New York sets the pace for conservation

For nearly 20 years, a New York grant-making program has been quietly funding the work of land trusts across the state. To date the program — called the Conservation Partnership Program — has awarded 1,077 grants totaling more than $25 million to 92 land trusts working in urban, suburban and rural communities in New York.

By Darci Palmquist May 11, 2022

Funded through an appropriation in the state’s budget, the CPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. This public-private partnership offers an innovative model for achieving conservation and management of forests, agricultural lands, wetlands, community gardens and more, while also supporting the outdoor recreation, economic development, habitat protection efforts and climate change goals of local communities.

“This program strengthens land trusts, helping them to protect the treasured outdoor places that New Yorkers need and love,” says Meme Hanley, the Alliance’s senior New York program manager. “Other states across the country should consider how they can enact similar programs for conservation, whether in partnership with the Alliance or other groups like land trust state associations.”

Hanley notes that programs like the CPP allow states to advance their goals by working with land trusts as trusted local partners and leverage their expertise and resources.

During Earth Week 2022, DEC and the Alliance announced $3.375 million in grants(link is external) to 51 land trusts in the state, with an additional $2.7 million in local matching funds. A map(link is external) shows the distribution of funds across the state and project highlights(link is external) show the diversity of work, from invasive species management to urban community gardens and more.

One recipient is Thousand Islands Land Trust, located in Clayton at the northern tip of Lake Ontario. A grant of $98,050 will help fund improvements to Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail, a 7-mile hiking and biking trail that runs along an old railway bed. An additional grant of $50,000 will support development of interactive exhibits about water quality and local history and culture at the organization’s new Discovery Center, slated to open in 2023.

In Saratoga County, an $80,000 grant to Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park will help increase outdoor education and recreation opportunities and fund two paid internship positions for recent graduates from communities traditionally underrepresented in environmental education and conservation. The goal is to “expose more community members to public lands” according to Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature), a partner in the project.

“With CPP, land trusts are gaining ground toward their goals of protecting land, strengthening communities and fighting climate change,” says Hanley. “This program has been vital to the growth of land trusts and conservation efforts across the state.”