The Helderberg Escarpment is a prominent natural feature in Albany County that is also ecologically and geologically significant. Areas in and around the Escarpment have been recognized by New York State as important habitat for endangered and rare species of flora and fauna. The extreme topography of the Escarpment creates a resilient and biodiverse area, making it a high priority for conservation. MHLC has worked to not only protect the ecology of this area, but also preserve the viewshed to and from this Albany County icon.
We are thrilled to announce the protection of two new properties in the Helderbergs thanks to generous donations from Dr. Eric Foster and Sandra Camp.
Locust Knoll Easement
The private 96.6-acre Locust Knoll easement adds to the preservation of the iconic rolling hills, sensitive talus slopes and treed vista of the Helderberg Escarpment. Passionate about protecting the land where they raised their family, the Fosters pieced together the land parcels around their home in stages through the years to ensure that the open space remained undeveloped, and to create the large expanse that was put under easement with MHLC recently.
This key property is located at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment and shares the Hudson Valley Limestone and Shales unique to this area. It provides upland habitat for wildlife species that use Vly Swamp and its open fields, skirted by forests and some shrubbery, create a matrix of habitat variability for birds and wildlife.
With the new conservation easement, MHLC will now protect this land permanently.
Polishchuk Property Acquisition
The 11-acre Polishchuk acquisition, located directly above Locust Knoll, provides a crucial block of protected forested land at the entrance to Thacher Park. With the donation of the Locust Knoll easement, it forms one of only two locations with contiguous preserved lands on the Helderberg Escarpment from above and below. Sandra Camp’s funding of this Polishchuk Property and the bequest of her own lands, along with the neighboring George Martin and Guthrie Properties, provides 50 highly visible acres of adjoining preserved land along the face of Escarpment.
The Polishchuk Property is within a significant natural community, as designated by the Natural Heritage Program, known as a maple-basswood rich mesic forest. It is also in the vicinity of both rare plants and animals, particularly a State-listed bat species. The property is easily visible from a vast area below the escarpment. The views of this property manifest in a broad expanse of treed forest, a view historic to the Escarpment and one that is preserved with the conservation of this parcel.
A work in progress: the Helderberg Conservation Corridor
In 2003, with the acquisition of a conservation easement on Indian Ladder Farms, MHLC and conservation partner Open Space Institute (OSI) started the Helderberg Conservation Corridor project. Since then, we have been steadily working to protect the land along the base of the Helderberg Escarpment. The acquisition of the Locust Knoll Easement and Polishchuk Properties is considered a significant success as these land parcels are important connecting pieces in the Helderberg Conservation Corridor. The protection of these new properties creates a corridor of almost 500 acres of climate resilient habitat critical to our region’s wildlife, while further conserving this historic viewshed and important open space.
Announcing a new effort: the Heldeberg Workshop
This year, efforts are underway to conserve the largest undeveloped acreage below Thacher Park, the 257-acre Heldeberg Workshop Property. The Workshop is home to the Adventure in Learning summer camp, a program that for more than 50 years has delivered the ultimate outdoor experience to 1,400 students each summer. This summer program gives students a unique experience with courses in art, theater, science and the environment taught in an outdoor setting. It is the hope that this easement will protect this unique property and its unique programming for future generations.
The Heldeberg Workshop property is one of the critical stepping stones to creating greater connectivity within the Helderberg Escarpment, a goal of New York State’s Open Space Plan and MHLC. This property is both scenic, historic, and ecologically significant, and connects John Boyd Thacher Park to Indian Ladder Farms and other protected lands.
This property is also vital to the conservation of the larger, regional landscape—the development of a 3400-acre swath of protected lands from Thacher Park across Indian Ladder Farms to the Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management area, with the goal of providing a vital corridor for wildlife movement while preserving these natural landscapes for generations.
The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy will begin an effort to raise the funds for this important conservation effort soon.
Visit our website this summer for updated information about this new project and learn how you can help us reach our 2019 conservation goal for this important landscape!