New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced more than $1.35 million in grants to six land trusts to help protect local forests that are considered key to achieving the state’s objectives to protect open space.
Grant funding will be used to acquire new easements to help keep forests as forests, safeguarding the ecosystem services they provide that include stormwater mitigation, temperature regulation, carbon sequestration, and climate resiliency.
The grants, managed by DEC in partnership with the Land Trust Alliance, were made available through the Forest Conservation Easements for Land Trusts (FCELT) Grant Program.
Funded projects include:
Adirondack Land Trust, Warren County: $350,000 to purchase a conservation easement that will protect 500 acres of forest in the Adirondack Park. The forest is comprised of beech and sugar maples with strands of hemlock-northern hardwoods. In addition to the forest, the easement will protect wild shoreline along the Hudson River, 1.5 miles of streams, and significant wetlands. Additionally, the property will improve recreational opportunities and protect wildlife habitat in the Hudson River corridor, goals established in the New York State Open Space Plan.
Saratoga PLAN, Saratoga County: $301,497 to purchase a conservation easement on a 435-acre forested property located in the towns of Greenfield and Wilton. The property is a key project in the PLAN’s initiative to protect the 40,000 Palmertown Range that is part of the southeastern corner of the Adirondack Foothills.
Saratoga County is under extreme development pressure, and the Palmertown Range represents an area critical for the movement of wildlife, providing climate resilient habitat, and recreational opportunities. The conservation easement will allow the landowners to sustainably harvest the forested tract while ensuring it will remain a forest and continue to provide these benefits for future generations.
Western New York Land Conservancy, Cattaraugus County: $227,474 to purchase the Perrysburg Headwater Forest conservation easement consisting of approximately 152 acres of forested area within the headwaters of the Allegheny River.
The property contains both mature hemlock-northern hardwoods forest and maple basswood forests, as well as mature beech trees free from any diseases. The land is also a part of the Western New York Wildway, an initiative to protect and connect the region’s largest and most climate resilient forests to benefit people and wildlife.
Dutchess Land Conservancy, Dutchess County: $189,605 to purchase a conservation easement on the 71-acre Johnston Forest property, which is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail and West Mountain State Forest. The property is in a critical forested corridor that connects the northern and southern Appalachians.
The forest offers great value for habitat connection and a portion of the land has been classified as “Important Foraging Area for Rare Bat” by the New York Natural Heritage Program. Protection of the land will help ensure that important water sources remain safe and clean, as it contains nearly 2,000 feet of DEC Class A stream and several springs that supply local drinking water to nearby communities. Mature and undisturbed oak and hickory are the predominant trees on this forested parcel.
Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Lewis County: $181,150 to purchase a conservation easement that will protect 375 acres of forest and wetlands within the core of the Tug Hill Plateau forest – an area listed as a priority for protection in the New York State Open Space Plan.
The Campell Conservation Easement property is surrounded by thousands of acres of protected forest owned by The Nature Conservancy, New York State, and Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust. The easement will protect a beech-maple mesic forest, a marsh headwater stream, and a spruce-fir swamp, along with significant wetlands.
Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy, Montgomery County: $104,609 to purchase a conservation easement in the town of Esperance that will protect 102 acres of mostly forested land. The forest contains a wide variety of species, including red pine, mature Eastern hemlock, birch, aspen, and healthy beech trees.
The land offers breeding habitat for several birds listed as “species of greatest conservation need,” including American woodcock, American kestrel, eastern meadowlark, and bobolink. It also is located within a “pinch point” of climate resiliency and wildlife movement that connects the Adirondacks with the Catskills. The landowner is committed to using the property for environmental education and as a catalyst for additional future forest protection in an area under increasing development pressure.
Funding for this grant program was provided by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the 2023-24 State Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul maintained EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program’s history. The EPF also provides funding for critical environmental programs such as farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 950-member land trusts and their 6.4 million supporters nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at the Land Trust Alliance website.
Photo of Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust property provided.