a water authority in New York has participated in The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodlands Program. Through the partnership, The Nature Conservancy prepared a ten-year Sustainable Forest Management Plan for the Albany Water Board – the first ever to be implemented by the Board. As outlined in the Plan, the Albany Water Board has entered into a Conservation Easement with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The easement is a legal agreement that restricts future development and creates permanent protection of 6,400 acres of land and water, including the Basic Creek and Alcove Reservoirs and the surrounding forest. Having this agreement in place enables MHLC to annually ensure that the conservation terms are upheld and allows for the Albany Water Board to sell carbon credits.
This month, the Albany Water Board will be receiving the first payment of nearly $100,000 from the sale of carbon credits. The Nature Conservancy expects this revenue to surpass one million dollars over the next ten years which the Water Board will direct toward the implementation of the Sustainable Forest Management Plan, watershed management and Water Board priorities.
“This project is a great example of a positive step toward addressing climate change. It recognizes the value of large-scale forest protection and the critical role forests play in the sequestration of carbon” states Executive Director, Mark King. “It also provides a blueprint for what is possible with partnerships between private industry, non-profit organizations and government working together toward solutions to our most critical environmental issues. By protecting the forests surrounding the Water Board lands, the City of Albany is providing wildlife habitat, healthy forests, water supply protection, scenic beauty and climate change mitigation through the responsible stewardship of public land.”
With MHLC holding the conservation easement protecting the forests of the Alcove and Basic Creek Reservoirs, any major subdivisions of the land are prevented, and future development is limited. The easement allows for the forests to be managed to make them healthier, which in turn will ensure their resilience to disease, fire and other impacts that could reduce forest cover.
Why are trees so important to the reservoirs? Not only are trees naturally removing greenhouse gases, particularly carbon, from the atmosphere, but they also anchor the soil and prevent sediment runoff by acting as filters, removing harmful pollutants and other chemicals from runoff before it reaches the reservoirs. Tree foliage provides an important shading mechanism, cooling waters and keeping oxygen levels high for aquatic life. When trees drop their leaves into the water, they provide an important food source for underwater insects, which process pollutants in the water and also feed fish and other aquatic life, bringing vital balance to this important natural resource. The more trees we have, the healthier our reservoir waters can be.
Adds King, “MHLC would like to thank the City of Albany and the Albany Water Board for having the foresight to protect this incredibly important resource for future generations—ensuring clean water for future residents of the City of Albany and the surrounding communities that also utilize the Alcove Reservoir.”