Author Archives: Rebecca

Land Matters: Together for the Land

October 30, 2017Rebecca

With the approach of the Thanksgiving holiday, it is the season to reflect upon all that we have to be thankful for. Here at the Columbia Land Conservancy, we are filled with gratitude for the privilege of living in an exceptionally beautiful and ecologically bountiful corner of the earth. I suspect you feel the same way.  We are grateful, as well, for the privilege of working to ensure that it stays that way, and for the privilege of collaborating in that work with so many others – individuals and organizations – who share a commitment to caring for the mysterious and fragile natural features and resources that enrich our lives and, indeed, upon which our lives depend. In her popular novel O, Pioneers!, Willa Cather writes, “We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it – for a little while.” Those of us here today “own it” – but only for a little while. A question we think about a lot is, what shape is it going to be in when we hand it off to our children and our children’s children. To be sure,… Read More

Join Us to Save Thompson-Finch Farm!

October 23, 2017Rebecca

If the strawberry is the unofficial mascot of summer, then the organic berries grown at Thompson-Finch Farm are Columbia County summer at its finest. Unfortunately, in what has become a common story in the Hudson Valley, rising real estate prices could force this iconic farm to shutter its business unless immediate action is taken to protect the land and secure its future as a farm.  Farmers Don and Marnie MacLean have joined forces with the Columbia Land Conservancy and Equity Trust to raise community support to save the farm for future generations.  In the spring of 2017 CLC, Equity Trust, and the MacLeans launched a fund-raising campaign to turn the vision into reality. This collaborative effort has already secured over $850,000 of the estimated $1.5 million needed to purchase and protect the farm.  Now, an anonymous donor is offering a two-for-one, $200,000 challenge match! If we can raise an additional $100,000, we can take full advantage of this generous donation and bring our fundraising total over $1 million! Thompson-Finch Farm has been growing organic vegetables in Ancram for the past 35 years. It is one of the largest and oldest you-pick strawberry operations in the Northeast. It also grows blueberries,… Read More

Land Matters: CLC Opens a New Public Conservation Area

October 2, 2017Rebecca

  CLC will celebrate the opening of the Harris Public Conservation Area at the intersection of Stonewall and Bloody Hollow Roads in the Town of Austerlitz at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18.  The public is invited.  A few weeks ago on a beautiful Sunday morning my wife and I took a walk in the woods. We’d decided to explore a property fairly recently acquired by the Columbia Land Conservancy which, after a couple years of planning and preparation, was about ready to be opened to the public. I had walked the property several years previously, before we’d done an assessment of what is there or settled on an appropriate trail layout.  And I remembered it as a lovely place.  But on that gorgeous autumn day, we were blown away. We headed out into a mixed hardwood forest on a well-marked path, walked up an impressive stone stairway and crossed two small footbridges spanning intermittent streams before entering into a large stand of stately pine trees. There was something magical about standing in the quiet coolness of those trees – a little like being in a fairy tale. And that feeling only increased as we proceeded… Read More

Land Matters: What’s Going to Happen to the Farms?

July 31, 2017Rebecca

What’s Going to Happen to the Farms?  We’re approaching the peak of the growing season.  The corn fields have acquired their late summer height. The second cutting of hay is underway. Our farmers’ markets are bursting with produce, meat and processed products of all kinds. Pretty soon the fall harvest will begin. Just about everyone who lives in Columbia County places a lot of value on all of this.  The agricultural character of our landscape and our communities is one of the most distinct aspects of our area. It is central to our sense of who we are. It is a major reason people chose to make a home here. We all take pride in it – though most of us no longer have a direct connection to the land or personal knowledge of the farmer’s life that was universal in prior generations. But there is a major question hanging over us: what is going to happen to the roughly 100,000 acres of land in Columbia County that is currently in pasture or production?   That represents 25% of our entire land base.  Most of our farmers are “getting up there.” The average age of a farmer in the United States… Read More

Land Matters: Conservation Myths

July 5, 2017Rebecca

LAND MATTERS Last week I was speaking with someone about one of our current projects, and several questions came up that I have heard many times before.  They revolve around the impact of conservation projects on the community, and reflect a concern that conservation activities deprive local government of tax revenue and shift the burden of paying for public services to others.  I have addressed these issues before, but some things bear repeating every now and then.  So let me once again address a couple of myths and misconceptions in fairly wide circulation suggesting that conservation imposes a drain on the public treasury. Perhaps the most common myth is that land subject to a conservation easement is tax exempt; that a landowner, by choosing to protect the conservation values of his or her land (people often loosely refer to this as “putting their land into the conservancy”), is taking that land off the tax rolls. It’s not true. People who create a conservation easement give up most of the rights they have to develop the property, to build it out, and some rights to use the property in certain ways.  But they retain ownership of the land. They can occupy… Read More

Land Matters: There is No Planet B

May 3, 2017Rebecca

There Is No Planet B “There is no Planet B.” So read the signs at the March for Science on Washington D.C. a week ago and again just last weekend at the Peoples Climate March in D.C., right here in Hudson and in cities all over the country. It is a memorable line because it is a catchy play on words, and because it rings searingly true. The planet we inhabit is undergoing rapid and profound changes due to alterations to the atmosphere caused by the effluent of the industrial age. The changes are many, and they are complex. Much about them we understand; much we still don’t know. One thing we do know is that it is probably too late to prevent significant long-term impacts from a warming climate and a rise in sea level, which have the potential to cause massive disruption, geopolitical turmoil and profound damage to the economy and to ecosystems. The only remaining question is how bad will it be? In the best case, there will be an even more significant increase in severe storm damage and flooding and attendant displacement of people and communities, dramatic changes in regional climate zones (In the Hudson Valley… Read More

Share Your Photos!

April 26, 2017Rebecca

Help show off the County’s best water, land, and wildlife resources by submitting photos for the Columbia County Natural Resources Inventory!   The Natural Resources Inventory will inform planning for the future in ways that support the County’s natural assets and the benefits they provide. To bring it to life, we need your help. Submit your nature photos for inclusion in the document. A selection of the photos we receive will be included in the document or posted to the project website. What kind of photos are desired?  Plants and animals, fungi, streams, lakes, waterfalls, ponds, wetlands, forests, hills, valleys, mountains, geologic features. Photos with people and nature are very welcome, too! Subjects that are not usually captured on film will be especially prized. Please, remember to exercise care for yourself and be protective of wildlife when photographing subjects in nature. Instructions on submitting photos: Submit photos as image files electronically to Theresa Mayhew, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia & Greene Counties, at; (518) 828-3346 x204. Desired resolution is at least 100 dpi; 300 is preferred. Please include the following information in your message: ·         the name of the photographer, ·        … Read More

Land Matters: Invasion of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

April 10, 2017Rebecca

Invasion of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid If you have ever walked in a hemlock forest, or fished a stream in a hemlock ravine, you know that these are magnificent trees. Growing tall and stately, this evergreen species creates a shady forest canopy that can feel absolutely magical. They are an important and much loved constituent of our Columbia County forests. Today, thanks to a tiny little insect that traveled here all the way from Asia, they are in grave danger. On Thursday April 20, the Columbia Land Conservancy, together with Cornell Cooperative Extension and a number of other organizations, is co-sponsoring a workshop at Columbia Greene Community College to provide information about this urgent threat and what might be done to head it off, or at least to lessen the potentially devastating impact.  People who own or manage forest land, farmers, hunters and fishermen, natural resource educators – and anyone who shares an interest in the natural world or concern about invasive species – are encouraged to attend. Why Should We Care About Hemlock Trees? The hemlocks found in Columbia County are called Eastern Hemlocks. They are one of ten hemlock species found throughout the world. Hemlocks are widely valued… Read More

Land Matters: Taking Stock of Our County’s Natural Resources

February 28, 2017Rebecca

Taking Stock of What We Have If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Columbia County is exceptionally rich in natural resources.  And those natural resources are a very large reason why it’s such an exceptionally wonderful place to live and work. As discussed in last month’s column, a broad commitment to conservation of the expansive forests, healthy water bodies, productive farmland and highly scenic working landscape that surrounds us would be an important part of any smart economic development strategy.  But to ensure that growth and change don’t take place in a manner that destroys the qualities that make the county such a special place, it would be important for the community to have a broad common understanding just what those qualities are.   A project is getting underway that will help Columbia County communities exercise forethought and care in conserving the natural resources we so value.  A partnership of organizations is creating a county-wide Natural Resource Inventory. What Is a Natural Resource Inventory? An inventory?  Sounds pretty prosaic. “Inventory” conjures up visions of working after closing time to tally up the store merchandise.  The natural resource inventory will be a matter of taking stock, but… Read More

Land Matters: Conservation – A Solid Strategy for Economic Development

January 31, 2017Rebecca

Conservation: A Solid Strategy for Economic Development  I have a great idea to bolster economic development in Columbia County: we should as an entire community renew and redouble our commitment to conservation.  We should collaborate to create as many publicly accessible parks, forests and nature preserves as possible; we should aggressively work to construct a system of interconnecting trail corridors; we should conserve as much good farm and forest land as quickly as we can. Seriously?  Yes, seriously. Think about it.  An important part of working to strengthen our economic base involves creating conditions that will attract people and businesses to come to the area.  Why would someone want to move a business to Columbia County?  Why would anybody want to live here?  Because it’s a great place to live, a place with genuine rural character, a beautiful working landscape, lots of open spaces, historic hamlets and villages and many wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoors. Not everyone, of course, aspires to the same style of life. But for anyone who values being within an easy drive to the New York, Boston or Albany Metropolitan Areas, and appreciates beautiful countryside, robust agriculture, easy access to fresh healthy food and a… Read More