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DEC announces completion of conservation plans in Columbia and Putnam Counties

  • / Updated:
  • Concetta Durso 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the completion of two conservation plans identifying important connections in nature that support wildlife and people. The Green Corridors Plan for the Eastern New York Highlands in Putnam County and the Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan for the Taghkanic Creek’s headwaters in Columbia County consider significant natural features that span municipal boundaries and present priorities for coordinated conservation.

“Preserving natural connections between habitats is critical for wildlife movement, climate adaptation, and resilient ecosystems,” said Commissioner Seggos. “DEC applauds the leadership of our Land Trust partners in working with local communities to create shared conservation visions for the eastern Hudson Highlands and for the Taghkanic headwaters watershed.”

Both projects are supported by $50,000 each in competitive grants administered by DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program with funding from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The 2021-2025 Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda sets a target to have 10 new planning projects completed to support landscape-scale conservation, regional biodiversity priorities, and habitat connections in the Hudson estuary watershed by 2030.

The Green Corridors Plan was led by Hudson Highlands Land Trust (HHLT), with input from residents in the towns of Philipstown and Putnam Valley, state agencies, and not-for-profit partners. The plan used existing conservation and land use plans, scientific data and field study, and community feedback to identify important areas for wildlife habitat connectivity in the Hudson Highlands east of the Hudson River. This plan Identifies important links of natural lands like forests, marshes, and meadows between existing conserved lands in the eastern Hudson Highlands. It includes maps of priority connections based on scientific analysis of critical areas for wildlife movement, conservation priorities of organizations working in the region, and input from community members and experts in the towns of Philipstown and Putnam Valley.

The Green Corridors Plan was developed as a resource for decision-makers, landowners, residents, visitors, and the New York Highlands Network and its member organizations. The plan presents implementation tools and funding sources to conserve Green Corridors and is being used by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust to inform land protection priorities and can be included in municipal initiatives like open space plans and comprehensive plan updates.

Katrina Shindledecker, HHLT Executive Director said, “The Green Corridors Plan is designed to help keep wildlife and people healthy throughout our community. We look forward to seeing the Plan used by municipalities, conservation organizations, and local residents to protect the most important and vulnerable open spaces in Putnam County and the Eastern New York Highlands.”

Fred Osborn, New York State Parks’ Taconic Commission, said, “Nowadays the outdoors is becoming recognized as vital for the mental and physical health of people. Having stretches of open land for local wildlife to connect larger preserved areas is imperative; the Green Corridors Plan has enabled those connections to be identified and strengthened; our wildlife thrives; our communities are stronger ecologically and economically.”

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

The Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan was coordinated by the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC), with community volunteers from the towns of Claverack, Copake, Hillsdale, and Taghkanic. The Taghkanic Creek is a Hudson River estuary tributary, with its headwaters in the central hills of Columbia County. The plan emphasizes the value of large, connected forests and streams in the watershed of the headwaters to protect abundant and clean water, and wildlife like eastern brook trout. The Plan identifies an array of actions for individuals, groups, local governments, and conservation organizations to conserve important resources into the future.

The plan sets out a vision for a Taghkanic Headwaters 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. It describes the forests, streams, and wetlands of the area and the important benefits they provide people and wildlife, highlighting how these natural areas support connectivity for wildlife.  The plan also maps five areas of exceptional importance, selected based on a combination of features including areas prioritized for connectivity, the presence of large, intact forests, wooded wetlands, and important resources such as the Taghkanic Creek, Pumpkin Hollow Swamp, and Copake Lake.

Marissa Codey, CLC Director of Farmland, Forestry, and Land Use Programs, said, “The Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan could not have been developed without the dedicated work of many local stakeholders, and we look forward to working with the broader community to protect and care for the lands and water systems within the watershed region.”

Cara Boyle, stakeholder and CLC Trustee said, “Forests are essential for protecting our water. Stakeholders from the community came together to work with CLC to develop this connectivity plan so that we can help plan for a future where Columbia County is a place where drinking water is clean and plentiful and our beautiful, forested landscapes are intact.”

Among the many environmental victories in the enacted 2022-23 State Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders increased the EPF to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program’s history. The EPF supports climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improves agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protects water sources, advances conservation efforts, and provides recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.

For more information about conservation planning in the Hudson River estuary watershed visit DEC website and Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment website.