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Deal Protects 131 Scenic, Ecologically Important Acres

Binnen Kill
Binnen Kill

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

Acquisition supports future goal of providing outdoor recreation 15 minutes from downtown Albany

BETHLEHEM (ALBANY COUNTY)—Taking another step in its campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most, Scenic Hudson has protected 131 scenic and ecologically significant acres along the Binnen Kill. A conservation priority of the organization for nearly a decade, the land is a linchpin in linking the 400 acres Scenic Hudson previously preserved along this important Hudson River tributary, 100 state-owned acres, and the Town of Bethlehem’s Henry Hudson Park and Moh-He-Con-Nuck Nature Preserve.

Featuring meadows, wetlands and a third of a mile of shoreline along both sides of the Binnen Kill—a major spawning ground and nursery for American shad, blueback herring, alewives and striped bass—the newly acquired property provides habitat for a remarkable variety of rare plants and animals, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons. It is prominently visible to motorists crossing the I-90 Castleton-on-Hudson Bridge and offers views of the river. Combined with the nearby protected lands, it offers exciting future potential for outdoor recreation within a 15-minute drive of downtown Albany.

The land Scenic Hudson has protected in Bethlehem includes a mosaic of floodplains and tidal wetlands along 2.5 miles of Hudson Riverfront as well as adjacent upland forests, farm fields and meadows through which the Binnen Kill flows. All of the properties are located within an Audubon-designated Important Bird Area and state-designated Estuarine Biologically Important Area (BIA). The A rating assigned this BIA means its habitats are of the highest ecological significance.

Land also supports agriculture, adapting to rising sea levels

Once known as Grand View Farm, the newly protected land also features 84 acres of prime agricultural soils currently leased to a local farmer for production of silage corn and hay. The property contains a 19th-century farmhouse built by prominent Bethlehem businessman and politician Cornelius V. Baker. Scenic Hudson intends to sell the house and several outbuildings to a buyer who would be interested in restoring the structures.

The property also will play a crucial role in helping the community adapt to rising sea levels and storm surges. Its mudflats and wetlands provide an excellent natural buffer against flooding, while adjacent uplands will offer a pathway for habitats and species to migrate away from rising waters.

“The lands in Scenic Hudson’s Binnen Kill Priority Area are among the most ecologically vital and beautiful in the Capital Region. Each time we protect more land here, we enhance the area’s importance as wildlife habitat and future opportunities for people to connect with it,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Scenic Hudson Senior Land Project Manager Lee Alexander negotiated the transaction, which was made possible through a low-interest loan from The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, Inc. The seller, Waste Management, was represented by John MacAffer of CBRE-Albany.

Land preservation boosts economic opportunity

Scenic Hudson’s Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign preserves land critical for sustaining the Hudson Valley’s economy. The region’s parks and open spaces contribute substantially to a 10-county tourism industry that generates $4.75 billion in spending annually (including $874 million in Albany County responsible for nearly 16,000 jobs), while its farmland is the cornerstone of a of an $800-million agricultural 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. The transaction also supports the goals of Scenic Hudson’s groundbreaking Foodshed Conservation Plan, a blueprint for ramping up collaborative farmland-protection efforts to create a secure source of fresh, local food for the Hudson Valley and New York City.

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. Scenic Hudson’s parks also encourage people to be active, contributing to their better overall health.

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 Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign in 2007, Scenic Hudson has conserved 10,868 acres and our land trust partners an additional 2,649 acres.

“This property was a high priority of Scenic Hudson’s Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign because it embodies all of its goals. By protecting key habitat and outstanding views while providing significant opportunities to connect people to the Hudson Valley’s natural treasures and support local agriculture, this acquisition underscores the vital role that protecting land plays in sustaining the region’s health and economic prosperity,” said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved over 35,000 acres.