MHLC Land Success: Conservation Easement on Picard’s Grove

The fate of this 86-acre iconic landscape at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment hung in the balance when owner Jeanne Picard Fish was declared incapacitated last December. When surrounding neighbors learned of the proposed sale of the Picard’s Grove property to a local developer, MHLC’s phone rang off the hook with offers to help save the land from extensive development.

Over the last few months, MHLC staff members have been working furiously to convince the court that conserving this acreage was the best outcome for Jeanne Picard, the community, and the land. At one point eight different attorneys were involved in the direction of the future of the property. On October 9, MHLC oversaw the sale of the property to local neighbors Richard and Valerie Glover. The sale will provide long-term care for Jeanne Picard Fish as well as her move to a new nursing home. Greg Picard stated, “On behalf of the Picard Family, I would like to personally thank all parties involved in the sale of the Picard property. The majority of the property will be protected by an easement through the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The Picard Family name lives on preserving the land. This would have not been possible without generous donations. We look forward to the next chapter as this project involves.”

In conjunction with the property sale, neighbors and Picard relatives provided MHLC with the support needed to purchase a conservation easement over Picard’s Grove, protecting 80% of the land as required by the court. Under the conservation, the property remains private and stays on the property tax role, but any future development is limited to very specific areas of the property.

“We feel very blessed and privileged to fulfill our shared dream of conserving and preserving this  beautiful land for generations to enjoy, including all life that dwells in and passes through this natural habitat, but which has no voice of its own,” Valerie Glover


With the protection of the Picard property, MHLC has conserved more than 700 acres beneath the Helderberg Conservation Corridor, a culturally and biologically rich landscape of farms and forest linking nearly 4,000 acres of protected lands between the Black Creek Mash Wildlife Management Area to Thacher State Park, with Indian Ladder Farms as its centerpiece. “The Picard property is a critical linkage in the corridor and is part of an iconic view of the Heldeberg Escarpment. Thousands of people attended events at the Grove and enjoyed this spectacular location beneath the escarpment,” said Executive Director Mark King, “and we are so pleased that the Court recognized the importance of a conservation outcome for the property. The alternative would have been heartbreaking for the community.”

The easement will ensure the views to the Helderberg Escarpment remain as they have for decades before. And, just as Jeanne Picard Fish had once enjoyed her horses at Picard’s Grove, Valerie and Richard Glover look forward to having their horses on the land very soon.

Welcome to the Touhey Family Preserve!

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is thrilled to announce the opening of our 20th preserve, the Touhey Family Preserve, located at 911 Delaware Ave in Delmar.

The preserve features a wonderfully diverse habitat of woodlands, wetlands, open fields, and a small pond. Lookout points from the eastern side of the preserve offer scenic views of the Phillipin Kill Valley and the neighboring Phillipin Kill Preserve. The new trail system, created by Pinnacle Trail Design and Construction, is an easy 1-mile loop. Plans for additional trails are already in motion. We invite you and your family to explore this beautiful new preserve!

Thank You to the Touhey Family

This 49-acre property was the original homestead of the Touhey family and is what remains of the more than 100-acre farm that stretched from Orchard Street to Delaware Avenue. The Touhey family is well known for their philanthropic nature and their passion for giving back to the community. Sharing the vision of their father Carl Touhey, Charlie, Virginia, John, and Lila have contributed greatly to causes with a significant impact on the entire Capital Region. To share their enjoyment of the natural world, the Touhey family worked with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to open the property to the public.

“You don’t have to be a resident of Bethlehem or Delmar or Slingerlands to enjoy this lovely piece of land. We can be a part of a little bit of evening out the scales of environmental justice and enabling people to enjoy this land,” says Charles Touhey. “We are very happy today to dedicate and consecrate this wonderful piece of land for the benefit of everyone to use.”

Plan a visit today! For additional details about the Touhey Family Preserve, including a trail map, please visit the preserve web page. As with all MHLC Preserves, we ask that you please be mindful of social distancing and wear a mask when approaching others on the trail or in the parking area. If the Touhey Family Preserve lot is full, please visit one of our nearby preserves.

The 20-20 Challenge

Inspired by the opening of MHLC’s 20th preserve and in memory of their father, Ed Miller, the Miller family will match every dollar donated, up to $20,000, before December 31, 2020. To learn more about the 20-20 Challenge or to make a donation, please visit

Below is the video announcement of the new preserve that was shown during our Sowing Seeds fundraiser.


Important Update on Bender Melon Farm

Want to display a yard sign? Contact our office!

We are at a very exciting point with the Bender Melon Farm project. Following a wonderful $250,000 pledge toward the project, we are down to less than $93,000 to close on the property! (updated 10-5-20) This includes the potential sale of a 20-acre area across from Stewart’s Shop on Route 85 to help meet the Town of New Scotland’s hamlet zoning vision, with the remaining 175+/- acres of the Bender Melon Farm Property to be preserved.

With convenient access from the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, the scenic landscape holds tremendous potential for numerous recreational and educational possibilities. We envision a variety of uses for the land including trails accessible from the Rail Trail, possible ongoing agricultural uses, and vital habitat improvement and restoration. MHLC will also coordinate closely with the Town of New Scotland as they advance the adjacent Hilton Barn restoration. This truly is a historic opportunity to shape future land use in the area. We believe the combination of the Hilton Barn, the Rail Trail, and the Bender Melon Farm will create a community asset unlike any other in the Capital District – linking communities, history, recreation, and conservation.

Generous support from the community has made a profound impact on this project, and our goal is now in sight! Please help us to spread the word about this conservation project—your passion for this land is the voice we need to rally support from the community. Together, we can see this project through, protecting Bender Melon Farm and preserving the rural character of our region for generations to come.

Our October 29th deadline is quickly approaching; please act now to help us reach our goal. 



Collecting Bird Data at Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve

Open areas at Strawberry Fields are ideal for collecting bird migration data.

Earlier this summer, Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve landowner Jeff Leon placed a receiver station on his property to collect data on migrating birds. The receiver station is part of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System, a collaborative research network to collect wildlife movement. 

This receiver station picks up signals given off by tiny digitally encoded tags placed on birds. Bird movements during migration season across the northeast and eastern Canada are captured by the receiver, giving scientists detailed data like never before. This data helps scientists to better understand bird movements and reasons for increasing bird declines over the last few decades.

The receiver at Strawberry Fields is one of 325 receivers placed in the Northeast and Great Lakes Region to fill a critical information gap for bird scientists. Strawberry Fields was selected for its northeastern location and elevation. If you have visited this preserve, you know the panoramic view down to the Mohawk Valley it provides! This, along with the open fields maintained by the Leon Family make the preserve an excellent spot to collect bird migration information.

Strawberry Fields Motus Station Captures First Migrating Birds!

This MOTUS receiver station at Strawberry Fields will help fill the critical information gap in bird migration data.

In late August, the Motus station at the Strawberry Field Preserve had its first two data points of birds migrating over this promontory in the Capital Region. The first species was a sanderling, a small shorebird often seen running in the surf to catch small animals in the sand. This species is not one you would normally affiliate with the rolling grasslands of Montgomery County. The Sanderling just flew over on its fall journey–which could be anywhere between 1,800 and 6,000 miles depending on its final wintering grounds. We won’t know if this bird prefers a few weeks in Florida or South America.

The other species to fly over was a chimney swift. This bird spends all of its time on the wing feeding on flying insects and can sometimes be seen diving into chimneys near dusk to roost during the summer months. Here, they cling to the side of these man-made cavities and raise their young. This particular bird is on a long journey, moving from the north of Canada, it passes through the Mohawk River Valley on its way south for the winter.

Why is this data important?

A recent report in the journal Science noted that one out of every four birds has been lost in the last fifty years. By tracking bird movement with nano-tags and Motus towers, scientists can find out how long birds live, where they travel for the winter, and they can determine where along the journey threats may lie. This data leads to more protections for birds where they need it most!

Although it’s early in the migration season, you can watch the bird movement increase over the coming months using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Live Cast Bird Migration Map. You can also learn more about the bird species mentioned in this post at the Lab’s All About Birds Website.

MHLC would like to thank Bird Studies Canada, Project Owlnet, and the Williston Conservation Trust for reaching out to us and for leading the effort to gain new Motus receiver locations. Stay tuned for additional data as birds migrate over Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve this fall! To learn more about Motus, click here.


This map shows a Chimney Swift’s migration path over Strawberry Fields Preserve. This was detected using a Motus station and nano-tags placed on the bird. You can view more at



Summer Hike-a-thon Scavenger Hunt a Success!



Despite temperatures in the 90s and amidst a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, MHLC hosted its annual hike-a-thon event with a special twist. On the weekend of July 18, more than 550 Capital Region residents spent time searching our 19 preserves in search of hidden gnomes. Those sending selfies with the gnomes were rewarded with ice cream from our very generous event sponsor Stewart’s Shops!

Staff, volunteer artists, and preserve stewards worked together to create an “on your own” scavenger hunt. Small wooden gnomes were designed, cut, painted, and carefully hidden on the trails. Riddles offered clues to the gnomes’ hiding spots, for example, “Where is this gnome? I have my suspicion. I do believe that they’ve gone fishin’!”

Keeping it fun and safe

To accommodate a large number of registrations and prevent crowding, we extended the event from July 18 to July 21, suggested alternatives for parking lots at capacity, and asked participants to wear masks when approaching others on the trails and in parking areas. We really appreciate everyone’s efforts to keep themselves and each other safe; we know the challenges of wearing a mask on a really hot day!

Head over heels for gnomes!

We were delighted to receive such an overwhelming response to the event. More than 120 photos were submitted and added to the Summer Hike-a-thon Scavenger Hunt photo albumMany community members also expressed gratitude for having something fun to do during a time when the pandemic has significantly limited entertainment options. For some, the Summer Hike-a-thon Scavenger Hunt brought them out to local preserves that they might not have visited otherwise. 

“When the pandemic started, my wife and I started checking out the preserve sites. We enjoy walking and checking them out by trying different trails. …Keep up the great work you are doing to keep these little gems available to the public and open to nature. Thanks!” Herman R.


“We found gnomes at Van Dyke, Normans Kill East and West, and Schiffendecker. We had a blast and embarrassingly had not been to any [of these preserves] before this weekend. Now we are thinking of continuing until we get to all of them! Thanks so much!” Katie Y.

Way to go, Lewis Family!

The Lewis Family found ALL 19 gnomes!      Click to enlarge!

The Lewis family of Delmar surprised us with the news that they had found all 19 gnomes! Dan and Sarah Lewis took their son Jacob to every single preserve to capture a selfie with each gnome—a pretty impressive accomplishment in just four days!

In an email to MHLC, Sarah Lewis wrote, “The extra time we have had because of the pandemic has meant lots of opportunities to explore hiking options close to home. When we saw the list of clues, we knew where many of them were because we had hiked at so many of the preserves recently.” The Lewis family initially planned to find five gnomes at a few of their favorite preserves. After getting started, they decided it would be a fun challenge to find all nineteen and see the rest of the preserves their family hadn’t visited yet along the way. “We had an awesome day, even seeing a bald eagle at Hollyhock Hollow after finding our last gnome!” Jacob said that it was “tiring and hot …but a lot of fun!” He looks forward to going back to explore the trails of his new favorite—the Winn Preserve.

We could not have done this without you!

Thank you to our volunteer artists Vicary Thomas, Ellie Prakken, Emily Meier, Andrea Cuozzo, and Joan Frederick for helping to paint gnomes, and to our Preserve Stewards for escorting the gnomes to and from their hiding spots at each preserve. The gnomes have left the preserves for now and are being well-cared for by our loving volunteers! And thank you to everyone who joined us… we’re truly overjoyed by the outpouring of support. Please continue to enjoy our preserves and the solace they provide during these times. With any luck, you may just see the gnomes out there again sometime! 

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:

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

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

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,

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

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.

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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 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

$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! 



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.


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.