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.

Earth Day Clean-Up 2020

Join MHLC’s Earth Day Clean-Up! Please select a preserve and use the link to register.


1. Ashford Glen Preserve | Colonie

2. Bozen Kill Preserve | Altamont

3. Fox Preserve | Colonie

4. Phillipkin Kill | Delmar

5. Normanside East/West Preserves | Delmar

6. Schoharie Creek Preserve | Charleston

7. Shiffendecker Preserve | Delmar

8. Van Dyke Preserve | Delmar

9. Winn Preserve | Knox

10. Wolf Creek Falls | Knox

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! 

LEARN MORE DONATE TODAY

 

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.

LEARN MORE DONATE TODAY

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.”

Meet MHLC: Bill Little, Taking Action to Protect the Local Environment

The Meet MHLC blog series is back in action! This month we are picking back up the series to introduce Bill Little, our newest MHLC Board Member. Bill has jumped right in, volunteering for countless work days with the stewardship team and tabling for MHLC at community events. We are very grateful for his dedication and tireless efforts to advance land conservation in the region! 

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

I joined MHLC in 2018 after being encouraged to do so by a friend and MHLC member, so I began volunteering about a year after I retired as an attorney for the Department of Environmental Conservation.  I was fortunate to be able to join the MHLC Board in March of this year.

What inspires you to support MHLC?

I had known about MHLC for many years during my legal career through friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. I knew that MHLC provided a conduit for many people to translate their environmental activism directly to the land, especially preserving important landscapes and watersheds. Upon joining, I found that MHLC’s extended chain of preserves and their considerable and growing preservation efforts impressed me as a way to expand my contact with and improvement of our area’s natural resources. This includes topical concerns such as climate change, which was a subject of my job, and long-held personal convictions about spending more time appreciating and protecting woodlots and wild areas.

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

As a volunteer, I keep it simple because MHLC staffers know a great deal about the preserves and are more experienced in identifying ways to enhance them, plus they are good listeners. I am there to dig, lift, shift, clip, cut, chop, hammer, weed-whack and learn. I try to contribute in any way that supports the mission assigned to the workday; hopefully, I see the work needs and identify solutions in a way that helps. Another role is to use my time to try and draw other people towards a greater appreciation for preserving the local environment that, because of its closeness to our towns and neighborhoods, will contribute highly to our quality of life.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC? 

The list for favorite aspects of volunteering is very long but there are two core elements that I really value: spending time enhancing preserves and extending MHLC’s outreach.  Preserve work is how I can roll up my sleeves and get personal with ground-level environmental preservation, which I have always liked to do but had inadequate time for while working. Contributing to outreach efforts (as with tabling at Five Rivers) has the added element of drawing a bit on my professional skills in a forum that is more down to earth. Both have an element of expectation for raising greater public appreciation of MHLC and its environmental mission.

Fall Fundraiser Photo Gallery 2019

Stories from the Land, MHLC’s Annual Fall Fundraiser

On Thursday, October 3, the spacious fourth floor of the New York State Museum came to life, blossoming into a beautiful event, filled with conversation, laughter, a celebration of over 12,000 acres conserved in our region, and a glimpse at the exciting conservation efforts in progress. Dinner by Garden Bistro 24, beverages by Capital Wine and Indian Ladder Farms Cidery and Brewery, live music from Spiral Tango with Ray Andrews, and beautiful centerpieces by Sheila Hart and Sarah Carroll set the scene for a lovely fall evening. Congratulations to our honorees, Jeff Jones and Eleanor Stein, recognized for their extraordinary conservation efforts in the Capital Region, New York State, and beyond.

Thank you to everyone who made Stories from the Land a success! Without the support of our event sponsors, in kind donors, volunteers, staff, and each and every guest, the evening would not have been possible. Special thanks to event sponsors Kevin Pittz of Edward Jones and Schrader & Company Construction Services. THANK YOU!

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.

ART’s 2nd Annual Chalk the Walk Event

Chalk the Walk 2018

Art on the Rail Trail (ART) will hold the second annual chalk art contest and festival in Delmar on Saturday, September 21, from 3:00 – 6:00 PM. “Chalk the Walk,” a multi-faceted community event, will be held on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, beginning at the pocket park near Stewart’s at 309 Delaware Avenue. The event will begin with a family-friendly chalk art contest on the Rail Trail with the community voting for prizes donated by Merriman & Pfister’s Marketplace and Stewarts Shops starting at 5:00 PM. If you would like to participate in the chalk contest, you can purchase a 3 foot by 3 foot square to chalk your own design on the trail! Registration is $10.00 in advance and $15.00 on the day of Chalk the Walk. All proceeds from chalk square sales will benefit murals and artwork on the Rail Trail and are tax-deductible, as ART is a committee of the non-profit organization Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Food, Music, and an Art Festival too!

During Chalk the Walk, the community can enjoy an artist festival, food trucks, and live music on the Rail Trail. People are encouraged to walk or bike to see the chalk art on the trail, and then enjoy the music and locally crafted food and beverages. Three local bands and musicians will perform: Hot Tuesday, Malvina, and Capitol Harmony (a youth acapella group). Food will include: Field Notes, a farm-to-table outfit sourcing their menu from Lansing Farms in Colonie; Emack & Bolio will bring their ice cream truck from Albany; Delmar-based Market Pops will sell creative ice pops – from a tricycle! – made with local ingredients and joy; and local business Surf Juices will round out the tasty refreshments. 

The art fair will be directly on the Rail Trail and will feature original paintings, handmade quilts, flower arrangements, and jewelry, among other goods, sold by local artists. 

Please note that the Rail Trail will remain completely open during this event, as the chalk art takes place on only half of the trail surface. Event organizers thank trail walkers and bikers in advance for sharing the trail in this section and for slowing down a bit to enjoy the art and festivities along their way. 

Bringing People Together

Chalk the Walk 2018

“Art on the Rail Trail is holding the Chalk the Walk event as a way to bring awareness to the murals on the trail, the connections between the Rail Trail and our local businesses, and also to bring people together in a festive and creative way,” says Karen Shaw, co-organizer for the event. “We’ve also partnered with Merriman and Pfister’s Marketplace, a local art and gift shop in downtown Delmar. They have been champions of the local art community, and we wanted them to be involved.” Merriman and Pfister’s Marketplace has donated gift certificates to their Delmar store for the top three chalk art squares; Stewarts gift certificates will also be included in the prizes. 

Vote for Your Favorite Chalk Art!

Artists will be judged by passerby on the trail, but participants are encouraged to just have fun with their chalk art! “Anyone who wants to vote on which chalk art square they love the most, can vote,” adds co-organizer Caroline Barrett, “We wanted to give the community a chance to be involved – even if they aren’t creating a chalk drawing.” Voting will start at 5:00 PM, and ballots will be collected at 6:00 PM. Winners will be notified that day. 

For more information contact Art on the Rail Trail at art@mohawkhudson.org. To register for the chalk art contest, go to www.mohawkhudson.org/events

Volunteers are needed from 1 – 6 PM! Please contact art@mohawkhudson.org.

From the Conservation Director: MHLC Encourages You to Visit and Sign In

Preserve Steward Kathy Meany attaches signage to the kiosk at the Bozen Kill Preserve.

Are you signing in each time you visit a preserve? We hope so–this information if very useful to MHLC! Traditionally, registration boxes in the backcountry have been used as a way to ensure safety. By providing your name and number, forest rangers are able to make a recovery if anything happens. Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy also has registration boxes, but they are not necessarily used in the traditional sense. Our registration boxes serve as a gauge of how often our preserves are used and are also a great way to provide feedback on the trail’s condition – if a tree is down, or if other stewardship is needed. MHLC Preserve Stewards collect completed sign-in sheets and bring them back to our Stewardship staff who then review the sheets and respond to trail comments. Therefore, we encourage you to sign-in each time you visit a preserve and to provide comments on your experience.

This fall, MHLC is installing new roadside signs to guide visitors to preserves. The signs will make our preserves more identifiable and easier for the public to access. New signs have already been installed at Bozen Kill, Wolf Creek Falls, Winn, Mosher Marsh, and Schoharie Creek Preserves. As installation continues through September and October, please beware of drilled holes near preserve entrances. 

This capital improvement project was funded through the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund. (The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.)

Help us continue to provide quality trails to the public by signing in when you are out enjoying our preserves. We look forward to seeing you on the trail!
Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

From the Stewardship Desk: Look Out for Turtles!

Eastern Painted Turtle

Throughout the summer and even this late into the season, you may have spotted some of my favorite not-so-furry friends out on the trails or roads–the incredible, indelible turtle! Box turtles, the eastern painted, and snapping turtles are commonly found throughout our area. Unfortunately, many interactions with these species happen on roads throughout the summer. 

You can help!

When you see a turtle in or traveling onto a road, always be sure you can safely park and navigate the traffic around you before helping! It is important to help the turtle in the same direction the turtle is headed. Turtles have an incredible compass and are able to use and navigate the contours of the landscape instinctively. (Some sea turtles even use the stars to navigate!) If the turtle is moved in another direction, it will likely turn back on its course of travel which could mean going right back onto the busy road.

Most of the road activity for these local turtles happens in early June when they are laying eggs in the exposed dirt and sunny areas where they prefer to nest. This is the time of year when those baby turtles emerge! Because turtles are such a long-lived species, reaching sexually maturity decades into their life, it is important to drive cautiously, help when safe, and make sure to give these babies the best start to their life.

Kent Harlow
Stewardship Coordinator 

2019 Summer Hike-a-thon

Plein Air Painting at Van Dyke Preserve

Each year, MHLC’s Annual Summer Hike-a-thon features a menu of activities designed to provide unique, guided opportunities to learn more about the preserved lands of our region. These exclusive offerings are a chance for frequent users of the trails to get insider information about their favorite spots from MHLC staff and volunteers, and an opportunity for those visiting the preserves for the first time to discover new hiking spots across the Capital Region. This year’s event featured eight different outdoor adventures, including special tours of Wolf Hollow/Hoffman’s Fault in West Glenville and the Heldeberg Workshop in New Scotland—both of these private lands are not normally open to the public.

Despite the intense heat wave on this July weekend, our 2019 Summer Hike-a-thon drew several hundred participants to various adventures across the Capital Region. Our hike guides shared their expert knowledge as they led participants on one-of-a-kind adventures. We enjoyed many engaging, hands-on experiences including catching frogs at the Heldeberg Workshop, petting a rescued baby beaver at the Huyck Preserve, painting landscapes at Van Dyke Preserve, exploring Hoffman’s Fault at Wolf Hollows, mountain biking the Keleher Preserve, and cruising the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. Thanks to all who participated! You can see highlights from the day in our photo gallery below.

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.

Help protect the Heldeberg Workshop!

DONATE TODAY to the Heldeberg Workshop conservation effort

We are pleased to announce that the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has entered into a partnership with the Heldeberg Workshop to permanently protect the Workshop lands from development. 

For more than 15 years, the Conservancy has been working to preserve the lands of the Helderberg Escarpment by creating a protected corridor linking the lands and wetlands beneath the escarpment from Indian Ladder Farms to Thacher State Park and beyond. The 250-acre Heldeberg Workshop lands are the largest unprotected property immediately below Thacher Park and provide a key connection in creating a conservation corridor of nearly 3,500 acres.

The Workshop property is well known for its natural resource values that make the Helderberg Escarpment so ecologically and geologically significant. These include:

  • rich fossil deposits, more than 60% of New York’s amphibian species, at least 13 bird species listed as New York Species of Greatest Conservation Need, plus large flocks of spring and fall migrants;
  • Vly Swamp, located at the base of our Workshop lands, has been identified as a biodiversity “hotspot,” with records of many other animals and plants of conservation concern, and; 
  • limestone cliffs, boulders, and talus, which are present at the higher elevations of our Workshop lands, and which provide habitat for a variety of rare and unusual species of flora and fauna, including the endangered Indiana Bat.

Our goal in permanently protecting the Workshop’s lands is two-fold:

  1. The Workshop’s 250 acres provide a key piece of the Helderberg Conservation Corridor. Its lands encompass unique wetlands, scenic open spaces, and wildlife habitat in an area that is being steadily fragmented by nearby subdivision and suburban sprawl.
  2. The Workshop’s “Adventure in Learning” is not possible without the lands upon which they operate. The Board of the Workshop is committed to permanently protecting “The Land” from development for future generations.

GREAT NEWS! The fundraising deadline for this project has been extended so that we can possibly add other adjoining properties to this conservation effort. To complete the project and fully protect the Workshop’s lands and the lands adjoining, we need to raise $100,000 by April 30, 2020. This work is urgent—if we do not raise the funds this vital conservation effort will not be possible.

DONATE TODAY

 

Read more about the Heldeberg Workshop conservation effort here:

Heldeberg Workshop

Read more about our recent Helderberg Conservation Corridor work:

Helderberg Conservation Corridor Success!

Announcing 2019 Summer Hike-a-thon

On Saturday, July 20th, MHLC is inviting the public to our annual Summer Hike-a-thon! This day-long celebration allows each participant to design their own ideal summer day with free activities throughout the morning and into the afternoon with an emphasis on hiking and outdoor fun.

Photo of 2017 Hike-a-Thon by Alex Nye Art 2017

“Our annual Summer Hike-a-thon is an open invitation to our community to get outside and enjoy the beautiful land that surrounds us. The eight locations which we have chosen represent a sampling of our 18 public preserves covering 2,500 acres that are located across the Capital Region,” says MHLC Executive Director, Mark King. “Last year, these preserves hosted over 15,000 visitors, with many people returning again and again for a rewarding nature experience. We are particularly excited this year to offer two special tours—Wolf Hollow/Hoffman’s Fault in West Glenville and the Heldeberg Workshop in New Scotland—as these private lands are not normally open to the public. Whether you choose a full day of activities, or one outdoor adventure, we hope to see you at the Summer Hike-a-thon.”

The Summer Hike-a-thon provides unique, guided opportunities to learn more about the preserved lands of our region: frequent users of these trails will get insider information about their favorite spots from MHLC staff and volunteers, and those visiting the preserves for the first time will discover new hiking spots across the Capital Region.

Beginning at 10 AM, MHLC offers a menu of free family-friendly outdoor adventures across the Capital Region. These offerings celebrate the unique features and beautiful landscapes which characterize our region and include a plein air painting workshop, mountain biking, a Fun Ride on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, geology, botany, and history hikes, and more.

All Summer Hike-a-thon outings are free (donations are welcome), but spaces are limited.

To learn more and to register for an outdoor adventure, visit www.mohawkhudson.org/hike-a-thon2019/. Online registrations close on Wednesday, July 17, but there will be a registration table at the MHLC office at 425 Kenwood Avenue in Delmar at 9 AM on the morning of Saturday, July 20 for the public to come and sign up for a hike that day.

Stay Connected!

Is MHLC email landing in your junk or spam folder? 

Be sure to stay connected by “whitelisting” our domain! Add @mohawkhudson.org to your list of Safe Senders to ensure you are receiving all of our communications. If you are finding MHLC mail in your spam folder, follow the directions in this link to fix the issue.

If you need assistance, please give us a call (518) 436-6346. We want to make sure you stay in the loop on all of our latest news and exciting events!

Earth Day 2019: Recap of Events

Many of us welcome the return of warm weather by getting back to work in our yards, raking out flower beds to reveal new growth and clearing gardens in anticipation of summer planting. Here at MHLC, we are using this time to spruce up our preserves in preparation for the busy summer season ahead. What better way to celebrate the month of Earth Day than gathering with friends for a work day at the MHLC Preserves! We kicked-off the month-long Earth Day celebration with a staff clean-up day at the Fisher Boulevard Property, followed by two volunteer work days at Bennett Hill Preserve, and a special family activity on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

Work days at Bennett Hill Preserve

Volunteers from St. Matthew’s Church

On Saturday, April 13th, MHLC Board Chair, Chris Gorka assembled a group of friends from St. Matthew’s Church in Voorhesville to volunteer at the Bennett Hill Preserve. Sixteen volunteers gave their time on this Saturday morning to give back to the land they love. Braving the muddy conditions, the group put in an incredible amount of effort on trail sustainability projects. It’s always amazing to see the progress made when a large group comes together for a work day!

Volunteers finish installing the new split rail fence at Bennett Hill Preserve.

The following week, on April 20th, we hosted the “Earth Day Volunteer Morning: Bennett Hill Preserve Trailwork” event. A group of twenty volunteers worked tirelessly through the pouring rain to improve the ever-popular Bennett Hill Preserve. With such a great volunteer turn out, we were able to divide the group several much-needed preserve improvement projects. While volunteers shoveled and raked gravel out to resurface the driveway, another group worked alongside them to install a split rail fence. The new fence stretches out over 200 feet and provides a beautiful, welcoming entryway for preserve visitors. Out on the trail, volunteers installed three culverts to help divert spring run-off, and keep the trail dry and clear all season long. Our volunteers also cleared away overgrown bramble to tidy the parking area.

Family fun in the spirit of Earth Day

Making sun photographs alongside the Rail Trail.

On April 25th, families gathered for “Earth Day Explorations: Crafts, Storytime, and a Hike.” We were so pleased to see a large turn-out! A group of nearly twenty children and ten adults gathered at the Rail Trail. The morning started with a storytime presented by Michelle Waldenmaier from Bethlehem Public Library. The children listened intently as Michelle read them Earth Day themed stories. They also enjoyed a song about recycling to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” After the story, we made sun photographs. The children collected little sticks, pebbles, grass, and dandelions to create interesting patterns on the special solar paper. Under the bright sun, the images appeared quickly! When the craft was finished, we took a hike down the Rail Trail. The children admired the whimsical ART Committee mural along the trail by artist Andrea Hersh. As we hiked the trail, the children observed a few birds calling, butterflies fluttering, and squirrels scurrying among the trees along the path. They learned all about the Rail Trail—many of them were surprised to hear that the route was once railroad tracks. The hike ended near Stewart’s where we passed out ice cream tickets, courtesy of Stewart’s Shops to our young Earth Day explorers!

Earth Day Explorers gather around Michelle Waldenmaier, Bethlehem Public Library.


MHLC offers many opportunities for volunteers and hosts a variety of FREE events throughout the year. Looking for something to do? Check out our calendar of events!