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!

Helderberg Conservation Corridor Success!

The Helderberg Escarpment is a prominent natural feature in Albany County that is also ecologically and geologically significant. Areas in and around the Escarpment have been recognized by New York State as important habitat for endangered and rare species of flora and fauna. The extreme topography of the Escarpment creates a resilient and biodiverse area, making it a high priority for conservation. MHLC has worked to not only protect the ecology of this area, but also preserve the viewshed to and from this Albany County icon.

We are thrilled to announce the protection of two new properties in the Helderbergs thanks to generous donations from Dr. Eric Foster and Sandra Camp.

Locust Knoll Easement

View from Locust Knoll Property

The private 104.8-acre Locust Knoll easement adds to the preservation of the iconic rolling hills, sensitive talus slopes and treed vista of the Helderberg Escarpment. Passionate about protecting the land where they raised their family, the Fosters pieced together the land parcels around their home in stages through the years to ensure that the open space remained undeveloped, and to create the large expanse that was put under easement with MHLC recently.

This key property is located at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment and shares the Hudson Valley Limestone and Shales unique to this area. It provides upland habitat for wildlife species that use Vly Swamp and its open fields, skirted by forests and some shrubbery, create a matrix of habitat variability for birds and wildlife.

With the new conservation easement, MHLC will now protect this land permanently.

Polishchuk Property Acquisition

View of Polishchuk Property

The 10.6-acre Polishchuk acquisition, located directly above Locust Knoll, provides a crucial block of protected forested land at the entrance to Thacher Park. With the donation of the Locust Knoll easement, it forms one of only two locations with contiguous preserved lands on the Helderberg Escarpment from above and below. Sandra Camp’s funding of this Polishchuk Property and the bequest of her own lands, along with the neighboring George Martin and Guthrie Properties, provides 50 highly visible acres of adjoining preserved land along the face of Escarpment.

The Polishchuk Property is within a significant natural community, as designated by the Natural Heritage Program, known as a maple-basswood rich mesic forest. It is also in the vicinity of both rare plants and animals, particularly a State-listed bat species. The property is easily visible from a vast area below the escarpment. The views of this property manifest in a broad expanse of treed forest, a view historic to the Escarpment and one that is preserved with the conservation of this parcel.

A work in progress: the Helderberg Conservation Corridor

In 2003, with the acquisition of a conservation easement on Indian Ladder Farms, MHLC and conservation partner Open Space Institute (OSI) started the Helderberg Conservation Corridor project. Since then, we have been steadily working to protect the lands of the Helderberg Escarpment. The acquisition of the Locust Knoll Easement and Polishchuk Properties is considered a significant success as these land parcels are important connecting pieces in the Helderberg Conservation Corridor. The protection of these new properties creates a corridor of almost 500 acres of climate resilient habitat critical to our region’s wildlife, while further conserving this historic viewshed and important open space.

Announcing a new effort: the Heldeberg Workshop

This year, efforts are underway to conserve the largest undeveloped acreage below Thacher Park, the 257-acre Heldeberg Workshop Property. The Workshop is home to the Adventure in Learning summer camp, a program that for more than 50 years has delivered the ultimate outdoor experience to 1,400 students each summer. This summer program gives students a unique experience with courses in art, theater, science and the environment taught in an outdoor setting.  It is the hope that this easement will protect this unique property and its unique programming for future generations.

The Heldeberg Workshop property is one of the critical stepping stones to creating greater connectivity within the Helderberg Escarpment, a goal of New York State’s Open Space Plan and MHLC. This property is both scenic, historic, and ecologically significant, and connects John Boyd Thacher Park to Indian Ladder Farms and other protected lands. 

This property is also vital to the conservation of the larger, regional landscape—the development of a 3500-acre swath of protected lands from Thacher Park across Indian Ladder Farms to the Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management area, with the goal of providing a vital corridor for wildlife movement while preserving these natural landscapes for generations.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy will begin an effort to raise the funds for this important conservation effort soon.

Visit our website this summer for updated information about this new project and learn how you can help us reach our 2019 conservation goal for this important landscape!

MHLC Partners with Bethlehem Children’s School on Scavenger Hunt

Earth Day is tomorrow… what are you doing to celebrate? If you are looking for an outdoor adventure, why not check out this amazing family scavenger hunt!

#exploremore Family Scavenger Hunt

We are excited to announce our partnership, together with The Nature Conservancy and Albany Pine Bush Preserve, to support Bethlehem Children’s School’s new event series: #exploremore Family Scavenger Hunt. BCS announced the launch of the event series at Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center on Thursday, April 18th. The 8-week real-world scavenger hunt begins on Friday, April 19th—just three days before Earth Day, and will continue through the end of the school year. Spend some family time outdoors with this fun local activity!

Is it a Spring peeper frog? A vernal pond? Deer tracks?

Solve the riddles, find the answer in nature, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a prize! Each week a new kid-friendly riddle will be posted to BCS’s social media. Families will work to solve these weekly riddles and then head out to the MHLC preserves and other local preserves to search for the answer! Participants will have until the following Thursday to post a geotagged photograph, with #exploremore and #naturewisdomwellness, to their Instagram or Facebook account to be registered in a weekly drawing for prizes. On June 14th, all participants will be entered into a grand prize drawing to win a free week of Summer Camp at Bethlehem Children’s School. Complete participation rules can be found on the BCS Family Scavenger Hunt web page. 

Fostering the next generation of conservationists

The event series is an excellent opportunity for children and their families to take a closer look at nature, experiencing what lies just beyond their own backyards in the acres of conserved space around the Capital Region. MHLC’s 18 preserves offer miles upon miles of trails through rolling fields and forests, alongside winding streams and waterfalls, with native wildlife all around… get out and explore with us!

Staff Clean-up Day at Fisher Boulevard Property

A work day to celebrate Earth Day! 

Each April, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy joins the global observation of the birth of the modern environmental movement with a series of Earth Day events. This year, to kick-off our month-long celebration, MHLC staff, along with Preserve Steward Marilyn Fancher, embarked upon a special team excursion on Wednesday, April 4th, to tour the property slated to be our newest Bethlehem preserve (look for our big announcement this fall!) and tidy the lands of one of our newest acquisitions: the Fisher Boulevard property.

We enjoyed a brisk spring morning, complete with birdsong and new buds, while hiking through the forests of Bethlehem followed by litter pickup at our Fisher Boulevard property, in the Towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland. This land, protected by MHLC in 2018, increased the conserved land of Five Rivers by 35 acres, and is not yet open to the public. During the winter months, the roadside had accumulated a significant amount of litter discarded by Kenwood Avenue drivers. Within an hour we were able to fill several buckets and three trash bags with debris.

The morning concluded with a welcome lunch for new staff member, Carrie Stickan. Read more about Carrie in our recent blog post

Get involved… volunteer with MHLC!

Does this outing sound like fun? If so, consider enlisting with MHLC as a volunteer! Join more than 150 other community members of all ages and backgrounds who are helping to protect open spaces by donating their time, energy and expertise. Visit the Volunteer Calendar page for a list of upcoming opportunities and more information about becoming a volunteer

Register today for our next volunteer event, Earth Day Volunteer Morning: Bennett Hill Preserve Trailwork, Saturday, April 20, 9 AM-12 PM; and for families with young children, sign up for Earth Day Exploration: Storytime, Crafts and a Hike at the Rail Trail, Thursday April 25, 10 AM-12 PM

Photo (from left to right): Mark King, Sarah Walsh, Sawyer Cresap, Marilyn Fancher, Kristi Perri, and Carrie Stickan


Meet MHLC’s New Communications and Outreach Coordinator: Carrie Stickan

Carrie joined the MHLC team at the end of March, following the departure of Daron Blake who left at the beginning of the month for a position with the Land Trust Alliance. In her new role, Carrie will be working to promote and increase public awareness of the Conservancy by executing MHLC’s strategic communications plan–both writing content and designing graphics for the website, print communications, and social media outreach efforts, as well as engaging local media with the Conservancy’s conservation announcements. Many of you will get to know Carrie as she will also be managing MHLC events and volunteers.

Carrie holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and began her career as an illustrator, freelance artist, and art instructor. She has worked for several Chicago-area non-profit organizations, including the International Museum of Surgical Science, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Her artwork, which includes hundreds of animal identification illustrations, are still on display in two permanent exhibits at the Shedd Aquarium. Carrie moved to the Delmar with her husband and two children in 2014. Upon relocating, she began working in communications and marketing at the System Dynamics Society in Albany.

Over the years, Carrie has been very involved with volunteer work, particularly at the schools her children have attended. Since moving to Delmar, one of her favorite roles is volunteer gardener at the local middle school. A great believer in the value of volunteering in one’s community, Carrie is looking forward to working with the Conservancy’s volunteers and hopes to see many new recruits.

Carrie loves to draw plants and animals in her free time and looks forward to exploring the MHLC preserves in search of new subjects.

Welcome, Carrie!

eBirding at MHLC Preserves

Join us for eBirding training to help with MHLC’s bird conservation effort!

Barred Owl. Photo by Lisa Bowdish.

On Saturday, April 6, from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, we will host an eBirding training seminar in partnership with Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. This FREE event, open to novice and more advance birders alike, will take place at the First United Methodist Church in Delmar. Space is limited to the first 30 registrations—sign up today!

The morning will begin with a 30-minute classroom presentation and training that will provide you with the tools to hone your bird identification skills. Guest instructor, Andrew Dreelin, from the Lab of Ornithology, will educate us on the Merlin and eBird apps, two smart phone applications that help the user identify birds and store sightings by location. These two apps make it easy to record the birds spotted in the field, and seamlessly link these observations with a global online database of bird records used by recreational birders, scientists, and conservationists around the world! Following the classroom instruction, we will head out on a guided 1.5 hour field walk on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail to apply our new knowledge. Can’t make it to the event- no problem! You can download the free eBird app and get started on your own.

Mark your calendar for the next eBirding event…

As a follow-up to this initial training, we will host the “Walking with Warblers” birding hike on Saturday, May 11th, at 7 AM, guided by WAMC’S bird guru Rich Guthrie. This free outdoor event provides an opportunity to use eBirding skills as well as learn more about bird identification and behavior from this local specialist. Space is limited for this free event so be sure to sign up early!

Goldfinch. Photo by Bob Stone.

Your participation is important to our conservation goals! 

When establishing our annual conservation priorities, MHLC relies on data that is collected from citizen science surveys such as these. Our recent acquisition in 2018 of 35 acres on the corner of Fisher Blvd. and 85 in the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland as an expansion of Five Rivers, was prioritized because it provided a buffer for wildlife to the built environment. Five Rivers is listed on the eBird app as being the largest “hotspot” in Albany County for birds, with 210 unique species identified on its grounds.

In fact, throughout Albany County local residents have identified 293 bird species across 100 natural bird “hotspots”. Eight of the hotspots listed are MHLC preserves.

Visiting a preserve this year?

Please help us collect information about the birds on our nature preserves using the eBird app.  By hosting these events and empowering citizen science volunteer efforts, MHLC hopes to gain a better understanding of the bird species utilizing our public lands, providing important information about species in decline and guiding our local conservation efforts.

We hope to see you at our birding events and at our preserves this year!

📸 Photos: Awards Dinner & Climate Panel on Feb 24

“>Scroll down for more photos!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our 2019 Annual Awards Dinner & Climate Panel! With the frozen waters of the Mohawk River as a backdrop and the winter sun streaming into the historic ballroom, guests enjoyed an afternoon of discussion, exchanging ideas about land conservation, climate change, what we can do, and how our regional conservation efforts are part of a bigger movement to slow the changing climate. 

The Awards Ceremony and The Awardees

We began the evening by honoring the individuals who lead conservation in the Capital Region. This year, we honored Ava DeSantis, the Art on the Rail Trail Committee, and Jessica Ottney Mahar for their contributions.

Ava DeSantis was awarded the Young Leader Award for giving outstanding time and energy to advance the mission of MHLC. Learn more about Ava’s fundraising and outreach volunteer work for MHLC by clicking here and scrolling to page three.

The Art on the Rail Trail (ART) Committee was awarded the Dan Driscoll Leadership Award for giving outstanding time and energy to advance the mission of MHLC through their work improving the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail through public works of art. Learn more about the ART Committee by clicking here.

Jessica Ottney Mahar was awarded the Saving Special Places Award for significant contribution to land conservation through her work as Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy and as a community member working to protect land in the Capital Region. Learn more about Jessica by clicking here.

A Word from Congressman Paul Tonko

After our awards ceremony, we were honored with a surprise visit from Congressman Paul Tonko, who has recently been appointed as chair of the Subcommittee on the Environment and Climate Change. This subcommittee has exclusive jurisdiction over the Clean Air Act and will be at the forefront of tackling climate change and carbon pollution. Congressman Tonko spoke of the importance of land conservation in the fight against climate change, and urged everyone in the room to continue to support the local leaders who are taking a stand against climate change.

The Climate Panel: What Can We Do?

We ended the evening with an exciting panel of climate experts who answered questions and offered suggestions for individual actions each of us can take to slow the changing climate. Moderated by Laura McCarthy, Manager of Conservation Engagement for Audubon New York and member of MHLC’s Next Gen committee, the panel consisted of:

Jessica Ottney Mahar, Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy

Mary Ellen Mallia, Director of Environmental Sustainability at University of Albany

Curt Stager, Draper-Lussi Endowed Chair in Lake Ecology & Paleoecology at Paul Smith’s College

Mark King, Executive Director for the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (sitting in for Sarah Walsh, Conservation Director for the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy).

The discussion was wide-ranging and riveting with each expert sharing experiences and lessons from their career, and demonstrating a variety of perspectives from policy and economics, to ecology and conservation.

Curt Stager launched the panel with startling statistics on the changing weather patterns in the Capital Region over the past thirty years. On the stark reality of climate change, he remarked: “It’s real, it’s here, and it’s us.”

Jessica Ottney Mahar added that she is often asked, “Why does New York State need to worry about climate change? This is a global issue.” To that, she responded: “New York State is a leader, in movement with states like Washington and California, and is setting an example. State actions add up.”

Mary Ellen Mallia addressed individual and corporate action that can expand upon policy at the state level. Mallia shared an ecological economics perspective regarding corporations and consumer choices: “Prices have to tell the ecological truth,” and provided a list of ways that individuals can act right now to combat climate change, including reducing ones’ carbon footprint by maintaining a plant-based diet, and voting your issue. Mallia stressed the “5 R’s”: reduce, reuse, recycle, and two new concepts: refuse and repair. By reducing consumerism, each of us can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

MHLC Executive Director Mark King shared how the Conservancy is working in the Capital Region to combat climate change. “Natural systems and undeveloped land absorb and store carbon through photosynthesis. Preserving land as open space not only is a natural climate solution, by also has the added benefits of creating clean air and water as well as recreational and scenic benefits. MHLC is one of 90 land trusts in New York State and one of more than 1,350 nationally – each working towards similar goals for land protection and thus mitigation of climate change. I’m grateful to each of our climate panelists for sharing their expertise and perspective, as we collaborate to piece together a multifaceted approach that is needed to mitigate climate change.”

All panelists agreed that the single most important way for an individual to slow the changing climate is to spread the word about how one can make a difference—that we must work together before it is too late. For tips on how to talk to friends and family about climate, download The Nature Conservancy’s free “Let’s Talk Climate” guide, available on their website at

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this special night. Please remember to continue the conversation: talk about climate change with your networks, and encourage others to think about what they can do to make a difference.


FREE Outdoor Adventures in 2019 with MHLC

It’s here! The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s 2019 Calendar of Events is live on our Events webpage.

From our events page, you can register for dozens of free outdoor adventures this year: birdwatching, mushroom foraging, forest therapy (have you heard of forest bathing?), backpacking for beginners, pollinator and plant identification, and more. Our outdoor events take place in our eighteen preserves, and we partner with local organizations, naturalists, and experts to bring you an exciting schedule of opportunities to get outside and explore.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy strives to offer affordable outdoor adventures for everyone. Visit our Events Page to see our full 2019 calendar of events. Space is limited: by registering early, you guarantee yourself a spot, and we’ll send you a reminder email with the details the week before the event. Sign up today!

Guest Post: Safely Breaking Trails in the Snow by Bob Frederick

The winter landscape at Keleher.

It’s been two days since our first snow storm of 2019. With the driveways and roads all plowed, I set out to enjoy a sunny yet frigid day at my favorite nature preserve – Keleher Preserve

As the Preserve Steward of Keleher, I have become very familiar with the trail system, its terrain, and the natural markers you tend to notice when traveling familiar routes.

With a fresh coating of 14 inches of snow, my eyes were introduced to a new and beautiful landscape that looked familiar, but different. This fresh coating of white covered over the paths which volunteers and MHLC staff have created for visitors to safely wander through the 477 acres of wilderness here.

My goal is to encourage people to visit the 18 nature preserves managed by MHLC, so breaking trails for others to enjoy has become one of my objectives this winter. It helps when it’s one of my favorite things to do in the winter anyway.

Breaking trails on skis or snow shoes can be exhausting depending on the conditions. You need to prepare for the type of snow you’ll be in and how that will determine where and how far you will go. I always pack ample gear and supplies in my car to have more options when I arrive at the trail head. Winter hiking requires you to pack the same amount of water and food as with other seasons. I review the snow conditions around the trail entrance to determine what I might expect on the trails. Light, deep snow is much more fun than crusty, heavy snow due to the fact that you need to lift or slide your feet through or over the top of the snow. 

I always invite other people to join me when breaking trails in the wilderness, but the parking lot remained empty, so I headed out on my own.  With this in mind, I gave my wife, and the MHLC staff, my location, the trails I planned to ski and the estimated time I planned to be on the trails. It’s good to have others know where you are when in remote locations in case an unexpected situation arises­­—preparation is key.

Ski trails in deep forest at Keleher.

Today, light snow came half way up my shin. I use backcountry touring skis with metal edges and a parabolic design giving me more stability and turning ability when climbing or descending. After I signed in at the kiosk, my eyes began to notice the changes that a fresh coat of snow offers. The woods are inviting you to explore different directions, even though you know there is a marked trail in front of you.

Over the last two days the snow was accompanied by some high winds that spread fresh pine needles across the top of the snow. After adjusting to this new forest floor, I set out to complete my trail breaking goal – about a 3 mile loop covering three distinct trails (white west, green, blue) and 5 junctures. What was nice about this loop is that each juncture took about 25-30 minutes to reach providing a perfect break to refuel, take a picture, and listen to the sounds of the forest.

My understanding of the trails made the start of my journey pretty routine accept for the fact that I was plowing through 6-12 inches of snow. Additionally, Mother Nature surprised me with dunes of tightly-packed snow (easy to ski on top of ) followed by hidden slopes of loose powder (even easier to sink into).  This made the known trails more interesting, but once I began to get deeper into the preserve I found myself losing track of the tree markers. The trails I felt I knew began to change and the woods displayed alternative paths that seemed equally or more inviting to travel. I had to really pay attention to the tree markers that I helped to update and realized that in this new winter wonderland, I may need to add a few more.  With my patience, the existing trail markers, and by paying close attention to the way the forest provided natural pathways, I was able to complete my trail breaking objective on time and without any mishaps. 

I hope the paths I created encourage others to explore this wilderness area more extensively and learn to appreciate nature in different seasons.  If you would enjoy helping us groom our winter trails with your skis or snow shoes, email MHLC at  

Happy trails.

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

Looking for a place to explore this winter? Find a nature preserve near you!

SUCCESS! 540 Farmland Acres Protected Forever

We asked for your help, and you responded!

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is thrilled to announce that we met our fundraising goal for the Triumpho farmland. Because of your support, the Triumpho farmland is now protected with a conservation easement. The land’s many treasures: fertile soils, the banks and waters of Zimmerman Creek (a key water source for St. Johnsville), and hundreds of acres of rolling hills, forests, and fields are conserved forever, and the land remains open for future farming. 

This work in the Mohawk Valley would not have been possible without the support of our community and funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. We are grateful to our conservation partners, to Mr. Triumpho, and to our community for coming together to protect this incredible property!

To learn more about the 100+ year history of farming on this land, read our interview with Richard Triumpho in the December 2018 edition of Viewpoints, MHLC’s newsletter. 

Thank you for your support!

What happens in the woods when we aren’t there?

Over the last year, MHLC volunteers have been getting a peek at what happens on MHLC preserves and conservation lands when humans aren’t there.

Using game cameras, our volunteers have captured glimpses of the wildlife that roam the woods and make this region home. One of our most recent and significant sightings was a video of a black bear in the Helderbergs, roaming in early December, looking for a last meal before hunkering down for a long winter’s nap. These large mammals require significant acreage to carry out their life cycles and also need pathways to travel safely across the landscape, avoiding roads and human activity as they look for mates and forage for food.

Click on the image to see the bear video on Facebook.

By protecting natural lands from current and future development in Albany, Schenectady, and Montgomery counties, MHLC creates safe corridors and habitats for these large animals. As we look south to the Catskills and north to the Adirondacks, we work to create connections between these two larger conservation areas, ensuring that these wonderful animals have a place to call home. This black bear was seen on MHLC-protected land in the Helderberg Conservation Corridor, one of our priority conservation areas.

In 2019, we will share more images like this to help give a glimpse into our preserves and conservation lands and the wonderful species that call them home. If you have a game camera image that has captured a great wildlife shot in the Capital Region, please share it with us at!




Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

❄ Guest Post: #OptOutside by Donna Liquori

On the winter solstice, a full moon broke through for a short amount of time after hours of heavy rain. I was walking home from an impromptu holiday gathering with a friend through our neighborhood and we decided to extend our walk over to the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. It was a brief but beautiful walk before the clouds rolled back in and our beds beckoned.

Normanskill East Preserve in winter. Photo by Christiane Lee.

Years ago, I heard about the Nordic practice of letting children nap for an hour every day outside – even in freezing cold temperatures – in hopes that it would prevent illness. So I applied it to myself for several years, walking every day throughout the winter. It worked. The first year I did it, I had no colds. And, in general, I was much happier.

My goal of opting outside once the colder weather settled in didn’t go well at first, probably because the days after Thanksgiving were frigid. I wasn’t ready for cold weather that soon. And given the option of a fire and a good book, I stayed inside. But determined to venture out, I pushed myself. I realized that with all the business of the holidays and a demanding work schedule, only short hikes would be doable. I’d have to squeeze them in between other obligations. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Nature Preserves around town were perfect for this.

On Christmas afternoon, I took the dog over to Normanskill East, along the tributary to the Hudson River. I’ve always walked on the Albany side, so this was a treat. It’s a brief hike, but perfect for a quick outing with the dog. The views of the Normanskill farm and the Normanskill are breathtaking. After the normal craziness of Christmas morning, this was a welcome reprieve before we prepared Christmas dinner.

Then just before my daughter went back to Brooklyn after spending the holiday with us, we stopped at the Schiffendecker Preserve on our way to Walmart. I had never hiked this one, but have driven by it hundreds of times. While it was a little slick and muddy due to the warmer temperatures, we were surprised at how interesting this trail was with its meandering stream and old trees. It felt like we were in the middle of the Catskills at some points, despite the fact that a Walmart was so close.

Always sign in at MHLC Preserves.

In the winter woods, the sun filters through differently with the trees bare. And as my daughter points out, the landscape is very brown. But if you look closely, you can see berries and vivid moss. The ice forms interesting patterns and colors and there’s a pleasant silence. Make sure you sign in at trailheads and let someone know where you’re going. Better yet, bring a friend.

I’ve gotten out my MHLC Nature Passport and am already planning for some future winter hikes. There’s no reason to save these until spring or summer.

Donna Liquori is a freelance writer and editor. You may have met Donna at an MHLC event: she is a long-time, dedicated volunteer with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Looking for a place to #optoutside this winter? Find a nature preserve near you!

Meet MHLC: Laura Shore of Farm Share Studio

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. In December, we speak with MHLC member Laura Shore: artist, volunteer, and activist. Laura is the artist behind Farm Share Studio and currently has a show at Arlene’s Artist Materials on at 57 Fuller Road in Albany which will run through the end of January 2019. You may have seen Laura’s paintings of fresh, local food and open landscapes in the Capital Region in MHLC’s newsletters, e-blasts, and ads: read on to learn how Laura’s art benefits local conservation organizations, including MHLC!

What do you love about living in the Capital Region?

Laura in her studio.

I enjoy exploring the back roads and agricultural landscapes that surround my village of Altamont. There’s nothing like cresting a hill and seeing fields and big skies revealed on the other side. I also like learning about the history of places, and have found that agricultural landscapes are as readable as old maps. Until recently many parts of our region have seen family farms exist quite intimately with suburbs. But today, these farmlands are under pressure because the farmers are struggling. As a result, development threatens to turn our beautiful region into another Atlanta, strangled by cars and sprawl.

How does your art support local farmland?

When I retired five years ago, my goal was to begin painting and to find a way to give back to the community. I chose to focus on local food as a way to promote CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmers markets, and farm stands. If we can build consumer demand for local food, I thought, we can make it more profitable for small farmers to stay on the land. Imagine if the 1.2 million people in the Capital Region spent even a small portion of their food budget directly with local farmers.

“Old Barns with Chicory” by Laura Shore

From my paintings I produce cards and prints, which are available in local shops. Each year 10% of my proceeds are donated to organizations that support farmland conservation through agricultural easements and other means. Happily, the amount has grown every year. I focus my giving on the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the Agricultural Stewardship Association, and the American Farmland Trust. I also donate to the Schenectady Greenmarket, Capital Roots, and the Regional Food Pantries.

*Support local conservation, local foods, and local art: visit the Farm Share Studio Etsy shop to purchase Laura’s artwork.

Why do you support local agriculture and farmlands?

I’ve learned that eating organic food from farms that integrate livestock with produce helps balance out the environmental demands of farming and helps protect against climate change. We have enough ghost malls and empty storefronts in overbuilt shopping centers to realize that real estate development benefits the developers but not the community over the long term. And once we’ve let the land go, it’s gone forever.

Would you like to join the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy? Become a volunteer, make a contributionprotect your land, or become an intern. We want to meet you!

🌱 A Focus on Farmland

The Triumpho Farmland is our latest conservation project.

Working landscapes, which provide food, are becoming quickly swallowed up by development and suburban sprawl. The American Farmland Trust’s recent Cultivate New York report states that an average of 3 farms per week have been destroyed over the last 30 years in New York State. This means that we have fewer places to grow local, healthy food.

This year, MHLC has taken steps to tackle the growing need for farm preservation in the Capital Region, including joining the American Farmland Trust’s Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, connecting us to a wide network of landowners, farmers, and other organizations dedicated to keeping farms as farmland. Our work on the Triumpho farmland is another step towards protecting working landscapes: by preserving soils of statewide significance, we ensure they are available for future food production for a sustainable future in Montgomery County.   

Why focus on working landscapes? MHLC is committed to not only protect open spaces and scenic vistas, but also to protect fertile soils, farmable land, and the future of food production in our service area .Our farmland protection projects follow New York State’s Sound Agricultural Practices and fit into our larger conservation priorities for our work in the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys. When we preserve working landscapes, we take into account the surrounding environment and natural resources, finding a balance between the working portions of the land and the other resources such as fresh water and wildlife habitat which are also protected.

We are currently working to protect the Triumpho farmland in St. Johnsville: 540 acres in the Mohawk Valley which have belonged to the Triumpho family for over 100 years. We’re working to save this land from any future development by placing a conservation easement on the property. You can learn more about the history and ecology of this land on our Triumpho Farmland webpage. We interviewed Richard about the history of his land and his desire to protect it: read this interview in our December 2018 edition of ViewPoints, MHLC’s print newsletter.

To read more about the landscape of farming in New York State, read the American Farmland Trust’s Cultivate New York report

To read more about MHLC’s work on farmland protection and working landscapes, visit our Farmland Protection webpage




Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director

Celebrate #GivingTuesday by TRIPLING YOUR GIFT to MHLC!

How are you celebrating #GivingTuesday?

Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is the day that kicks off the giving season. In 2018, Giving Tuesday lands on November 27th. In New York, this is also celebrated as #NYGivesDay.

EXCITING NEWS! From Monday, 11/26 through Monday, 12/3, every dollar that MHLC receives online will be matched 2:1 by an anonymous donor.

So for every $100 donated, the anonymous donor will give $200 and MHLC will receive $300 in total, tripling the impact of your gift!

This is an extraordinary opportunity and a chance for us to raise the funds that will sustain our work in the new year. Can you help?

Click the button above or click here to make your donation—and triple your gift—today!

THANK YOU for making a difference! Use the hashtag #theMHLCdifference to inspire your friends and family to triple their gifts, as well!

Meet MHLC: Lorraine Plauth and the Joy of Volunteering

In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. In October, we speak with MHLC member and volunteer Lorraine Plauth: trail builder, photographer, hike sweeper, and more! Lorraine is one of our Preserve Stewards: volunteers who regularly monitor and care for a nature preserve. She shares stewardship of the Van Dyke Preserve with two other stewards.

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

Lorraine re-marking trails at the Winn Preserve this November.

One day, several years ago, I crossed paths with another woman on the trails at the Bozen Kill Preserve. We stopped and talked for a bit. That lucky chance encounter happened to be with Connie Tedesco, then Stewardship Director for MHLC. Connie mentioned that new Conservancy volunteers were always welcome and needed. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I was on board within a few days.

What inspires you to support MHLC?

I grew up in the countryside between Altamont and Voorheesville. Over the years I have seen continued development that has greatly changed our natural landscape. My belief is that it’s important for everyone to have special places to go to, and for many of us, that is forests and fields, mountains and lakes. Being involved with an organization whose mission it is to preserve and protect these special places is very important to me.

I have been a hiker since the 70s and a lifelong nature lover. Being outside in any season is a passion of mine. My friends and I enjoy the Conservancy’s 18 public nature preserves in many different ways: we walk, bird, snowshoe, cross country ski, sit, listen, look. Each visit is a new experience. These places are for all of us to enjoy with friends, family, or sometimes, even on our own.

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

Volunteering with the Conservancy has been a perfect match for me. I have an irregular schedule and volunteering with MHLC allows me to have the flexibility to help out when I am available.

Each volunteer work project has an experienced group leader who gives directions for what the jobs are for that particular day. Given the specific guidelines, I feel comfortable trying any tasks that I think are within my ability. Some of the work has involved marking trails, cutting brush, moving rocks, getting muddy, clearing trash, helping on scheduled outings which are open to everyone. I feel I am helping to enhance the places the Conservancy has worked so hard to acquire and protect.

Which is your favorite aspect of volunteering with MHLC?

Lorraine helps at MHLC events like our Reading the Landscape hike with Ondatra Adventures.

I’ve assisted with MHLC events such as the most recent one, Reading the Landscape, led by David Muska from Ondatra Adventures. The group of people who signed up for this outing got to walk a beautiful easement property that has significant Native American history attached to it. The property owners and David drew our attention to features of the forests and fields, giving us clues about some of the things that took place there in the distant past.

One of my favorite things is spending time with such knowledgeable, friendly, and generous people. This includes MHLC staff, other volunteers, property owners, outing leaders, and people from the public attending the outings. I’m especially delighted watching children on some of the outings, seeing their excitement while learning about the outdoors. These are the future protectors of our lands.

It’s been an unexpected bonus learning about land easements, solar energy, trail development, and even how to build a fire with one match. I can honestly say it’s been rewarding and fun every time I’ve been involved with the Conservancy. I always look forward to the next opportunity to be involved in one way or another.

I’m reminded once again of what Connie Tedesco said, that volunteers are always welcome and needed. I’m so glad I have become one. It’s been a fantastic experience.

Would you like to join the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy? Become a volunteer, make a contributionprotect your land, or become an intern. We want to meet you!



Help MHLC Protect 540 Acres in the Mohawk Valley

According to the American Farmland Trust, 3 acres of farmland are lost to development every minute in the United States.

In Montgomery County, MHLC has an opportunity to save 540 acres of farmland-forever! We are working to protect the Triumpho farmland: 540 acres in St. Johnsville which have been in the Triumpho family for over 100 years. We need funds to permanently preserve the land’s many treasures: fertile soils, the banks and waters of Zimmerman Creek (a key water source for St. Johnsville), and hundreds of acres of rolling hills, forests, and fields.

Learn more!

Can you help us protect the Triumpho farmland? Saving land requires many resources and we need your help to close a funding gap of $20,000. Together, we can preserve the legacy of this historic farm-forever.

Learn more about the Triumpho farm and make a donation today!

Our Favorite Gadgets: How Tech Improves Stewardship

Once MHLC has protected a property, either by owning it outright or placing a conservation easement on the land, our work has only just begun. The goal of land trusts like the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is to protect land in its natural state in perpetuity–forever.

In the autumn season, this means inspecting our properties’ boundaries, trails, and sensitive areas to ensure we are meeting our long-term commitments. With over 25 miles of protected boundary lines to walk and document, technology is key to making our time and record keeping more effective. There are many tools we use to inspect and document these properties.

Here are three key pieces of tech we use every day:

GPS unit: We use a Garmin Oregon handheld GPS unit to track where we walk within 30 meters. The GPS unit  drops “waypoints” at specific places of interest to later include on the property maps we make back at the office.

iPad, Bluetooth GPS enhancement, and Geolocation apps: Property corners defined in hundred-year-old deeds are often over hill and dale, winding along stonewalls, and hidden under fallen trees and leaves. MHLC uses an iPad with an external GPS enhancement: this shows us exactly where we are on a property through apps like Avenza and OnXHunt. These apps allow us to download maps to our device and work offline through Bluetooth in remote areas without data availability.

Canon PowerShot A2200: This point-and-shoot camera gives us the ability to take high-quality photos without risk of damaging this durable piece of equipment.

We are grateful to the many donors who contributed to our Stewardship Wish List at this year’s Fall Fundraiser. Thank you for helping us protect land in the Capital Region!

Sawyer Cresap
Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator

If you’d like to donate towards our stewardship needs, e-mail Director of Development and Operations Lea Montalto-Rook at

From the Conservation Director: Fieldwork in the Fall

The autumn months are a busy time for MHLC.

Despite the cooler weather, we pull on our thick coats and warm boots to head outside: this is a time of year when our field work increases substantially.

Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator Sawyer Cresap is working with our Preserve Stewards to ensure downed trees are out of the way for the coming snow: we want cross-country skiers and snow-shoers to get the most out of our 18 public preserves this season. Sawyer is also in the midst of monitoring our conservation easements. She travels across our three-county service area in the MHLC truck to visit these properties, walking the lands and meeting with landowners. Each year, we visit our protected properties to ensure the ongoing stewardship of these lands. 

I’m also out in the field, meeting with partners and inspecting new properties which we hope to protect. Sawyer is often with me as we hike through these lands and create baseline documentation reports. These detailed records of the lands are a catalog of everything we plan to protect: from the geology of the land to the birds that visit the property, these reports also provide the landowner with a great account of their property and the natural resources they are protecting through a conservation easement

As always, Executive Director Mark King is out and about, meeting with landowners, donors, and partners to identify new land protection projects and to strengthen our ability to save the lands of our service area. Last week, we took the entire MHLC staff out for a Halloween hike on a property we’re working to protect in the Helderbergs.  

When we are out in the field, we depend upon technology to help us efficiently and effectively document the lands we’re working to protect. To learn more about the technology our stewardship and conservation staff use on a daily basis, check out Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator Sawyer Cresap’s blog post, “How Technology Improves Stewardship.”

If you see us the MHLC Stewardship truck this season, be sure to wave hello!

Sarah Walsh
Conservation Director 



Guest Post: Trail Running at Van Dyke Preserve by Donna Liquori

Autumn at Van Dyke Preserve.

I can’t tell you how many times I ran past the Van Dyke Preserve. It’s along my training route and I pass it every time I struggled up the hill to Meads Lane. On my way home, I pass it again. I’d think about maybe doing a walk there, perhaps with the dog, and always some other time.

But one hot day, after cutting short a bad run, I impulsively turned into the small gravel parking lot and hit the trail. I had neither the stamina or the motivation to run the 12 or so miles I set out to do and turned back prematurely, disappointed. I don’t know what drove me to the Van Dyke trail that day, but I was immediately grateful that I did. The trail snakes around the Phillipin Kill and dips down into one of those ravines that we have so many of in our town. They help save us from overdevelopment, I believe, because they’re simply undevelopable, and once you start noticing them, you spot them everywhere. Entering the wooded trail was comforting; it was thick and dark and cool, and I stopped beating myself up about the lousy run. In fact, I bounced along, enjoying being off the hot pavement. My impulse to run that trail created a new habit. Now each time, I need a lift or the run isn’t going well, I run the Van Dyke Preserve or the Swift Preserve.

The bench at Van Dyke Preserve was donated by the Bethlehem Garden Club.

Recently, I dropped my daughter off at the high school and headed over again, this time on purpose. I parked and ran the trail. Recent residual rains from Hurricane Florence had created a slick surface. Trail running is more mental I think than running on any other kind of surface. You have to watch out for the slick spots, roots and rocks that may have rolled onto the trail. So all I think about is the trail. Besides being in the woods, which to me is an instant stress reducer, the act of thinking so purely about not trying to fall blocks out any issues from work or the kids or home. Watch that rock, heed that limb. But I always make sure I stop. Just for a minute or two, usually toward the end of a run. Sometimes I sit on the bench near the trailhead. I look up at the trees, feel the breeze, listen to the birds and just be in the woods.

Donna Liquori is a freelance writer and editor. You may have met Donna at an MHLC event: she is a long-time, dedicated volunteer with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Looking for a place to go trail running? Find a nature preserve near you!