The awards were announced during a press conference at the Wiawaka Center for Women in Lake George, Warren County, with the Land Trust Alliance and other partners working together to protect forests and combat climate change.
Protecting forests from potential development and establishing new forested areas helps preserve biodiversity and safeguard the ecosystem benefits forests provide, such as stormwater mitigation, temperature regulation, carbon sequestration, and climate resiliency.
In partnership with the Land Trust Alliance, the $1.35 million in grant funds is awarded to eligible, accredited land trusts to purchase conservation easements on forested land to protect them from future development. The funds were made available through the Forest Conservation Easements for Land Trusts (FCELT) Grant Program, which helps increase the pace of forest land conservation to keep forests as forests and continue to help combat climate change.
FCELT grants are expected to further goals and strategies identified in the New York State Open Space Plan, the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, the New York State Forest Action Plan, and other local, regional or statewide land protection plans. As noted in the 2020 Forest Action Plan, privately owned forestlands cover 13.62 million acres and represent 74 percent of New York’s forests. More than 10 million acres are considered family-owned or non-corporate forests.
The plan identifies some of the biggest threats to keeping privately-owned forests healthy and intact: development pressure, inconsistent or lack of professional forest management practices, succession planning, and invasive pests which are often exacerbated by climate change and have the potential to devastate or completely wipe out entire tree species. The projects funded by the FCELT grants are hoped to help address these threats.
The funded projects include:
Lake George Land Conservancy, Warren County: $350,000 to purchase a conservation easement on a 47-acre forested property on the southeastern side of Lake George that is owned by Wiawaka Center for Women. The “Wiawaka Uplands” property is currently undeveloped forested land with more than 1,500 feet of tributary stream and five acres of forested wetland. The conservation easement will protect the ecosystem services that the property provides in a region of the Lake George watershed that continues to be under pressure from high-density development.
Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Columbia County: $350,000 to purchase a conservation easement on the 200-acre Steepletop property, which is surrounded by the Harvey Mountain State Forest. Steepletop consists of mixed northern hardwood forest, wetlands, and open meadows and represents the largest single inholding in Harvey Mountain State Forest. It is the historic home of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who elegized this landscape in her works. This property is an important conservation priority due to its educational, historic, and ecological value, as well as potential for restored public access.
Agricultural Stewardship Association, Washington County: $294,640 to purchase a conservation easement consisting of approximately 262 acres of forested area on Sugar Mountain Forest and connecting Mount Tom and Chestnut Woods State forests. The completely forested land includes tree species such as sugar maples, American beech, northern red oaks, red maples, black birch, white ash, and hemlocks. The property is completely forested and features several intermittent streams within the interior. A perennial stream is located along the eastern boundary of the property and runs south onto New York State reforestation land.
Genesee Valley Conservancy, Livingston County: $348,025 to purchase a conservation easement on 375 acres of primarily forested land immediately adjacent to thousands of acres of State Forest and Wildlife Management Area public lands. The forest includes a mix of hardwoods and hemlock-dominated deep ravines and more than one mile of stream frontage along Sugar Creek. The project will create a valuable buffer between public and private lands that would expand habitat and biodiversity protections, while providing resource use protection from noncompatible or potentially noncompatible adjoining land uses.
First announced in March 2022, applicants could apply for up to $350,000 to fund the acquisition of conservation easements on forest land in New York State. To apply, a 25 percent match of grant funding was required and land trusts must be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.
Funding for this grant program was provided by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the 2022-23 State Budget EPF funding was increased from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program’s history.
Photo: Aerial view of Lake George’s Wiawaka uplands taken October 7, 2002 (courtesy DEC).