Happy spring! The days lengthen and warm. Trees begin to bud. Crocuses force their petals through the soil. Birds return to sing in the trees. Another year’s cycle of life begins again.
As we look forward to what this next season of growth and regeneration will bring, we celebrate the germination of ideas that were planted in seasons past.
Land protection at a landscape scale
CLC’s efforts to protect important landscapes don’t stop at the Columbia County line. For the last eight years, CLC has coordinated the Berkshire-Taconic Regional Conservation Partnership, a coalition of more than a dozen partners from New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. Partners are focused on protecting the Mid-Hudson Wildlife Corridor. The Corridor is one of only two critical migration pathways to cross the Hudson Valley. It connects large blocks of intact central-interior forest in the Catskills and Appalachians to expansive northern hardwood forests in the Taconic and Green Mountains, which are connected, in turn, to forests that continue all the way into Canada.
In partnership with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance and other members of the Regional Conservation Partnership, we have secured a $6M grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This program includes funds for both permanently protecting land with conservation easements and restoring habitats, particularly streamside habitats. CLC has identified five projects totaling nearly 900 acres in size for permanent protection, and will be working with partners to develop a ranking tool to help prioritize additional land protection projects.
The work this grant will support builds on the efforts of a dedicated group of stakeholder volunteers from communities in the watershed. Working collaboratively, they articulated a vision for the watershed – 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. CLC is incredibly grateful for these volunteers and their visionary approach to community-based landscape scale conservation.
The Taghkanic Creek flows through the towns of Claverack, Copake, Hillsdale, and Taghkanic. The “headwaters” refers to the small streams in the upper reaches of watershed. The grant will make it possible to protect lands near the Churchtown Reservoir and above the New Forge water intake. These source waters supply the City of Hudson with drinking water and have an important influence on water in the Taghkanic Creek.
The stakeholders articulated three goals for achieving this vision: 1) Forests and woodlands are protected and managed so wildlife move freely, water remains clean, and the woods are resilient to climate change; 2) The Creek has enough clean water to be a high-quality habitat and meet the needs of people, fish, and wildlife; and 3) Connections are strengthened among people and communities in the watershed. A print document with the plan is in production, and members of the stakeholder committee continue to strategize on how best to engage landowners, municipalities, and organizational partners on implementation.
Caring for land
CLC and the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance are partnering to host two webinars and two in-person workshops for landowners about the Family Forest Carbon Program, which was developed by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. This program is near and dear to my heart as I played a role in creating it prior to coming to the Columbia Land Conservancy. Now that I am here, I am excited to find ways for forest owners in our region to do their part to combat climate change. In-person workshops are scheduled for April and May.
The Family Forest Carbon Program pays non-commercial forest owners to implement climate-smart forestry practices like removing invasive species, planting trees, and managing deer populations. The program also provides landowners with professional expertise and guidance to help them transition to sustainable management long term.
Support for small-scale farming
Over the past year, CLC worked with landowners interested in donating a small-scale farm property they acquired through a foreclosure sale. CLC regularly works with landowners interested in donating property, often protecting donated properties with conservation easements and reselling the land. CLC then utilizes the proceeds of the subsequent sale to advance our mission – these resale properties are known as tradelands. CLC staff recognized the small farm donation as an opportunity to explore a new approach to agricultural tradelands by creating an affordable, small-scale farm unit using a conservation easement with an affordability provision. Over the coming year CLC will work to protect the property with a conservation easement and sell it at agricultural value, thus creating an opportunity for affordable farmland access for a Columbia County farmer. Some landowners may be interested in how they may be able to leave their land to CLC as part of their estate planning. If you are interested or would just like to learn more about how you can leave a lasting legacy, please let us know.
Updates to the Farmer-Landowner Match Program
In partnership with Dutchess Land Conservancy, CLC operates the Farmer-Landowner Match Program to facilitate farmland access in our region. To date, this program has supported more than 85 matches on over 4,000 acres of land in Columbia and Dutchess Counties. To enhance this work, CLC partners with the American Farmland Trust, serving as
a Regional Navigator in the Farmland for a New Generation New York program.
The Regional Navigator network includes 36 organizations throughout New York State working to support farmers seeking land and landowners who want to keep their land in farming. To streamline this work, CLC is working with American Farmland Trust to merge our websites. We have found that our collaborative work with the Regional Navigators network has had a positive impact on our land access work, often infusing our engagement with farmers and landowners with the additional knowledge and expertise that our partners bring to these conversations.
Just as many of us start seeds in hopes of reaping a bountiful harvest later, CLC is looking forward to seeing the results of these efforts grow and bear fruit for years to come. Your support is essential in helping these, and all efforts to care for this land we love, grow and thrive. Thank you for all you do to make this possible.