Albany, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced nearly $1.35 million in awards to four land trusts to help protect and preserve local forests. 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 New York’s publicly and privately held forests is critical in combatting climate change because of the valuable roles trees play in absorbing and storing carbon, maintaining wildlife habitats, and reducing air pollution," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “DEC worked quickly to administer these grants to help promote forest conservation and we look forward to partnering with the award recipients and continuing our ongoing collaborations with Land Trust Alliance and land trusts across the state.”
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.
“Forests are an irreplaceable resource to the people of New York that provide clean air and water, reduce the risks of flooding and extreme heat, protect habitat and boost our local economies,” said Meme Hanley, New York Senior Program Manager for the Land Trust Alliance. “Development and economic pressures make protecting forests a challenge that today's announcement will help to address. The Land Trust Alliance and our more than 85 local land trust members appreciate Governor Kathy Hochul, the New York State Legislature, and the DEC’s support of this program that will increase the rate of forest conservation in our state to serve as a first line of defense against climate change.”
FCELT grants will 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. Nearly 700,000 private forest landowners provide the public with the benefits of clean air and water, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and a forest-based economy. 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 will 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 275 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), a critical resource for environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, water quality improvement, and environmental justice projects. Among the many environmental victories in the 2022-23 State Budget, Governor Hochul succeeded in increasing the EPF from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history.
About the Land Trust Alliance
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 www.landtrustalliance.org.