Columbia County Land Deal Protects Drinking Water Supply, Critical Wildlife Habitats, Olana Views

Friday, August 30, 2013 -- Scenic Hudson

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

Latest victory in campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most

GREENPORT (Columbia County)—Scenic Hudson has acquired 173 scenic and ecologically important acres in Greenport that also play a critical role in maintaining the quality of the local public water supply. The latest victory in the organization's ongoing Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign, the transaction builds on Scenic Hudson's record for conserving lands that contribute to the health and prosperity of valley communities.

The property features forests, clay bluffs, a 65-acre complex of tidal and freshwater wetlands, over a mile of frontage along the main channel of South Bay Creek—which flows into the Hudson River through South Bay in the City of Hudson—and dozens of the creek's secondary channels and tributary streams. The land purifies and replenishes the aquifer supplying the primary source of drinking water for Greenport, whose wellheads are located on adjacent property.

A portion of the property also is visible from Olana State Historic Site, whose spectacular vistas contribute significantly to its popularity as one of the region's top tourism destinations, attracting more than 170,000 visitors annually and generating nearly $8 million of economic stimulus each year in surrounding communities. Since 1992 Scenic Hudson and its conservation partners have protected more than 2,400 acres visible from Olana.

Group focused on protecting ecologically important lands along South Bay Creek

The newly acquired land is immediately east of 148 acres in the South Bay watershed previously protected by Scenic Hudson and is adjacent to the state-designated South Bay Creek and Marsh Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. In addition to providing habitat for numerous rare plant species, the property will help accommodate the inland migration of species whose habitats face inundation from climate-related sea level rise in the Hudson River and South Bay.

Scenic Hudson is focused on securing important parcels along South Bay Creek for habitat protection and recreational use. Moving forward, it plans to conduct outreach with local residents and community leaders to learn more about how people would like to see these lands managed. One long-term possibility is to establish trail linkages along a larger "cultural and conservation corridor" between the City of Hudson, South Bay Creek, Olana, the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, the Village of Catskill and RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary.

Transaction helps mark Scenic Hudson's 50th anniversary

Speaking about the land deal, Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, "We're excited to seize this opportunity to conserve more land in the South Bay watershed. Safeguarding this property's natural treasures not only supports our longstanding efforts to restore the bay's ecological health, but also ensures that Olana will offer visitors access to inspiring world-class views."

Scenic Hudson Senior Land Project Manager Kelly Boling negotiated the transaction, which helps mark Scenic Hudson's 50th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1963 to protect revered Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Highlands from a proposed power plant. The successful campaign lasted 17 years, but early on achieved a landmark legal victory—the "Scenic Hudson decision." Unleashing the power of an informed, engaged citizenry to protect cherished natural resources, it marked the birth of the modern environmental movement. Over the last five decades, Scenic Hudson has continued to play an unparalleled role in preserving the Hudson Valley's treasured resources and shaping development along the banks of its famed river.

Land preservation boosts economic opportunity

Scenic Hudson pursues its campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most realizing that preserving land provides the cornerstone of a sustainable Hudson Valley economy. Tourism in the 10-county region generates $4.3 billion in spending annually and sustains 80,000 jobs. Annual tourism spending in Columbia County is $102 million and supports nearly 1,400 jobs. Protected lands also help grow other parts of the economy. A study by the Trust for Public Land notes that executives looking to relocate or start firms rank quality of life—including an abundance of parks and open space—higher than housing, cost of living and good schools.

Conserving natural areas improves human health

Protecting open space also offers myriad human health benefits. Trees sequester pollutants that contribute to asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, while releasing oxygen. In addition to helping keep drinking water clean and avoid flooding, conserved land maintains biodiversity, which plays an important role in preventing diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

Conserving large, contiguous landscapes links and expands habitat networks on which many wildlife species depend and ensures that development-sensitive species, such as migratory songbirds and vernal pool amphibians, continue to thrive. This property, combined with several others preserved by Scenic Hudson and the Town of Greenport, creates a protected assemblage of 500 contiguous acres in the South Bay watershed.

Collaborative campaign targets protecting valley's most important landscapes

Scenic Hudson's campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most is a multi-year, collaborative effort with fellow land trusts, governments, individuals and businesses to protect lands of the highest scenic, ecological and agricultural significance throughout the Hudson Valley. Since initiating the campaign in 2007, Scenic Hudson has conserved 8,537 acres and our land trust partners an additional 2,385 acres.

"Preserving this beautiful property embodies so many aspects of Scenic Hudson's work—safeguarding the Hudson Valley's extraordinary biological diversity, promoting healthy communities and supporting tourism. For this reason, it's a critical part of what we call 'The Land That Matters Most,'" said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust.

This transaction was completed with funds from Scenic Hudson's Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment and the owner's generous willingness to convey the property for less than its appraised fair market value.