DEC Announces Acquistion of Two Columbia County Parcels Totaling 1,114 Acres
Properties Include Extensive Hiking Trails and Critical Watershed Protections
$6.7 Million Investment to Protect Hudson River Estuary and Significant Bird Habitats
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the state’s acquisition of two properties in Columbia County totaling 1,114 acres. DEC completed the purchase of 590 acres along the Hudson River in the town of Stockport, and 524 acres in the town of New Lebanon, doubling the size of the Hand Hollow State Forest, for a total of $6.7 million. The acquisitions will preserve critical open space, protect the region’s watershed, and expand recreational opportunities that support the local economy. The announcements were made at an event today in Columbia County as part of the State’s weeklong celebration of Earth Day.
“The expansion of Hand Hollow State Forest and the addition of the Empire Brickyard property to our Wildlife Management Areas will improve public recreational access, protect the watershed, and conserve diverse forest resources that are critical carbon-fighting tools in the prevention of climate change,” Commissioner Seggos said. “New York is proud to partner with Scenic Hudson and the Open Space Institute, as well as the original landowners, who had the foresight to secure these lands and ensure they remain protected.”
Preserving Significant Habitats at the Former Empire Brickyard
DEC purchased the 590-acre tract along the Hudson River from Scenic Hudson for $4.6 million utilizing federal Pittman-Robertson Act funds. DEC is designating the parcel as the new Charles Flood Wildlife Management Area at the Empire Brickyard in memory of Charles Flood (1938-2015), who was strongly committed to protecting and connecting people to the Hudson Valley’s natural treasures and provided leadership support for Scenic Hudson’s work. Along with protecting wildlife habitat, the parcel expands and improves access for hunting, trapping, fishing and wildlife viewing.
The parcel has scenic vistas with more than two miles of frontage along the Hudson River and New York State Route 9J. It is recognized as an Archeological Site of Sensitivity by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and is part of the Columbia-Green North Scenic Area of Statewide Significance by the state Department of State. Part of the parcel lies within the Stockport Creek and Flats Significant Coastal Fish & Wildlife Habitat as designated by the Department of State.
The habitat predominately includes upland mixed and conifer forest, upland shrubland, freshwater tidal marsh, and contains segments of 11 Hudson River tributaries. A number of rare and threatened plant species can be found on the site. The protection of this land will help buffer sea level rise impacts and other effects of climate change. It will also be managed as a part of DEC’s Young Forest Initiative, designed to enhance declining early successional habitats and the wildlife that depend on them. The site supports bald eagles, black ducks, great blue herons, egrets and numerous other waterfowl, marsh birds, and songbirds. It also serves as important spawning, nursery, and refuge habitat for coastal migratory and resident fish including striped bass, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, American shad, white perch, and the state and federally endangered shortnose sturgeon.
“Scenic Hudson thanks Governor Cuomo for his leadership in land conservation and environmental protection by acquiring this magnificent property. We’re also grateful to the many generous supporters who made it possible for us to protect it, first and foremost Charles Flood, whose outstanding commitment to conserving the valley’s natural splendor is memorialized in the name of this outstanding new recreational asset. Together, we have ensured that more of the irreplaceable habitats in Stockport Flats-one of the most beautiful and exciting places to explore wildlife along the entire Hudson River-will remain intact and publicly accessible forever,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.
Steve Rosenberg, Executive Director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust said, “There are special places along the Hudson River that we need to save-for wildlife and for our own recreation and enjoyment. This is one of those places. Scenic Hudson is delighted to have conveyed these 590 acres to New York State, bringing to more than 1,500 acres the lands we’ve preserved within the Stockport Flats Unit of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.”
Doubling the Size of the Hand Hollow State Forest
DEC purchased 524 acres from the Open Space Institute (OSI) for approximately $2.1 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to add to New York’s 518-acre Hand Hollow State Forest. The newly acquired parcels include forestland, meadows, ponds, streams, and wetlands that were identified by DEC as regional conservation priorities. They will help protect the Housatonic and Middle Hudson watersheds, and continue the state’s effort to reduce greenhouse gases through forest carbon sequestration.
Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO, said, “The Open Space Institute (OSI) is proud to transfer this land to DEC as an addition that will double the size of Hand Hollow State Forest. We are grateful to work with like-minded partners to protect land that will help improve local water quality and expand recreational opportunities in Columbia County for generations of outdoors enthusiasts.”
Hand Hollow State Forest is managed by DEC for multiple uses, including recreation, timber production, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat. The forest’s recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife observation, and photography. It has a number of accessible features that allow people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy what the area has to offer, including a trail open to motorized use by permit for people with disabilities and an accessible fishing dock at the onsite pond.
Today’s acquisition will be incorporated into New York’s 790,000-acre State Forest system, which is sustainably managed to provide public recreation, clean air, clean water, forest products and carbon sequestration. These lands are dually-certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council standards as being well-managed forest lands, taking into account such diverse considerations as native peoples’ rights, endangered species, global climate change, and sustainable timber production
To help continue important open space acquisitions, the 2019-20 budget sustained the historic funding of the state’s EPF at $300 million. Several EPF programs provide tens of millions of dollars for the conservation of open space. During Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tenure, DEC has acquired more than 146,000 acres, creating and adding to State forests, Wildlife Management Areas, forest preserve, conservation easements, and other lands that provide wildlife habitat, sequester carbon, help ameliorate flooding, protect water supplies and provide abundant public recreational opportunities.
Under the Governor’s Adventure NY initiative, DEC is also making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. This initiative will support the completion of more than 75 projects over the next three years, ranging from improvements to youth camps and environmental education centers to new boat launches, duck blinds, and hiking trails. Read more about the Adventure NY initiative.
DEC manages approximately five million acres of public lands, including three million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, over 900,000 acres of conservation easements, 52 campgrounds, seven day-use areas, more than 5,000 miles of formal trails, and hundreds of trailheads, boat launches, and fishing piers. Plan your next outdoor adventure on DEC’s Outdoor Activities webpage, and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. For more information on the DEC managed State Forests visit DEC’s website.