ART on the Rail Trail: New Installation by Susan Togut

The ART on the Rail Trail committee is thrilled to announce the newest addition to the trail’s public art collection created by artist Susan Togut. The installation features a series of painted pieces that hang from the trees along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail between Main Street and Grove Street in Voorheesville. On June 23, Susan began installing her art with help from volunteers from the Village of Voorheesville; the installation will be completed this month.  

These vibrant art pieces pay homage to the village origins in the context of today’s realities and honor Voorheesville at a crossroads in history. The layering of hand-painted, illuminated components in trees or free-standing structures installed at intervals along the Rail Trail, lends beauty, meaning, and joy during challenging times. Lifting the spirits of trail users, Susan’s use of symbolic and historic images embodies the cycles of life, metamorphosis, and renewal, helping us positively transform the uncertain conditions of our time. 

Artist Bio

Susan Togut

Susan Togut is an educator, therapeutic facilitator, and curator, who works from personal perspectives and community-based, worldly concerns. Her art focuses on cycles of nature and life, including fragility, uncertainty, resilience, and renewal. Susan creates contemplative environments and ecological installations, sculptures, wall pieces, and paintings. Her work is featured in sculpture gardens and walks, historic sites, galleries, hospitals, and private collections. In 2019, Susan received a Gottlieb Fellowship for mature work that led to several transforming uncertainty projects. She earned a BFA from Washington University, St. Louis, and an MFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. To learn more about Susan and her work, visit her website: susantogut.com.

Support from the Community 

This installation was made possible in part from a generous grant from the Voorheesville Community and School Foundation. Special thanks to the Village of Voorheesville for their support and assistance making this project a reality. ART would also like to thank these local businesses for their 2020 sponsorship:

Policy Research Associates
Stram Center for Integrative Health
Gabler Realty
McSharry and Associates Realty
Sawyers Screen Printers
Allied Business Partners CorpDelaware Plaza
Cathy Griffin, Realtor
Quality PM

For more information about ART and sponsorship opportunities, click here!

Staying Connected in an Unprecedented Time

During this time of remaining physically and socially distant, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is still thinking of ways to connect habitats and wildlife across the landscape, and we are thrilled to announce our newest conservation partnership towards this mission.

In 2019, MHLC officially joined the Staying Connected Initiative (SCI). This international collaboration of public agencies, private conservation groups, and universities seeks to conserve, restore, and enhance landscape connectivity across the Northern Appalachian/Acadian region, which includes portions of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine, and the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Last winter, SCI announced that the Catskills to Adirondacks would be the newest linkage for the initiative, recognizing its importance for reconnecting the Central Appalachians to the Northern Appalachians. The linkage is located within our service area, making MHLC the lead conservation organization advancing this larger landscape goal on the ground.

SCI linkage map depicts the new Mohawk Valley addition. Map created by Dan Coker, The Nature Conservancy

Why is this connection so critical? 

Many species have lost the suitable habitat in this region that historically connected them to the Northern Appalachian population. Species such as the Golden-winged Warbler have lost the suitable habitat in this region that historically connected them to the Northern Appalachian population. As a result, gene diversity and mate selection have narrowed and left some species of birds to hybridize with other closely related species, thus reducing the number of Golden-winged Warblers on our earth forever. These corridors are critical pathways for species to move and adapt as they seek suitable habitat in the face of climate change. MHLC will work with SCI and regional partners to map this linkage and focus conservation priorities to create corridors of connected habitat to facilitate species movement over time.

Taking local action

The work will include an analysis to identify the most significant impediments to species movement. Studies in other SCI focal areas have shown that improvements to bridges and culverts can increase wildlife flow rates under roads, while also diverting animal movement away from roads and reducing vehicle collisions. By working with SCI partners to address these impediments along major transecting roads such as the Thruway and Route 5 and acquiring buffer lands to give wildlife room to roam, the Conservancy will provide wildlife with safe passage under these challenging, and often fatal, existing roads. 

MHLC is very excited to be a part of this larger initiative and to be taking local action on the global stage. To learn more about The Staying Connective Initiative, please visit http://stayingconnectedinitiative.org/about/.

MHLC receives NAWCA grant for Heldeberg Workshop!

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is proud to announce the recent award of $100,000 from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant (NAWCA) to support the acquisition of a conservation easement on the Heldeberg Workshop property in New Scotland. The US Fish and Wildlife Service designates these funds to support the protection of wetlands and adjacent uplands that serve as important bird habitat.

Located at the base of Helderberg Escarpment, the Heldeberg Workshop property is a prominent geologic feature that rises out of the landscape like a beacon for migratory birds, encouraging them to stop and rest, or stop and nest. The deeply forested lands of the Escarpment are an excellent habitat for nationally declining and highest-priority species such as the Cerulean Warbler, Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, and Canada Warbler. This area has even been known to host nesting Peregrine Falcons along the cliffs. Mallard, Black Duck, and Wood Duck can be found resting and nesting in the wetlands – all species students can spy while exploring Vly Swamp in the Workshop’s “Swamping” class.

Photo by Dietrich Gehring

The Heldeberg Workshop has been providing outdoor education on this incredible property for more than 50 years. The backdrop of the Escarpment makes this area ideal for students to learn about and experience the unique geology of the area, as well as explore its unique amphibians in Vly Swamp, an area known to be one of the most biodiverse for amphibians in all of New England. This property is critical to providing students with unique outdoor education experiences; the long-term protection of the Heldeberg Workshop lands through this grant and fundraising effort is vital to ensuring it exists for future generations.

The NAWCA grant has moved us closer to our meeting our fundraising goal, but there are still funds needed to complete this project. You can learn more about how to donate to support this project and our conservation efforts for the Heldeberg Workshop here.

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

MHLC Launches New Virtual Hike Series

Our daily lives may have been uprooted, but MHLC is still here to connect you with nature! All 18 MHLC Preserves remain open and our staff is working remotely to continue our important conservation work.

With many events canceled or postponed, we reached out to MHLC hike leaders and volunteers to create a new virtual experience. The series “Virtual Hikes & Lessons from the Field” is now available. New segments will be added weekly, so be sure to check back for more! Follow us on social media for new content alerts.

Get started today:

Melt your stress away with guided forest therapy!
Diane Kavanaugh-Black, Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide

Bennett Hill Birches: A  watercolor painting lesson
Kevin Kuhne, Artist

Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve’s Disappearing Brook
Jeff Leon, Preserve Steward

Welcome to Mosher Marsh 

Anita Sanchez, Preserve Steward

An Earth Day Activity for Kids
Michelle, Bethlehem Public Library

Spring Plant Identification at the Bozen Kill Preserve
Laurie Swift, Preserve Steward

Welcome to Ashford Glen Preserve
Lois and Don Porter, Preserve Stewards

On the Lookout for Pollinators!
Katie Hietala-Henschell, Xerces Society

Noticing in Nature
Dave Muska, Ondatra Adventures

Stone Pendants & Necklaces
Dave Muska, Ondatra Adventures

Earth Day Challenge 2020

MHLC staff at Earth Day clean-up in 2019.

This year, MHLC is hosting Earth Day in a new way!
For the entire month of April, we are challenging our MHLC community to get outside and pick-up trash at your favorite preserve, outdoor space, or along the frontage of your yard or home. Spreading the celebration out will help to take the pressure off one big day, making it much easier to practice social distancing. We encourage you to take part anytime during these 30 days to show that every day is Earth Day! Share your experience by taking photos of you, your family, and your pets taking part and submit them to MHLC. 

Here’s the Challenge:
We are having a contest for the “best garbage photo” from your clean-up! MHLC staff will vote for the winning Earth Day photo on April 22nd, and a grand prize winner will be chosen on the final day of the challenge, April 30th. The winners will receive an embroidered MHLC logo baseball cap! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for a chance to win additional prizes!

A Collective Impact
We may not be able to gather as a group, but we can still make a big splash! By each of us taking time in the next month to document our efforts, we are hoping to show a collective impact equal to, or even bigger than, our past clean-up efforts! Your photos will be shared on our social media feeds as well as a photo gallery on the MHLC website.

It is extremely important to practice proper social distancing when completing your clean-up. Use caution and stay safe when working near roads! We look forward to seeing your photos soon – please send submissions to carrie@mohawkhudson.org.

Good luck and happy Earth Day!

View the photo gallery!

Meet MHLC: George Bailie

George Bailie, MHLC Volunteer

George serves as the Preserve Steward at MHLC’s Holt Preserve in the town of New Scotland. Before joining us as a volunteer, George taught and researched aspects of the appropriate use of medications in patients with kidney failure as a professor of pharmacy at Albany College of Pharmacy. He is a dedicated volunteer who has given countless hours to help maintain the trails of Holt and other MHLC Preserves. 

When did you begin volunteering with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy?

Over the years, I had been to many of the preserves, but I had not visited Holt for some time. In Fall 2017, I met with MHLC staff and expressed a desire to be a volunteer Preserve Steward. When the MHLC Stewardship staff reintroduced me to Holt, I was quite impressed by its varied trails. It was then that I decided to help maintain these trails as a Preserve Steward.

What inspires you to support MHLC?

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. Since moving to the northeast in 1988, I have been an active hiker, runner, and bicyclist. The Adirondacks and Catskills hold a very special charm for hikers throughout the year as it is still possible to find remote and beautiful places with relative ease. Now that I am retired, I have time to facilitate the enjoyment of local preserves by other people. By assisting with preserve and trail upkeep, I can help to ensure each visitor to the preserve has a memorable experience.

Volunteers help with essential trail work.

How would you describe your role as a volunteer at MHLC?

Most of my time is spent sharing the maintenance of Holt Preserve with other stewards through routine trail checks and tasks such as clearing fallen trees. The amount of time varies with the season, from weekly visits during the growing season to every couple of weeks in the winter. Periodically, we host group efforts tending to trails that need significant upgrades or mending. Additionally, I enjoy the opportunity to work with volunteers at other preserves during MHLC’s planned workdays.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC?

I particularly enjoy the opportunities to meet new people who have a shared passion to look after natural spaces. I also appreciate the opportunities MHLC provides for volunteers to learn new skills, such as chainsaw training, building and maintaining water management structures, and fabricating new trails. 

George Bailie and fellow Preserve Steward Peter Richards received the Dan Driscoll Leadership Award at the Annual Awards Dinner on February 23, 2020. The Dan Driscoll Leadership Award is given annually to those who give outstanding efforts to advance the mission on MHLC. Congratulations to George and our other 2020 award winners!

Read more about MHLC’s 2020 Annual Awards Dinner and this year’s award recipients.

L to R: MHLC Board Chair Sarah Carroll, George Bailie, Peter Richards, and MHLC Executive Director Mark King

Amphibian Migration: The Big Night

Spotted salamander

Every year on the first warm, rainy night in spring, a variety of frog and salamander species will make their spring commute to breeding pools. Signaled by the warm, moist conditions, these amphibians all seemingly emerge together on what is commonly called the “Big Night.” Even with snow and ice on the ground, these 6 to 8-inch Tiger, Spotted, and Marbled salamanders make their way across frozen earth, stone, and pavement, indicating the start of springtime activity. In our backyard, the Helderberg Escarpment provides one of the highest quality areas of herpetological activity in the northeast. For millions of years, amphibians have navigated from their winter home through wetlands to vernal breeding areas. With an increasing number of roadways and traffic in the area, the most immediate threat for migrating amphibians on the Big Night is getting hit by cars.

Spring peeper frog, photo by D. Gehring

Please be on the lookout for a variety of creatures along roadways—including volunteers who are helping migrating amphibians to cross these treacherous obstacles safely. A variety of programs exist for those who want to help with road crossings and observe these unique creatures. In previous years, organizations such as the Hudson River Estuary Program, Friends of Thatcher Park, and local Girl Scout Troops, have offered training and coordinated volunteer efforts on the Big Night. These programs are the best way for new volunteers to get involved. Being a part of a large group helps to cover more area and also extends resources to safely handle both oncoming traffic (reflective vests and cones) and the amphibians themselves (proper handling with wet hands, collecting data, and carrying them in the direction they’re going).

The actual date of the Big Night varies as nature has its own calendar. With temperature and climate conditions further in flux (part of a significant worldwide amphibian decline), it can be increasingly challenging to be ready for the migration. Attending training and keeping up to date on resources is the best way to be prepared as a participant or traveler along roads. Keep an eye on the weather, and stay vigilant while driving! Many folks help independently on the frontage of their property–be on the lookout for pedestrians and signage along roadways. Please help to keep our neighbors and amphibian friends safe by spreading the word about the springtime migration. You can find additional resources on the Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings website through the NY DEC, https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/51925.html.

A Successful 2020 Annual Awards Dinner

On Sunday, February 23rd, we gathered for MHLC’s Annual Awards Dinner at the River Stone Manor to honor those who are leading the way for conservation in the Capital Region. Guests enjoyed a buffet and cocktails while mingling with fellow Conservancy friends, supporters, and partners. MHLC Executive Director Mark King and MHLC Board Chair Sarah Carroll welcomed guests with an uplifting summary of our many accomplishments over the past year and highlighted the importance of our conservation work in the region.

The award program began with the presentation of the Dan Driscoll Leadership Award to George Bailie and Peter Richards for outstanding work to advance the mission of MHLC. Next, the Saving Special Spaces Award was presented to Commissioner Joesph E. Coffey, Jr., Chairman Charles G. Houghton, and Amy Walsh for their efforts in conserving the lands of the Alcove and Basic Creek Reservoirs. We were honored to have Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Congressman Paul Tonko acknowledged the amazing work of our award recipients and the importance of MHLC’s work in the region in their speeches. The evening ended with a lively presentation about trees by guest speaker William Bryant Logan.

Many thanks to everyone who attended! We are always thrilled to see a room filled with friendly faces of supporters both old and new. A special thanks to guest speaker Bill Logan for an engaging presentation. And lastly, cheers to MHLC Board Chair Sarah Carroll for donating potted Gerbera daisies for our centerpieces. These blossoming centerpieces were offered to departing guests in exchange for a $10 donation and raised an additional $210 for the Conservancy.

Check out our photo gallery from the Annual Awards Dinner! 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 carrie@mohawkhudson.org.

In Memory of Matthew Bender IV

For more than twenty years, Matt Bender was a guiding force in the growth of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. Matt had an immense passion for the Capital Region and a deep sense of the importance of history and conservation. The Conservancy served an important role in his compelling vision of the region. Unlike so many people who consider the best feature of our area its proximity to other places—Boston, New York, etc.—Matt recognized the real value of our region is in its people, beautiful places, and history.

Matt took MHLC under his wing early in its development and continued to serve as a member of MHLC’s Advisory Council over the years. In 2017, he was recognized as the honoree of the Conservancy’s 25th anniversary year. Matt was never content to provide financial support alone; instead, he wanted to make sure the organization was spending wisely, communicating clearly, and investing in the future to achieve sustainability. He was impatient with failure unless the lessons from mistakes lead to growth, and he was quick to recognize success and achievement. Matt was one of the most energetic, constructive, generous, and wise people, whose interests included an enormous range of causes and projects in our nonprofit sector–he will be greatly missed.

The Board of Trustees, staff, and volunteers of MHLC send our condolences to the Bender family on the passing of Matthew Bender. We join with many others in the Capital Region and beyond in celebrating his life and mourning his loss. We are so grateful for all the ways his generosity transformed our community.

 

 

 

 

Mark King, MHLC Executive Director 

 

The Celebration of the Life of Matthew Bender IV has been postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus. Originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14, at The Albany Academies, it will be rescheduled; we will inform you of the new date when it is available.

The Bender family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Donate Now

Farewell Lea Montalto-Rook

Our Director of Operations and Development, Lea Montalto-Rook, is leaving the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy at the end of February to take on a new challenge as Chief Executive Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region. Lea is our longest-serving staff member and for many years has been responsible for MHLC’s operations, fundraising, marketing, communications, finance, outreach, and events. She will be sorely missed. We will be hiring a new Fundraising and Marketing Manager to assume some of these roles.

A note from Lea:

Lea and her children enjoying MHLC’s 2016 Summer Festival at Indian Ladder Farms

I’m joining Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region as CEO at a very exciting time. I hope to grow the organization and expand both the budget and the programmatic offerings, with the goal of eliminating the waitlist for littles, providing greater reserves to sustain BBBS into the future, and expanding the scope of offerings in the community, for the benefit of today’s youth and future generations. There is a real need right now for men to serve as mentors for a large list of boys who are in need of a male role model. If you know anyone who would be willing to serve in that capacity and play that important role of shepherding a child and helping to unleash their potential, please let me know.

I’m sorry to leave MHLC, though, and I hope to remain involved in a new capacity. It is really such a bitter-sweet time for me. For more than eight years, I have devoted myself to preserving the character and open spaces of the Capital Region. When I moved to the region in 2011, I was struck by the close proximity of the country to the city. With just a 20-minute bike ride, one can travel from farmland to a concert at the Egg. Through the years, I have enjoyed these unique features. I have walked fields and forests, watched many sunsets from MHLC preserves, and dreamed of a Capital Region with these precious natural lands preserved for future generations. I have worked determinedly to make this dream a reality, and my family has embraced and joined me in these efforts. In fact, my children have appeared in publications and my family is featured in the MHLC video.

Through the years, it has also been my pleasure to work hand-in-hand with board members, staff, and volunteers to grow the organization with great success. Together we have shaped MHLC into a strong regional leader—the Capital Region’s land trust—and amplified the concrete advantages to our local community: the creation of preserves for recreation, the benefit of local food and clean water, the preservation of habitat for wildlife, the mitigation of climate, and more. This success is directly attributable to individual action and an incredible number of supporters who have joined together to create impact. Thank you! (Please make a larger impact by giving a gift today. MHLC needs your ongoing support to sustain our conservation efforts.)

Living not far from the Conservancy’s office means that I have come to know my neighbors in a unique way. I have shaken hands, smiled in welcome at events, enjoyed many conversations, asked for renewed support, and received guidance and inspiration. Along the way, I have also forged good friendships that will last long after my time with MHLC comes to an end.

I look forward to remaining involved with MHLC in a new capacity and helping to continue to move the mission forward. My new email at Big Brothers Big Sisters is lea@bbbscr.org. Please keep in touch!

31 Trails in 31 Days: A New Year’s Resolution

At the end of last month, MHLC received a message over social media from MHLC supporter Matthew Lambert announcing that he had completed his New Year’s resolution: complete an average of one hike a day in the month of January. Matt, a 1982 SUNY Cortland graduate with a major in Outdoor Recreation and Education who retired from a 30-year career in higher education, decided that instead of spending time in the gym each day, he’d rather be outdoors. 

What was the most challenging aspect of completing the hikes?

Most of my hikes in January were only 45 minutes to an hour in duration. Sometimes they were only 30 minutes if I was visiting 2 or 3 trails for that day. I do that because I hike solo and I don’t like being too far out alone. The other reason is I bundle up for the cold and usually perspire heavily. If I were to stop moving, I could quickly get chilled in freezing temperatures. Being too far out can be dangerous in those conditions. The MHLC trail markers can be lifesavers. If anyone has ever gotten lost in winter conditions, they know how scary and dangerous that can be. The trail markers minimize that risk. Therefore, I follow the markers, and keep the hikes short and sweet. That keeps me fresh and always ready for more.

My knees won’t let me climb mountains anymore, so these short hikes are perfect and I find them just as fulfilling. I can squeeze them in around the other demands of the day.

How many of the trails you visited were new to you?

Of the 31 trails, 12 of them I had never visited before. As an amateur photographer, I am always pleasantly surprised at the unique features and attributes that each trail presents. There always seem to be babbling brooks and waterfalls on the path. As a kayaker, traveling to these trails has allowed me to discover new waterways to conquer this coming spring.

Now that you’ve reached your goal, are you still hiking as often?

There are hundreds of more parks and preserve trails out there and I’m going to knock off as many as I can this year. Rather than spend an hour or two in a gym, I prefer to get a workout in by discovering a new slice of nature. No two sites are alike, there are always surprises, beauty abounds, and it’s free! How can you beat that?!

In a January 31st posting Matt wrote, “Mission accomplished! I couldn’t have done it without the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s trails! They are what motivated me to undertake this goal. Thank you! I am looking forward to volunteering and contributing to the MHLC cause in 2020.” 

Matt’s 31 Hikes for the Month of January (or snowshoeing/XC skiing)

  1. 1-1-2020: Hannacrois Creek Falls Preserve, New Baltimore, NY
  2. 1-2-2020: Wolf Creek Falls Preserve (MHLC), Altamont, NY 
  3. 1-3-2020: Cherry Plain State Park, Renssalaer County, NY
  4. 1-5-2020: Peebles Island State Park, Watervliet, NY
  5. 1-6-2020: Bennett Hill Preserve (MHLC), Clarksville, NY
  6. 1-7-2020: Thompson Lake State Park, New Scotland, NY
  7. 1-7-2020: John Boyd Thacher State Park, Voorheesville, NY
  8. 1-9-2020: Five Rivers Nature Center, Delmar, NY
  9. 1-10-2020: Holt Preserve (MHLC), Feura Bush, NY
  10. 1-11-2020: Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail- East, Slingerlands-Albany, NY
  11. 1-12-2020: Corning-Hudson Bike Trail, Albany-Watervliet, NY
  12. 1-14-2020: Albany Country Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail- West, Slingerlands-Voorheesville, NY
  13. 1-15-2020: Fox Preserve (MHLC), Latham, NY
  14. 1-15-2020: Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail, Niskayuna, NY
  15. 1-16-2020: Van Dyke Preserve (MHLC), Delmar, NY
  16. 1-17-2020: Schoharie Creek Preserve (MHLC), Burtonsville, NY
  17. 1-18-2020: Elm Avenue Park Fitness Trail, Delmar, NY
  18. 1-20-2020: Lincoln Park (MLK Walk), Albany, NY
  19. 1-23-2020: Ridgefield Park, Albany, NY
  20. 1-24-2020: Normanskill-West Preserve (MHLC), Delmar, NY
  21. 1-24-2020: Phillipin Preserve (MHLC), Delmar, NY
  22. 1-24-2020: Swift Preserve (MHLC), Delmar, NY
  23. 1-25-2020: Harbor Walk Trail, Boston Harbor, Boston, MA
  24. 1-26-2020: Washington Park, Albany, NY
  25. 1-28-2020: Hudson Shores Park, Troy, NY
  26. 1-28-2020: Frear Park, Troy, NY
  27. 1-28-2020: Chamberlain Riverfront Park, Troy, NY
  28. 1-28-2020: Hoffman Park, Albany, NY
  29. 1-28-2020: Plumeri Sports Park, Albany, NY
  30. 1-29-2020: Ashford Glen Preserve (MHLC), Colonie, NY
  31. 1-30-2020: Towasentha Park, Guilderland, NY

Meet MHLC: Anita Sanchez

Meet MHLC volunteer Anita Sanchez, Preserve Steward for Mosher Marsh. Anita worked as an environmental educator for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation where she developed environmental science programs serving thousands of students. Anita is also the award-winning author of many books on environmental science for children and adults. As a science writer, Anita is especially fascinated by plants and animals that no one loves. Her books are intended to get kids excited about science and the wonders of the natural world. 

When did you begin volunteering with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy?

I began a couple of years ago when I discovered MHLC was working to save land in Montgomery County. I was excited to explore the Mosher Marsh, the Conservancy’s beautiful preserve just outside Amsterdam, only a few miles from my house.

What inspires you to support MHLC?

More and more of our precious green space is being lost to a rising tide of blacktop, buried under condominiums, houses, and strip malls. When I drove past yet another sign that proclaimed the advent of yet another housing development and the loss of yet another meadow, pasture, or forest, I knew I had to get involved somehow. That led me to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Beaver lodge at Mosher Marsh.

How would you describe your role as a volunteer at MHLC?

I mostly work as a steward for the Mosher Marsh Preserve in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful cattail marsh, surrounded by meadow and a strip of woodland. It’s very pleasant work—I check the sign-in sheet, peek inside the bluebird box to see if there are any signs of activity (last year tree swallows nested there!) and walk the trails. Mosher Marsh isn’t used much in the winter—by humans. But there are lots of signs of wildlife—tracks of fox, rabbit, squirrel, wild turkey—even a fisher! On summer evenings I’ve seen beavers and muskrat gliding through the marsh.

I’ve also helped out with work days at the marsh, doing weed-whacking and trail clearing.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC? 

I love the fact that it reminds me of how important it is to spend part of each day outdoors. 

Check out Anita’s website to read her posts about Mosher Marsh featured in the Unmowed Blog!  Anita will be leading MHLC’s Winter Wildflowers Hike on March 8th. To learn more and to register, please visit our Events web page.

Invasive Species Alert: Hemlock Woolly Adelgid 

As you venture around the trails this winter, keep an eye out for this special tree in particular – the Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). The Eastern Hemlock is New York’s preferred conifer, with more Tsuga canadensis species found in New York than in any other state in the nation. Vastly concentrated in the Adirondacks, the Eastern Hemlock is integral to New York’s forests, character, and heritage.

Under its branches lies a whole host of benefits to our New York State forests and streams. The tree’s dense canopy provides shelter to animals through harsh winters and keeps forest floor and streams cool during summer, enhancing oxygen-rich stream conditions for trout and other aquatic species. Hemlocks on streamside banks also help to control erosion and filter runoff from human sources. This beneficial ecosystem is now under threat. Entire forests of Eastern Hemlock are being devasted by rising temperatures due to climate change and the spread of the invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid.

Tiny Pest, Huge Threat

Secretions of the hemlock wooly adelgid. Photo courtesy of NYS Hemlock Initiative.

The hemlock woolly adelgid (or HWA) is a non-native invasive forest pest that originated in Japan. Without natural predators, it has flourished in the eastern seaboard of the United States and southeastern New York over the last half-century. This small, aphid-like insect is easily spotted in fall, winter, and spring by the white, woolly masses they make near the base of needles on the tree’s stem. As described by the New York State Hemlock Initiative, “the wool is secreted by the insect, acting as a natural buffer from wind and cold and serving as an ovisac for laying eggs.”

As HWA creeps north, the effect on its host tree is notable. Over a period of several seasons, the HWA uses its straw-like mouthparts to feed on the tree’s twigs. At each of these punctures, the tree isolates that wound or section by using chemicals to prevent the flow of nutrients and water. As an increasing number of the tree’s stems become isolated, the transport of food and water is blocked and new tree growth is prevented. The tree eventually succumbs to the infestation.

Citizen Science Initiative- You Can Help!

With no natural predators and research into biological controls still ongoing, whole forests of hemlock from North Carolina to Long Island have been stripped of the Eastern Hemlock. The biggest step to helping the Eastern Hemlock and New York’s forests is to identify the location of the hemlocks and monitor for HWA infestations. Thanks to the New York State Hemlock Initiative (NYSHI) and the Capital Region Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), there are a variety of mapping and reporting efforts on this invasive species. The Mohawk corridor is currently considered to be one of the last lines of defense HWA has yet to cross – getting familiar with the NYSHI and PRISM resources and monitoring MHLC Preserves and Capital Region lands for this pest is a great way to help!

In the new year, as we work towards the improvement of ourselves, our region, and our planet, the first thing to do is take a step! I encourage you to go outside this winter, be curious, and care about the natural world here along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers! We are looking to continue our training and implementation of invasive species monitoring and controls on our preserves – please feel free to email me with any trail, land, or invasive species comments or concerns at kent@mohawkhudson.org.

$400,000 Grant Awarded to Save Bender Melon Farm!


 

Exciting news! MHLC has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the State’s Regional Economic Development Council for the acquisition of the historic Bender Melon Farm property. This funding is a huge step toward preserving this iconic landscape along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail located at the corner of Route 85 and 85A in Voorheesville. With the grant, and the help of many passionate supporters, we are now halfway to our fundraising goal and are racing to raise the remaining funds by May 2020! 

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With extensive frontage along both sides of the Rail Trail, the Bender Melon Farm property provides a scenic corridor along the popular Rail Trail enjoyed by more than 200,000 recreationists annually according to Albany County. Once acquired, we plan to create additional parkland, mountain bike trails, and other amenities. The Bender Melon Farm funding complements a $411,000 Economic Development grant awarded to the Town of New Scotland for improvements to the adjacent Hilton Park and the relocated historic Hilton Barn. In 2016, The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy purchased the land where the barn is now located, and the Town undertook a dramatic move of the barn from its original location across Route 85A. Subsequent to the barn move, MHLC purchased an additional 15 acres adjacent to the new barn location and donated the property to the Town of New Scotland to become the Hilton Park.

MHLC will work closely with the Town to add popular amenities to the Hilton Barn and Park and Bender Melon Farm. Nature trails, mountain bike trails, an amphitheater, skating rink and restrooms are among the new facilities envisioned for the area. An emphasis of the MHLC grant is the quality of life improvements offered by trails and recreational amenities as well as community amenities that create the potential to attract and maintain jobs.

 

Public Benefit for Everyone

Bender Melon Farm in spring

Both projects center around the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, which provides recreational and transportation benefits, and connects diverse communities. Construction of the City of Albany South end connector trail segment between the current terminus of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail on South Pearl street to the Corning Preserve is underway. This connection will provide City of Albany residents and suburban dwellers with an easy, carbon free transportation corridor between pastoral New Scotland landscapes and the State’s Capital City.   

 Working within the recommendations of the Town’s hamlet plan, the Conservancy has put together a vision for the property that preserves the farmland and the character of the Town, while allowing for the expansion of the Hilton Park, the creation of new park amenities, and the continuation of agricultural use of the land.

The grant award will allow for a portion of the land acquisition costs to be covered while also protecting the historic Bender Melon Farm permanently as parkland. We would like to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York for the Regional Economic Development Council grant that has helped to launch us halfway to our fundraising goal.

The impact of a large residential development on our natural community would be significant, potentially impacting the water quality of the Phillipinkill, which begins on this property and runs to the Hudson River. By preserving this landscape, we can protect important natural resources and conserve one of the iconic landscapes of Albany County. The project will also protect vital habitat for the wildlife that is being threatened as development increases in this area. 

In addition to preserving the beautiful rural sense of the New Scotland section of the Rail Trail, the conservation of the Bender Melon Farm would have other tangible benefits for the community, such as limiting the traffic volume that would come with a large residential development and the strain that an influx of students would have on schools.

The Conservancy has an option to purchase the farm by May 2020, when time would run out.

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Guest Post: Tis the season…to cross-country ski the MHLC Preserves, by Bob Frederick

Skiers glide by on the Rail Trail.

For cross-country skiers in the greater Capital Region, we rejoice when an early storm dumps a foot or more of snow without the threat of rain and wind to ruin Mother Nature’s gift.

Many people rely on their “go-to” places to cross-country ski–golf courses, state parks, a local ski center, the Albany Pine Bush, Five Rivers Environmental Center, and Thacher Park– but few are aware of the great paths available amongst the 18 preserves managed by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

As a preserve steward and backcountry skier, I’d like to introduce you to some of the preserves that I have come to love skiing and snowshoeing because of their natural settings, challenges, and availability within a 30-40 minute drive. 

For beginners or those with younger families, try the smaller and more level preserves such as Van Dyke, Swift Wetlands, Mosher Marsh, and Strawberry Fields. And of course, the 9 mile Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail would be a perfect route to test your equipment and get your legs in condition for more challenging trails.

The red trail at the Swift Wetlands Preserve after the early December snowstorm.

For those seeking to ski or shoe deeper into the woods but who still want a fairly mild path, I’d recommend the Bozen Kill, Wolf Creek Falls, and Winn Preserves. The Bozen Kill’s white trail starts in an open field but quickly enters the woods with a mild incline that parallels a meandering stream. About a half-mile in, the white trail connects to the red trail which takes you to the stream in .7 miles. Wolf Creek Falls has 3 miles of rolling trails on either side of the road that offers mixed terrain under a canopy of trees. The Winn Preserve offers numerous trails in a forest that includes a snowmobile trail bisecting the preserve.  I’d recommend the red, white, blue and green trails. 

The most challenging trails are found at Bennett Hill, Holt, and Keleher Preserves that all flow south along the Helderberg Escarpment. They offer fun challenges for the backcountry skier who enjoys a good challenge going up and down hills. I recommend reviewing the online trail and terrain maps of these preserves to select trails that are aligned with your level of ability. The best ski conditions for these trails are after snowfalls of 4+ inches with a base of 8 inches. Deeper snow conditions allow skiers to maneuver some of the tight trails with greater control. I would recommend skiing with another person since these preserves have fewer visitors and are in more remote areas. Bring plenty of water, snacks, a fully charged phone (with GPS app), and a small first aid kit to be prepared for situations. Recommended trails: Bennett Hill (green to yellow loop and back), Holt (red loop – lower entrance, red (pond)-blue-green-blue loop at the upper entrance), Keleher (white (west) up and back, green and blue either way and white (east) or orange going up only. Avoid red trails at Bennett Hill and Keleher due to steep terrain.

As for the other wonderful preserves found on the MHLC website, they offer unique terrain that includes the use of bridges, staircases, and pathways that are more suited for snowshoeing and hiking with boots (preferably with microspikes). Attention to safety is important on these trails due to steep inclines, icy bridges, and staircases.  These preserves include Ashford Glen, Fox, Normans Kill (West/East), Phillipin Kill, Restifo Sanctuary, Schiffendecker Farm, and Schoharie Creek.  Reminder: check the MHLC website to review trail conditions and the preserve’s location, size, and offerings to determine if it has what you’re seeking.

Hope to see you in the woods this winter season!

Bob Frederick, Keleher Preserve Steward

Bob Frederick is the MHLC Seasonal Stewardship Assistant, the Preserve Steward for Keleher Preserve, and our “volunteer of all trades.” Learn more about Bob, and his work with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, by clicking here.

 

Guest Post: Charitable Giving Frustrated by New Tax Rules? A Donor Advised Fund might be for you 

By MHLC Supporter Nick Miller

Navigating our trails is much easier than navigating tax laws!

Many individuals and families of moderate means have found that the new SALT deduction limits on their federal taxes have put a squeeze on their charitable giving. If you find that you no longer itemize your federal taxes, then your charitable contributions to important organizations like MHLC are no longer tax deductions. The sting of donating with after-tax dollars is causing a reduction in funds given to many not-for-profits.

An investment and charitable vehicle known as a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) may be a solution for your family. A DAF is a managed investment, much like a mutual fund. You work with your investment advisor to set up the fund, and then you make an irrevocable payment into the fund. That money is invested in the market according to your instructions and the parameters of the funds. You give instructions for the fund to make “grants” to qualifying charitable organizations. The key tax benefit is that you are making a single donation that is large enough to push you well into itemization (as opposed to a standard deduction). You get a tax break for the year that you contribute the funds to the DAF. But you don’t need to give all the money to the charities right away. It will stay invested and making returns, as you draw down the principal over multiple years of donations.

Here’s a very simple numerical example/comparison for an imaginary Tax Year 2019, and a few years thereafter.

Suppose, first of all, that the target sum of your charitable giving is $10,000 per year.

  1. In 2019, you fund the DAF with $100,000.
  2. In tax year 2019, supposing you have saturated your SALT, you have a $10,000 SALT deduction.
  3. Add $100,000 charitable deduction.
  4. Total itemized deductions are at least $110,000 (DAF plus SALT). Mortgage interests and any other charitable giving that year may add to this.
  5. This compares favorably to the $24,000 threshold needed to meet the standard deduction.
  6. That means that, effectively, $86,000 of your $100,000 comes off your net income, and you get a tax benefit based on your marginal tax rate for 2019.
  7. You instruct the DAF to make one or more “grants” totaling $10,000 to your favorite non-profits (e.g. MHLC).
  8. The fund makes payments, in your name or as you would like it ascribed, to the charity.
  9. In 2020, the remaining $90,000 has grown some, assuming you invested well.
  10. Each year you give instructions for further grants to be made by the DAF. You draw down the fund at your discretion over multiple years.
  11. It has zero effect on your taxes that year or any future year, until or if you decide to put more money into the fund.
  12. Assuming you are in the same situation as you were in 2019, you will probably take the standard deduction.

What’s not to like? Your charity gets your donation. You make the donation with mostly before tax money.

It’s not for everybody:

  • It doesn’t make much sense for small amounts of funding. In our example, anything less than $14,000 gives you no tax benefit.
  • It’s irrevocable. You can’t get the money back for personal use.
  • You need to have a chunk of cash upfront.
  • It’s good to do it in a high-income tax year.
  • There are minimum sizes on each grant. No $10 grants to the local fire brigade.
  • Details matter. There are other IRS rules, etc. that might affect you.
  • There are limits on the grants. You can’t get anything in return:  can’t buy tickets, fund your nephew’s college, pay off Aunt Gertrude’s mortgage, go to the Gala.   The rules are essentially what the IRS charitable deduction rules state.

We love ours. For some of you, this is a ‘no-brainer’. It was for us. This blurb is by Joe Donor, not a paid or trained professional. If you would like to understand DAFs better, talk to your financial advisor. Your favorite charities need you! Our guy, Joseph Gravini, (joseph.gravini@wellsfargoadvisors.com; 518-447-8462) was immensely helpful and made the process completely painless. 

 

Meet MHLC: Josh Merlis, President of ARE Event Productions

Meet MHLC supporter Josh Merlis. With a background in computer science and competitive athletics, Josh is an accomplished event organizer who has built organizations, companies, and events from the ground up. Josh started the community running club Albany Running Exchange (which boasts over 1,000 members), and his company, ARE Event Productions, Inc. (AREEP), organized the wildly successful 2019 Helderberg-Hudson Half-Marathon on the Rail Trail. Over 2,100 runners took part in the inaugural race, cheered on by countless spectators and an enormous team of MHLC volunteers along the 13.1-mile route from Voorheesville to Albany. 

How did you become involved with MHLC?

I received an email from Lea Montalto-Rook, MHLC Director of Operations and Development, asking how MHLC could be involved in our inaugural race. While I had heard of the organization, I did not know anything of substance about it. It was eye-opening to learn about the full extent of all that MHLC does in our community to expand the very same type of offerings and opportunities that align with the mission of our running club. While it was too late for a formal involvement in the 2019 race, we did agree that the event would make a donation to the MHLC as a thank you for helping to recruit volunteers for the event.

As planning began for the 2020 Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon, it was paramount to us for the event to directly benefit an organization or entity that connects to the very place the event is held. As an organization, nothing is more treasured by us than safe places to recreate – and as runners/outdoor enthusiasts, it seems that the available places for this continue to decrease. With more developments being built, and the ever-increased amount of traffic and distracted drivers, having land is protected is the only way to guarantee that we continue to have these opportunities. It sure is a lot more beautiful to run along a creek and hear animals in nature than the whir of cars and the desolation of unending pavement. Albany County is our partner in producing the event, and in coordination and agreement with them, MHLC was chosen as the most suitable benefactor of the event. We are hopeful that our April 2020 event not only directly furthers the financial reach of MHLC but also helps to expand the knowledge within our community of MHLC’s existence and purpose. 

How did the idea for the Helderberg to Hudson come about? 

The origin of the event was a general desire of ARE Event Productions (the race management arm of our community running club called the Albany Running Exchange) to create a large-scale event right here where we live. Since 2009, we’ve been assisting events nationally, including some major races with amenities and experiential offerings that weren’t part of the Capital Region race scene. The idea of creating our own ‘big city race’ had been on our minds for several years, and the creation of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail lit a bulb in our head that this could be part of that event. Considering the beautiful scenery, its gentle slope towards Albany, the freshly paved surface, and the logistical advantages of placing the majority of the race on a path that prohibits vehicles, it seemed like the perfect fit.

The Helderberg-Hudson is a USATF certified course… was this certification initiated for the inaugural race?

Yes, the certification was for the inaugural race. It was imperative to us to cater to all of our runners, and having an accurately measured route is vital to that end. From the first-time half marathoner to our elite field (several of whom have qualified for the Olympic Trials [OT] in the marathon), we wanted to put on an event that people knew their time would be for a true half marathon. The process involves hiring a course measurer who performs a series of rides with a bicycle to measure the route, determine the literal exact start and endpoint, and provide the exact locations of any key landmarks on the course, such as mile marks, the 5K split location, etc. The data is then submitted to a New York State’s certifier for review.

Where are your favorite places to run or hike in the Capital Region? 

Thacher State Park and Plotterkill Preserve are my favorites, but I really enjoy all of the opportunities in our greater region. The Pine Bush Preserve is closest to me, and where I spent my most time running in college and just after. In 2004, I started the Albany Running Exchange’s 15 week Summer Trail Run Series with the stated mission: “an opportunity for the local community to come together for free weekly, non-competitive trail runs and to see all the trails closer to home than you may think.” That was a figurative vehicle to also force me to start exploring, namely all the State Parks within roughly 45 minutes of Albany, along with other gems such as MHLC preserves, Five Rivers Environmental Center, and even the trails behind Indian Ladder Farms. When I’m training for longer endurance events, I’ve made an effort to spend time on the Taconic Crest Trail, all over the Catskills and Adirondacks as well as the Northville-Placid Trail.

Save the Date!

The Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon will take place on Saturday, April 18, 2020! Josh has estimated that 200 volunteers are needed to keep things running smoothly at the next race. Volunteers are stationed at the start and finish, at six water stations, and as course marshals along the route. There is also a need for volunteers at the packet pick-up locations on Thursday and Friday before the race. The website’s volunteer sign-up page has details on these assignments and time slots. We hope that MHLC supporters will join in this effort and volunteer on race day in support of the Conservancy.

VOLUNTEER SIGN UP: https://www.zippyreg.com/volunteer/sign-up/index.php?eventID=1319

RACE REGISTRATION & INFO: http://helderbergtohudsonhalf.com/#

 

Year-end challenge extended! PLEASE DONATE TODAY!

Protected lands of the Alcove Reservoir

Each day, an estimated 6,000 acres of open space are converted to other uses.
U.S. Forest Service

Today, we are taking a stand. This fall, MHLC, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the City of Albany, and the Albany Water Board, has protected 6,400 forested acres of Water Board lands, protecting 852,000 trees. Each year these trees will generate an average of 221,500,000 pounds of oxygen—the amount consumed by 115,000 Capital Region residents annually.*

Saving trees. Saving landscapes. Saving water sources. Saving farmlands. Saving habitats.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is making an impact that will ripple through generations. We deserve a future with access to clean air and water, preserves for recreation, fresh food from local farms, and local environmental resiliency. To continue this crucial work—and spread our impact across the region—we need your help. 

The Miller Family has graciously extended the deadline allowing the giving challenge to remain open until the $15,000 goal is reached!

New to MHLC? The Conservancy has received a challenge from The Miller Family Charitable Trust. Each new MHLC donor who gives up to $1,000 in a first-time gift will be matched by this grant. If we raise $15,000 in new donations from supporters who have not previously given to MHLC, the trust will match each gift dollar-for-dollar. Read more about this generous challenge from The Miller Family Charitable Trust.

Become a NEW donor

Please donate today and tell your family and friends about this exciting opportunity. We are counting on you for your support!

**Click on the button above to donate online or print this form and mail today!**

*According to the Growing Air Foundation www.growingairfoundation.org/facts/

MHLC Partners with Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission

Land acquired in 2019 expands the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Photo courtesy of Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission.

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is one of the last remaining inland pine barrens on earth. It is a place that might remind the casual observer of Cape Cod or Long Island, yet it is located in the midst of the Capital District–far from the coasts that people usually associate with these environments. Sand dunes, pitch pine trees, and a fire-adapted natural community are a few of the distinctive elements that contribute to this unique natural landmark.

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (APBPC) is a public-private partnership created by the NYS Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage this unique natural environment and provide the public with educational and recreational opportunities at the Preserve. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy works with the Commission as a partner to further the conservation goal of protecting the pine barren’s unique and sensitive habitat preserve. Historically, Commission partners such as The Nature Conservancy, MHLC, and other members of the Preserve Commission worked to add property to the preserve through a cooperative agreement with the Commission. Under new 2018 legislation guidelines, the Commission is now able to acquire land directly, and MHLC continues to work as a partner in support of APBPC and their land protection efforts. 

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is pleased to partner with the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission in support of the ongoing expansion of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The Pine Bush is one of the most unique ecological features of the Capital District and is one of the most successful examples of effective public/private partnerships to address environmental issues.

28+ Acres Added!

Photo Courtesy of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Recently, the Commission announced two new properties that have brought the total protected acreage of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve to more than 3,350 acres. The first 7.2-acre property acquired by the APBPC was donated by the Cirillo Family Partnership to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The Cirillo family owned the land for many years and they were determined to add their acreage to the ecologically-unique National Natural Landmark. The donated property is located on Albany Street in the Town of Colonie and adjoins land owned by The Nature Conservancy. MHLC has subsequently donated this property to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for dedication to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. This is the first property ever donated by an individual to the preserve for permanent habitat protection since the APBPC was established.  The Friends of the Pine Bush Community (Friends) contributed funding for this protection effort through its Land Protection Fund to help defray MHLC’s acquisition costs. The second 20.9-acre property was purchased directly by the Commission using its new ability to directly acquire real property from those wishing to add their land to the preserve.

The Ecological Significance of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve

The 3,350-acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP), located in New York’s Capital District, protects one of the best remaining inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens in the world. This globally rare habitat is fire-dependent, which means that many plants directly depend on the conditions only fire can create and maintain. The highly diverse landscape also features rolling sand dunes that provide homes for a wide array of biodiverse species from Eastern hog-nosed snakes to Prairie Warblers. The Blue Lupine is the signature plant of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve and serves as the food source for the caterpillars of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, which makes its home in the Pine Bush. A variety of rare plants and animals, including 78 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, also exist in this unique habitat. The APBP is a National Natural Landmark, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Site, a New York State Unique Area and Bird Conservation Area, and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area.  

The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission continues to work towards its conservation goal of expanding the preserve to 5,380 acres as outlined in the 2017 Management Plan Update, and with MHLC as a partner. In the coming years, an additional 38 acres of Pine Bush land conserved by MHLC will be transferred through New York State to be dedicated to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Additional information can be found on the Albany Pine Bush Preserve website.

MHLC Partners with The Nature Conservancy and Albany Water Board to Combat Climate Change

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.

Aerial view of the Alcove Reservoir

“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.

Forested lands of the Alcove Reservoir, Albany Water Board

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.”