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Hudson, New York
Environment
5 July 2017 03:05PM
Jay Burgess

CATSKILL (Greene County)—Scenic Hudson’s protection of 132 acres adjacent to its RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary ensures this land will continue sustaining one of the most unique and unspoiled habitats along the Hudson River estuary and will help the region be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The acquisition adds to the 480-acre nature preserve offering two miles of trails that Scenic Hudson co-owns with Audubon New York. Open daily dawn to dusk and free of charge, RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary provides unparalleled opportunities for hikers and paddlers to explore and observe wildlife—including bald eagles, osprey, muskrat, beaver, otters, turtles and dragonflies.

The newly protected property features more than 3,400 feet along the estuary shore, including a significant portion of Ramshorn Marsh. A state-designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat containing the largest freshwater tidal swamp along the Hudson River—and one of just five major locations statewide of this globally rare habitat—Ramshorn Marsh provides irreplaceable habitat for American eel, American shad, smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as many amphibian, reptile and plant species. It also furnishes vital resting and feeding habitat for large concentrations of waterfowl during their fall and spring migrations, and is an important waterfowl wintering area.

The property ranked highly in Scenic Hudson’s new Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy (HVCS) due to its importance in the estuary’s adaptation to sea level rise and climate change. Scenic Hudson developed the HVCS—the next generation of its strategic ranking system Saving the Land That Matters Most initiative—to pinpoint properties whose conservation will maximize land investments by achieving multiple benefits: sustaining biodiversity, increasing resilience to rising sea levels and other climate change impacts, securing the pathways many species depend on for survival and preserving working farmland.

The HVCS identifies networks of conservation areas that add up to more than the sum of their parts, and charts the most efficient way to conserve those places critical for helping the region withstand the impacts of a warming climate. Conserving the tidal wetland at Ramshorn Marsh and immediately adjacent upland areas is key for allowing its habitats to adapt and migrate inland in response to sea level rise. The acquisition also contributes significantly to climate change mitigation by effectively storing large quantities of carbon. In addition, tidal wetlands like Ramshorn Mash help maintain the river’s water quality.

Due to the property’s high ranking in the HVCS, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided a portion of the purchase price.

As a large tidal wetland adjacent to both the village and town of Catskill, Ramshorn Marsh is recognized as playing an important role during storms, absorbing floodwaters and reducing the impact of waves on the land. Such services were noted by the Catskill Waterfront Resilience Task Force, an effort led by Scenic Hudson and the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program that resulted in a set of recommendations to make the village’s waterfront safer and more resilient in both the short and long term.

The acquisition supports Scenic Hudson’s efforts to enhance the local tourism economy, including creation of a trail that will connect RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary with downtown Catskill, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Olana State Historic Site and the City of Hudson—crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge via the planned Hudson River SkyWalk. Scenic Hudson is providing technical support for development of the SkyWalk and has conserved more than 900 acres along the trail’s proposed route.

Ramshorn Marsh, including the recent acquisition, contributes prominently to outstanding views visitors enjoy from Olana State Historic Site, a mainstay of the local and regional tourism economy. Scenic Hudson has spearheaded collaborative efforts resulting in the protection of more than 1,900 acres of fields, forests and riverfront visible from the hilltop estate created by 19th-century painter Frederic Church to showcase surrounding vistas. Additionally, Scenic Hudson last year partnered with the Greene Land Trust to preserve 149 acres along Catskill Creek, safeguarding natural beauty painted many times by Thomas Cole. This location and Olana are stops on the Hudson River School Art Trail, which connects visitors to landscapes that inspired artists behind America’s first homegrown art movement.

“Ramshorn Marsh contains some of the most important habitats along the entire Hudson River. We’re grateful to Rob Kalin for working with us to conserve a critical portion of this ecological treasure and enabling us to provide new opportunities for people to connect with it, boosting the potential of RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary to support the local tourism economy and create jobs. We also thank the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and supporters whose generosity allowed us to acquire this ‘must-save’ land,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

“I’m a big believer in Scenic Hudson’s mission, and am happy to further it in this way. They do some righteous work, critical to the well-being of this magical part of the world,” said Rob Kalin.

“This is excellent news for the river. Protecting tidal wetlands is essential to maintain vulnerable populations of birds and other wildlife. It also benefits all of us through shoreline protection, maintaining natural viewsheds, and increased opportunities for nature education and appreciation,” said Audubon New York’s Eric Lind, manager of RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary and director of Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary.

“As a founding organization of RamsHorn-Livingston Sanctuary, Northern Catskills Audubon Society is extremely thankful for the work of Scenic Hudson and Rob Kalin to protect these 132 acres and add the land to the sanctuary. Thanks to funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Scenic Hudson’s Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment, and other donors, this important area adds critical habitat to the sanctuary, increasing its capabilities as a nursery for many aquatic and avian species in the Hudson River estuary,” said Northern Catskills Audubon Society President Larry Federman.

“One of our biggest assets is access to waterways and parks, and this will be a major part of the future development of our community,” said Village of Catskill Board of Trustees President Vincent Seeley.

“This is a real contribution to the long-term resilience of Ramshorn Marsh and the Hudson River ecosystem, ensuring that the rare habitats and species there will persist as the river rises. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is proud to support Scenic Hudson as it protects places like these through its Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy,” said Sacha Spector, program director for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Scenic Hudson acquired the land for $1.2 million. The transaction was negotiated by Scenic Hudson Land Project Manager Abdiel Lopez Torres and Land Conservation Director Seth McKee. In addition to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, additional key funding was provided by Scenic Hudson’s Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment and generous private donors.

Acquisition of the land—a Scenic Hudson conservation priority for more than two decades—marks another victory in the organization’s Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign. Scenic Hudson pursues this campaign realizing that preserving land provides the cornerstone of a sustainable Hudson Valley economy. Tourism in the 10-county region sustains nearly 85,000 jobs. Annual tourism spending in Greene County is $152.1 million and supports nearly 3,200 jobs. Protected lands also help grow other parts of the economy. A study by the Trust for Public Land notes that executives looking to relocate or start firms rank quality of life—including an abundance of parks and open space—higher than housing, cost of living and good schools.

“This acquisition embodies the goal of Scenic Hudson’s Saving the Land That Matters Most campaign to preserve the Hudson Valley’s iconic landscapes. By protecting land so critical for ensuring the contiguity of one of the region’s most vital habitats, it also builds momentum for carrying out our Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy—to ensure the region’s ecology can adapt to climate change. Furthermore, the land will provide opportunities for outdoor recreation that will benefit Catskill residents and visitors,” said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust.

Collaborative campaigns target protecting valley’s most important landscapes
Scenic Hudson’s campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most is a multi-year, collaborative effort with fellow land trusts, governments, individuals and businesses to protect lands of the highest scenic, ecological and agricultural significance throughout the Hudson Valley.

Scenic Hudson preserves land and farms and creates parks that connect people with the inspirational power of the Hudson River, while fighting threats to the river and natural resources that are the foundation of the valley’s prosperity. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved more than 40,000 acres. http://www.scenichudson.org

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