I’ve found that sometimes when I’m hiking, I can slip into auto-pilot. I get to the end of my walk and realize I was never really present. Maybe it’s happened to you while you’ve been on the trail or driving home along a familiar road.
I’m proud to say that this year was anything but running on auto-pilot. As you scroll through this report, you’ll learn about new ways to plan for conservation (the Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan), a pilot project for connecting farmers with affordable land (the Water Street Farm), and CLC’s first-ever public charette gathering community feedback about a draft master plan for Ooms Conservation Area.
CLC is committed to thoughtful innovation. As this report is polished up and ready to launch into your email inbox, staff and board are hard at work preparing for a strategic planning process and envisioning how to better incorporate the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion into everything we do. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Engaging with nature
Nature Explorer Backpacks flying off local library shelves
Did you know that you can check out hiking gear, binoculars, and more from your local library? Thanks to a grant from the Land Trust Alliance’s New York Conservation Partnership Program, patrons of many local libraries have taken nature-based adventures with Explorer Backpacks free of charge. CLC partnered with libraries to host 22 backpack programs this year, and the backpacks have been checked out more than 50 times! Learn more about the backpack program by scrolling and clicking your way through the Story Map below!
Nature Quest program launches
Nature Quest kicked off with a whinny on September 24 at Siegel-Kline Kill Conservation Area. When you visit any Public Conservation Area (with the exception of Ooms and Greenport), be on the lookout for the magnifying glass leading you to a Nature Quest trail! These themed trails invite nature lovers of all ages to learn more about the plants and animals at each site, and complete fun activities on the way. Learn more about this program by scrolling through the interactive Story Map below.
Community master planning effort at Ooms
Regular visitors to Ooms may remember slowly watching the boardwalk along the western edge of the pond deteriorate until it was deemed unsafe and removed earlier this year. CLC received a grant from the Land Trust Alliance to rebuild that boardwalk and used this opportunity to envision a future for Ooms that was more welcoming for people of all abilities, including those who use wheelchairs, push strollers, and have sensory needs. For the first time in our history, CLC is soliciting public input on a draft master planning effort. Read more about the draft plan and the community input here.
Public Conservation Areas are unique places. These landscapes are both Conservation Areas, managed for wildlife habitat and public lands, where humans can access nature and build a relationship with it. Often, land managers prioritize one aspect over the other: choose wildlife and keep people out, or encourage visitors but negatively impact habitats. CLC believes this isn’t an either/or proposition. In fact, it’s more necessary now than ever to provide opportunities to prove that nature isn’t something “far out there” that you requires large amounts of time, money, or gear to “visit.”
Caring for lands and waters
Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan launches
Do you have a vision for protecting the land you love? More than a dozen dedicated volunteers from Claverack, Copake, Hillsdale, and Taghkanic do:
The Taghkanic Headwaters and the lands that surround it support clean water for people, plants, and animals, and provide vital wildlife habitat connections between New York and New England. We envision a future Taghkanic watershed that is cared for by local communities and landowners to protect clean water and the ability of fish and wildlife to move across the landscape.
Stakeholders defined this vision while serving on a steering committee coordinated by the Columbia Land Conservancy to create a Conservation Plan for the Upper Taghkanic Creek. The Plan focuses on keeping forests “connected” – meaning that large natural areas are free of barriers like roads and development. To develop the vision and the plan, stakeholders reviewed scientific data, pored over maps, and discussed their values.
This 53-acre property in Ancram was conserved with a conservation easement in September of 2022. It includes a large agricultural field surrounded by wetlands and woods and is next to a 350 acre block of protected private land.
This 184-acre property in Gallatin was protected with an easement in October of 2022. This large wooded property borders the Taconic State Parkway and is a critical area for wildlife and connecting habitats in the county.
CLC’s commitment to land conservation doesn’t stop when a property is protected! Each year, staff visit half of the conservation easement properties on foot, walking miles along property boundaries to ensure conservation easement terms are being upheld. In addition to getting boots on the ground, staff also take to the sky, monitoring each conservation easement from the air. Part of the flight path is pictured above.
Nature at Home Workshop Series
Thanks to a grant from The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Network Program, CLC collaborated with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance (RPA) and Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) to host a series of workshops aimed at educating landowners and community members about how to manage their land for wildlife, foster biodiversity, and increase awareness around environmental justice.
The first workshop held on September 6 was a virtual presentation by Doug Tallamy on his book, Nature’s Best Hope. The second workshop held on October 1 (in collaboration with RPA) was an in-person tour of the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany led by Scott Kellogg, the Educational Director.
Supporting local agriculture
Water Street Farm Affordability Project
This year, CLC invited farmers to submit proposals for purchasing affordable farmland in Livingston. The Water Street Farm project is a new approach to agricultural tradelands being piloted this year. This is just one example of how CLC is working to find opportunities for farmers to access affordable farmland in Columbia County.
The property was donated to CLC in December of 2021, and is a mix of both agricultural land and forest bordering the Taghkanic Creek in Livingston. CLC staff created an independent committee who helped draft and announce a Request for Proposals for farmers in September 2022. In December, the committee will rank the proposals we received and select the next owner of the property. The buyer will be selected by the end of the year, and the property will sold subject to a conservation easement in early 2023.
Sound fiscal stewardship
Supporting the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) is a responsible investment! Donors, volunteers, and supporters like you make it possible to protect the farmland, forests, wildlife habitat, and rural character of Columbia County.