Under the Stars: Photos from MHLC’s 2018 Fall Fundraiser!

Thank you to everyone who joined us on October 4 for Under the Stars, MHLC’s annual fall fundraiser. 

On the fourth floor of the New York State Museum, friends old and new enjoyed live music by Spiral Tango with Ray Andrews, wine from Capital Wine, beer and cider from Indian Ladder Farms Cidery & Brewery, and a delicious dinner by Garden Bistro 24. Between conversations and announcements, guests enjoyed a view of the stars from the terrace and rides on the historic carousel.

We also announced the continued success of our comprehensive campaign: we are only $300,000 away from our goal of $5 million in 5 years for land conservation in the Capital Region!

Enjoy photos from this fun event, which was also featured in the Times Union’s “Were You Seen” section.

 

 

We set an ambitious goal: help us raise $5 million for land conservation!

In 2013, the MHLC’s Board of Directors quietly set two ambitious goals for our future: to raise $2.3 million for operations, and to raise $5 million for land conservation—all within five years.

As of October 2018, our first fundraising goal has been met: $2.3 million dollars have been raised for operations! This funding has enabled us to grow from a staff of two to a staff of six, to amplify outreach and fundraising efforts, and to connect with more landowners in Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties, thereby increasing opportunities to protect local properties from current and future development.

The second goal, to raise $5 million for land protection, is nearly achieved: as of early October, we have raised $4.7 million of our $5 million goal. We hope to raise the remaining $300,000 in the upcoming months: and you can help! 

Donate Today!

With your help, we’ll protect more of the lands which make the Capital Region so beautiful.

These two goals, originally established in 2013, have set the stage for the Conservancy’s remarkable growth in the past five years. In that time, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has protected 3,000 acres, bringing its total protected acres more than 5,000 and more than doubling the acreage of the previous 20 years. With the support of thousands of individual donors, we have protected lands across our tri-county service area of Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties, preserving fields, forests, and farmlands, protecting natural resources and important habitats, combating climate change through carbon sequestration, and opening new nature preserves to the public, including the Bozen Kill Preserve in Altamont, the Strawberry Fields Preserve in Amsterdam, and the Fox Preserve in Colonie.

“This is a historic moment for conservation in the Capital Region,” says Mark King, Executive Director of MHLC. “The growth of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy reflects a larger phenomenon: as more land is developed year after year, our communities are driven to protect the remaining natural spaces of our home. Because of the dedication of our supporters, MHLC has been able to become the Capital Region’s local land trust, acting quickly and decisively to protect more acres than ever before.”

We hope you will consider making a gift towards our Comprehensive Campaign: we are only $300,000 away from reaching our funding goal for future urgent conservation efforts. Contributions of any size will go a long way towards supporting the Conservancy’s mission, combating climate change and providing important benefits to current and future generations, including scenic views, plant and animal diversity, clean air and water, and the chance to explore and learn about the natural features that make the Capital Region so special. Thank you!

Give to MHLC’s Campaign!

 

Meet MHLC: Jessica Ottney Mahar and the Importance of Family, Nature, and Community

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. In October, we speak with MHLC member Jessica Ottney Mahar: Colonie resident, Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy, and frequent visitor of MHLC’s Ashford Glen Preserve.

Why is the Ashford Glen Preserve important to you and your family?

The Mahar family at Ashford Glen.

When we were looking for a larger home for our growing family, my husband Sean and I were thrilled to find one that had a nature preserve just down the street! Of course there were other things on our list of criteria in a house, but having Ashford Glen a walk away in our neighborhood was a huge selling point. We now visit the preserve often with our daughter Stefanie who loves to have adventures on the trail. Our neighbors also frequent the preserve with their dogs and families, using it for exercise and a place to relax and clear the mind. Recently we were led by two neighborhood families and Sawyer, who stewards all of the Conservancy’s preserves, in building a fence along the road and the preserve to prevent some illegal ATV use that had been happening. It now looks very beautiful and we know that the preserve is protected from that kind of abuse.

What inspired you to support MHLC?
Our family deeply believes in the mission of the MHLC.  We want very much for our daughter to grow up in a place that has functioning ecosystems with clean water, open spaces and forests, and abundant wildlife.  More and more here in a town like Colonie, these places are dwindling and we worry about what our town will look like when she is our age.  We support MHLC because once family farms, local forests or wetlands are gone, they’re gone forever, and so are the many benefits they contribute to our community.  In a climate changing world, we know that we have to be smarter about the way we live, and ensuring we have forests to store carbon dioxide and wetlands to buffer us from flooding is also really important to us when thinking about the future.  MHLC is doing work that will help our community in all these ways, and so we are happy to support this great organization. 

Which is your favorite aspect of being a member of a local land trust?
We are happy to meet other people who, like us, want to better our community through conservation. We are enthusiastic about learning from those who started and have been long-time supporters of MHLC, and about getting to know other young families who support the organization as we think about how we can help move it forward into the future.

The Mahars and their neighbors who built the new fence at Ashford Glen Preserve.

 

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!

 

 

Your Local Land Trust: Fighting Climate Change, Naturally

Extreme weather events this year have sparked climate change conversations across the globe. Wildfires fill the California skies with smoke, major heat waves hit the United Kingdom and Japan, and record rainfalls have punctuated a hot New York summer with severe flooding events. With sweltering temperatures and damaging storms, many people wonder: “Is this weather caused by climate change?”

Yes. Although individual weather events cannot be attributed to climate change, these changing patterns and trends in the weather are the result of increased greenhouse gas emissions over the past two centuries and a changing climate.

The real question is: how can we fight climate change? Tackling such a global issue is a complex task, but there is hope. Your local land trust is working daily to protect landscapes which naturally sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases, and provide climate-resilient habitats. Through the conservation of undeveloped lands, we are fighting climate change.

Carbon Sequestration

Forests are carbon sinks, and we need to protect them.

The majority of MHLC’s protected lands are forested landscapes. These forests provide habitat for wildlife and filter air and water for our communities, but they are also natural sequesters of carbon. As trees photosynthesize, they trap carbon from the atmosphere in their tissues. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and creates four tons of oxygen – enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” Forests are carbon sinks: by protecting them, we slow climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Climate Resilience

By strategically planning our conservation, we can better protect the lands which will store carbon and which will help our ecosystems survive an already-changing climate. To date, we have protected more than 5,000 acres, with many more acres to be announced in the coming weeks.

Along the Bozen Kill. Photo by Kathy Meany.

We prioritize our land projects based on several Conservation Criteria, including climate resilience. When we use the term “resilient,” we are referring to the ability of a landscape to support a variety of plants and animals in a changing climate. The Nature Conservancy has been studying resilience for over a decade and has created mapping tools which MHLC uses to examine our service area through a lens of resilience. Resilient areas often have steep topography and water features which create natural cooling: our work in the Bozen Kill Conservation Corridor is a great example of protecting a resilient landscape.

Act Locally For Global Impact

Our conservation work is more important than ever. By supporting MHLC, you are strengthening our ability to protect local, resilient lands and to store carbon in the fight against climate change. To donate, click here.

To learn more, visit our MHLC, Conservation, and Climate Change page.

 

 

 

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

🌲 Fisher Boulevard Property: 35 Acres Protected FOREVER!

The Fisher Boulevard Property is officially protected—forever! MHLC reached out to the community for support, and you responded. Within two months, we met (and exceeded!) our fundraising goal, enabling MHLC to complete the project while ensuring permanent stewardship of these 35 acres.

On Thursday, August 30th, the staff, Board, and Advisory Council of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy joined with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Five Rivers, the Friends of Five Rivers, elected officials, representatives from the Student Conservation Association, and the donors who gave to this incredibly important project. As we met on the Fisher Boulevard Property, in a field lined by milkweed and other wildflowers, monarch butterflies fluttered by while our partners spoke about the great success of this project.

Speakers included DEC Regional Director Keith Goertz, MHLC Executive Director Mark King, Assemblymember Pat Fahy, Senator Neil Breslin, Bethlehem Town Supervisor David Van Luven, Dan Berry of the Friends of Five Rivers, and Student Conservation Association Member Alex Garrigan-Piela.

“The overwhelming response of our community to the Fisher Boulevard project has been inspiring,” said Mark King, Executive Director of MHLC. “Starting with a significant leading contribution from the Board of Directors of the Friends of Five Rivers citizens’ support group, we quickly met and surpassed our fundraising goal through a rush of support from the community. The grassroots movement of our neighbors has been heartening, and we are grateful for their dedication to preserving this idyllic property.” Thank you to all of our supporters who made this work possible. Because of your support, MHLC has preserved this unique property, recognized for its expanse of undeveloped land in an increasingly-developed area, and has added it to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.

To read the official press release from MHLC and DEC, click here.

To watch video of the event from DEC, scroll down.

To see DEC’s photos of the event, click here.

To learn more about the Fisher Boulevard Property, click here.

To read the latest news on MHLC and the Fisher Boulevard Property, visit our MHLC In The News page.

Meet MHLC Member Arlen Westbrook: Nature Lover

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. In August, we spoke with Arlen Westbrook at her home in Elsmere. Arlen is a retired social worker who loves to hike and canoe in the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys and beyond. She is also a member of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Sitting on her screened-in porch, surrounded by the green of late-summer maples and the sounds of cicadas, Arlen described why she has supported MHLC for over fifteen years, and explained that she finds great value in the green spaces and accessible trails near her home. 

Arlen Westbrook loves living near forever-wild lands.

How did you first become involved with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy?
I met John Abbuhl (a founding member of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy) through my work at the Capital Area Speech Center. I’ve always been interested in nature, conservation, and wildlife, and John told me that there was a group I may be interested in supporting. I joined the Conservancy as a member in 2005.

Now, I support the Conservancy by donating annually. I also join some of the local hikes in nearby preserves like the Normans Kill Preserves and the Van Dyke Preserve.

What do you wish more people knew about nature and land conservation?
I think many people are very disconnected from the world around them. Some people are frightened of being in the woods. I wish more people had the opportunity to go outside and observe the world around them. I collect sand and stones and shells- everything out there is free to enjoy. All you have to do is look and find it.

Have you always been interested in nature?
I have always been interested in nature and connecting with animals, plants, lakes, oceans, woods. I don’t have a deep philosophy about nature; it simply matters to me. As my late husband Perry Westbrook used to say, “Connecting with animals and plants is connecting with our elemental nature as human beings.” I think that’s true. We are part of nature, and we have to protect nature. This is especially important to me as we learn more about climate change, which is very frightening. 

I’ve lived mostly in this area since 1952, although I also travel. Wherever I am, I like to support nature and wilderness. I support the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s goals.

One of Arlen’s favorite hiking spots is the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, which was recently expanded by 35 acres preserved by MHLC.

Why do you continue to support MHLC?
I just like what you do! I’ve never been disappointed with the Conservancy’s work.

I appreciate that there are opportunities to go on shorter, more accessible walks through the woods. As I age, rough hikes are more difficult for me. I used to hike the Adirondacks and the Catskills and go to the top of huge peaks when I was 30. Now that I’m older, I like to go on shorter walks in the woods, and a preserve with a good parking lot is more accessible to me.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has grown from something very small into quite a large organization, and it’s nice to see the work that has been happening. One of my favorite places to walk nearby is the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, which MHLC recently expanded by preserving 35 neighboring acres.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: A History of Patroons and Patrons at Bennett Hill

Recently, while working on the trails of MHLC’s Bennett Hill Preserve as part of my internship with the Conservancy, I became curious about the history of European agriculture and settlement on this land. The history of the small farm neighboring the property (while beginning your hike on the Green Trail, you’ll often catch sight- or scent- of the cows who graze next door) offers a peek into the lives of those living in New Netherland, and how the beauty of this area brought lots of attention from European settlers.

In the summer of 1787, Jonas T. Bush leased this property for agricultural use from Stephen Van Rensselaer. This land lease, drafted by Alexander Hamilton, the brother-in-law of Van Rensselaer, bound tenant farmers to the land under strict guidelines. This type of lease was common in the patroonship system: a system of colonization which characterized Dutch settlements in New Netherlands in the late 18th century. Patroons were very popular in this region because they provided people with an opportunity for self-employment and a place to live. The Van Rensselaer family were the largest landholders in the Albany area, and their full estate, known as Rensselaerswyck, covered most of modern-day Albany and Rensselaer Counties, as well as parts of Columbia and Greene Counties.

The agreement was also sweetened to entice veterans of the Revolutionary War to lease portions of the land, as they could farm the land for seven years without any payment, after which the normal contract (including rent payments) would apply. During his time on the property, Jonas T. Bush made many improvements to the land. He started by building the original barn and farmhouse (no longer existing) on site and opening up the land up for farming. Bush would continue to farm the land until the 1820s, when William Chapman purchased the land. Chapman constructed a stone farmhouse and continued to farm the land until 1834, when it was sold once again.

The bathtub is a popular photo op for hikers!

This new owner was named Rushmore Bennett, and he was quick to purchase the land after seeing untapped potential in the farm. Bennett was eager to make changes and went for a more industrious farming model. During his time on the property, Bennett installed a gristmill on the Onesquethaw Creek. The mill allowed for the rapid production of flour, which provided additional income. Aside from farming crops and producing flour, Bennett also raised animals on the property. Many of them enjoyed grazing at the top of the hill, so he installed a bathtub, located downstream of a natural spring, for use as a trough. Today, this ‘bathtub spring” has been restored to its former glory and can be found near the trail.

During his ownership, Bennett also made several expansions onto the stone farmhouse, and turned one wing into a local inn. Bennett himself did not live to see the success of the inn, but his daughter, Elizabeth H. Bennett, and her husband worked hard and the inn became a local mainstay. At its peak, the inn could hold 40 occupants, and the typical rate was about $14 a week. As the railroad system spread across upstate New York, more travelers arrived on the West Shore Railway, often departing from the Altamont or Ravena rail stations. The Bennett family operated a service cart that would transport the travelers from the station to the inn for their stay.

Visitors to Bennett Hill Farm’s inn were attracted to the scenic beauty of this rural area: great views of Pinnacle Mountain and Clarksville are still enjoyed by visitors to today’s Bennett Hill Nature Preserve. Other features of the preserve include sinkholes, springs, a small wetland at the top of the hill, and beautiful forested terrain for a nice, shady hike to the top.

Please note that the Bennett Hill farm house and barn area is on private land, and we ask that any visitors respect the owner’s property and privacy. We hope that you can make it out to Bennett Hill Preserve sometime to discover (or rediscover) the beauty of the area, which has attracted Native and European people for millennia.

Alec

 

Citations

National Archives Catalog: National Registry of Historic Places Registration Form

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/75316169

National Archives Catalog: Single Property Listings, New York: Bennett Hill Farm, Page 13

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/75311943

 

 

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.