A letter from Troy Weldy

While the landscape around us transforms into the brilliant colors of fall, the Columbia Land Conservancy begins a transformation of our own. As we welcome the new season and the changes it brings, the CLC staff and Board have welcomed me as President.

It has been heartening to begin my tenure during such an outpouring of expressions of appreciation and encouragement. Generous gifts of financial support from both long-time friends like you and those who are new to the work strengthen my resolve to build on CLC’s storied conservation legacy. Please renew your support today and accept my thanks for your continued support.

Over these first weeks, I have met with CLC’s dedicated staff and Board. I am learning about this organization and how it has thrived despite a world-wide pandemic and a nation-wide reckoning with conservation’s often-exclusionary history. CLC continues to be a leader in our land trust community. Staff continue to create innovative ways to connect people with the natural world. Strategic conservation initiatives continue to move ahead. I am pleased to share some highlights of these recent projects in this letter.

While I wish we could join together to discuss these projects more fully in person, I look forward to connecting with you at one of the virtual Town Hall meetings. I hope we can arrange to meet safely at a place of your choosing, whether that be at one of our Public Conservation Areas, in a small group, or over Zoom/the phone.

CLC Public Conservation Areas provide respite

Thank you for a wonderful range of properties that have provided great relief and distraction during COVID.

With all of us at home, we explored a bit and stumbled upon Ooms, took a walk, and instantly fell in love with the place.

On each hike we find something new to enjoy in these beautiful areas.

Reading heartfelt notes like these from visitors has been one of my favorite parts of becoming acquainted with our community. One positive result of the pandemic is that many people have renewed or deepened their relationship with the natural world. CLC’s Public Conservation Areas have served as a unique resource to Columbia County residents and visitors, providing opportunities to immerse ourselves in nature, safely visit friends, and find ways to improve our mental and physical health. We have been able to regularly take in the night sky, breathe the fresh air, and experience the healing power of a quiet walk in the woods. People are loving it, feeling connected in a new way, and appreciating even more deeply the value of living in close relationship to the natural world.

The number of people visiting Public Conservation Areas has increased dramatically, almost doubling at more popular properties. CLC provides a vitally important and widely-appreciated service for the entire community. I hope you take pride in the part you play in this important work.

Protecting land in the face of a changing climate
The record-shattering heat, a profusion of tropical storms, and the historic wildfire season of 2020 remind us of the urgent need to address climate change. While we are fortunate that Columbia County is not regularly threatened with hurricanes and massive forest fires, our region is not immune. CLC is working with organizational partners, municipalities, and landowners to mitigate the threat of climate change.

Thanks to a grant from the Hudson River Estuary Program, staff are convening members of the communities of Hillsdale, Copake, and Taghkanic to create a Habitat Connectivity Plan for the Upper Taghkanic watershed – lands and waters that provide essential drinking water for these communities as well as the City of Hudson. Working collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders, we will create a plan that identifies large natural areas such as forests and wetlands that provide corridors for wildlife within the watershed, as well as actions that can be taken to protect these lands.

The watershed is part of the mid-Hudson Wildlife Corridor, a large, unbroken block of forest that provides critical habitat and important linkages. This multi-state pathway will be essential for migrating plants and animals adapting to a changing climate. CLC coordinates the Berkshire-Taconic Regional Conservation Partnership, which is dedicated to conserving this area. Regional efforts like this are essential – we all know that black bears and forests don’t recognize state lines! Supporting CLC has a ripple effect, protecting habitat and open space in Columbia County and across the entire northeast.

Planning for the impact of increased development pressure
Increased development pressure in Columbia County is real. The pandemic has created both a surge of interest in living beyond crowded urban centers and a rapid, widespread adoption of technology that allows us to work, learn, and socialize virtually. One of the defining achievements of my tenure will be to produce a sufficient answer to the question, “How do we protect the land while creating a livable community for all?”

Creating opportunities for everyone to enjoy nature
In the recently adopted strategic plan, CLC defined one overarching goal:

To inspire our community to more deeply connect
with, care about, and protect the natural world.

Nation-wide protests and a surge in activism have further illuminated the need for CLC and our partner land trusts to examine who has traditionally been excluded from nature, and to make real steps to address those systemic inequities and exclusions.

CLC is committed to greatly expanding our efforts to ensure that our work addresses the needs and desires of a broad cross-section of the community regardless of socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity. While we have far to go on this journey, CLC is preparing for an organization-wide engagement in incorporating the principles of Justice, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion into every facet of what we do. Our community includes every one of us and we must do better to make our work relevant to everyone.

Working together, we ensure that Columbia County’s extraordinary landscape will continue to be a place that inspires, sustains, and soothes us for generations to come. Thank you for being such an essential part of this movement. Now let’s get to work.

Troy Weldy