Conserving Land • Protecting Resources
Since 1987
 

As of January 1, 2024, the Rensselaer Land Trust has merged with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance. For all questions regarding donations, events, land, or other matters, please visit www.rensselaerplateau.org or call 518-712-9211. For questions about the merger, use extension 101 to speak with Jim Bonesteel. You can expect a new name and logo for our merged organization by Spring / Summer 2024 and a new website by the end of the year!

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County Conservation Plan Kinderhook Woods.JPG

The Rensselaer Land Trust has developed a Rensselaer County Conservation Plan that will serve as a “greenprint” of land and water conservation priorities in the county. The Conservation Plan

  • identifies the specific resources and values Rensselaer Land Trust and its partners are working to conserve in Rensselaer County;
  • objectively map where these resources and values occur or are supported;
  • assess which lands and waters contribute most significantly to these resources and values; and
  • use this information to prioritize where Rensselaer Land Trust and its partners proactively pursue land conservation projects, focusing on the lands that will have the most significant impact on Rensselaer County’s natural resources, landscapes, and quality of life.

 

To view RLT's Conservation Plan and town priority maps go to the links at the bottom of this page! Or for a snapshot of the Conservation Plan click HERE for a Story Map View.

This Conservation Plan is the first comprehensive study of this kind for the entire county, and has been developed with input from and in collaboration with public and private partners and stakeholders, including municipalities, community groups, recreation user groups, other conservation organizations, and residents.

The preparation of this Land Conservation Plan has been made possible by grants and contributions from:

  • New York State Environmental Protection Fund through:
    • The NYS Conservation Partnership Program led by the Land Trust Alliance and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and
    • The Hudson River Estuary Program of NYSDEC,
  • The Hudson River Valley Greenway,
  • Royal Bank of Canada,
  • The Louis and Hortense Rubin Foundation, and
  • Volunteers from the Rensselaer Land Trust who provided in-kind matching support.

 

Background

Rensselaer County contains a wealth of open space, natural resources, productive agricultural land, expansive blocks of forest, and other ecologically significant areas, which support wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational opportunities, and sustainable economic activity such as farming, forestry, and tourism. However, Rensselaer County is also experiencing expanding development and proposed activities, including energy infrastructure construction, that threaten or are incompatible with these valuable natural assets and that diminish the ecological services they provide.

A Rensselaer County Conservation Plan serves as a guide not just for Rensselaer Land Trust, but also for our partners in other conservation organizations and municipalities, and for landowners and citizens, in implementing conservation programs and projects. This plan can increase the level of local and regional open space protection by all parties by showing what and where is most important to conserve, fostering activities across political boundaries, leveraging funding, and building community support.

Details

Development of the Rensselaer County Conservation Plan included four phases:

  1. Inventory. An inventory has been conducted of Rensselaer County’s natural resources, significant open spaces, sensitive environmental features, and lands considered important by local communities. Resources and features include the inventory listed below. Existing GIS and other data, including from partners in this project, have been supplemented with expert and local knowledge, and with information from stakeholders. Solicited community members regarding lands they feel define the special character of their communities, Rensselaer Land Trust conducted four public workshops, and set up an online survey and comment page. Rensselaer Land Trust will reviewed existing municipal open space and natural resource inventories, and reached out to municipalities, community groups, recreation user groups, and other conservation organizations for input into this inventory. Products of this phase with GIS data are provided within the plan.
  2. Analysis. A spatial analysis has identified those locations in Rensselaer County, and in each individual municipality, that support the highest quality examples of each of these resources, and locations that support high-quality examples of multiple resources. A weighted ranking analysis in a set of lands that contribute the most to the County’s and municipalities’ quality of life and environmental health, and thus are of the highest priority for protection.
  3. Report. The results of the first two phases are summarized and presented in a published Conservation Plan. The Conservation Plan also includes a section on strategies and recommended actions that can be taken by Rensselaer Land Trust, other conservation groups, municipalities, and landowners for protecting the lands and waters that are identified as priorities.
  4. Distribution and Outreach. The Conservation Plan will not impact land conservation in the County by just sitting on the shelf. The completed plan is being distributed to all stakeholder groups, partners, municipalities, and the general public; and the results will be presented at public presentations and workshops, and in printed and online outreach materials directed to specific groups.

Resources and features to be included and assessed in the Rensselaer County Conservation Plan:

  • Contiguous forest and wetlands
  • Water supplies and watersheds
  • Wetlands and riparian areas
  • Significant ecological communities
  • Wildlife and native plant habitat
  • Rare plant and animal species
  • Prime agricultural lands
  • Scenic resources
  • Lands with public access
  • Historical features and landscapes
  • Recreational and tourism features
  • Geological features
  • Lands valued by local communities
  • Lands offering highest level of resiliency for biodiversity to climate change
  • Corridors for wildlife and plant movement

While open space inventories and conservation plans have been produced for selected parts of Rensselaer County in the past (most recently the Rensselaer Plateau), Rensselaer Land Trust’s assessment of conservation priorities will be the first to look at all of Rensselaer County. Identification of priority areas for protection will be done at the county level and for each individual town and city.

To view the RLT Conservation Pland and each town's Priority Maps click on the following PDF links:

Cover Image

Click HERE to download the Hudson River Access Plan.
Click HERE to download site sketches.

The Rensselaer County Hudson River Access Plan came about as a result of the Rensselaer County Land Trust securing a grant from the Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Plan was guided by RLT Staff, Board Members, and an Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of the Hudson River Shoreline communities and Rensselaer County.

This plan covers all seven waterfront communities in Rensselaer County:

  • Town of Schaghticoke
  • City of Troy
  • Town of North Greenbush
  • City of Rensselaer
  • Town of East Greenbush
  • Town of Schodack
  • Village of Castleton-on-Hudson

For approximately one year beginning in the spring of 2017, the consultant team led by Planning4Places, LLC with support from Weston & Sampson, conducted an existing conditions assessment, made site visits to assess the condition of existing and potential river access points, and went into the community to solicit input from the public.

Read more: Rensselaer County's Hudson River Access Plan

Protect Landing Page Randal Brook Monitoring LeBlanc Property wide

Rensselaer Land Trust is active in protecting and preserving land in Rensselaer County through our public preserves, conservation easements held on private property, outdoor programs, and watershed education projects.

The Rensselaer Land Trust has a number of projects that further our mission and vision for Rensselaer County. Often, we work with partners to realize these projects.


Protect Your Capital Region Drinking Water: Join RLT In Action!

RLT Tomhannock Rural Land Campaign Sign image

Did you know that the Tomhannock Reservoir currently provides drinking water to 135,000 residents of the Capital Region? The Tomhannock and its watershed provides the drinking water for Rensselaer, Albany and Saratoga Counties including Troy, Menands, Halfmoon, Brunswick, East Greenbush, North Greenbush, Poestenkill, Rensselaer, Schaghticoke and Waterford.

Increased development and other land uses can impact the water quality of the Tomhannock Reservoir. Already the Reservoir has suffered harmful algal blooms in the last few years, illustrating the vulnerability of this resource.

Rensselaer Land Trust is proud to be a protector of our drinking water by partnering with the NYS-DEC Water Quality Improvement Program and land owners in the 66 square mile Tomhannock Watershed. To help protect the drinking water and support community health, the Rensselaer Land Trust intends to purchase land or purchase the development rights to create protective buffers from willing land owners.

By creating buffers, we mitigate pathogens, nutrients and silt/sediment that are the primary current pollutants that threaten the Tomhannock Reservoir and our health.

NYS-DEC awarded Rensselaer Land Trust a Water Quality Improvement Program grant in the amount of $1,500,000. Rensselaer Land Trust is seeking donations totaling $100,000 from the community to fund a Land Acquisition and Easement Fund to fund expenses not covered by the grant and serve as a revolving fund for future land protection projects.

Jim Daus is our Land Protection Manager who administers the program and works with land owners who are interested in this important project.

To date, RLT has protected 120 acres in the watershed with an additional 10 land owners currently considering placing easements or the sale of land.

RLT seeks additional land owners in the Tomhannock watershed who are interested in exploring the sale of their land or a portion thereof, or the sale of their development rights and still retaining land ownership to help protect the Tomhannock and its tributaries.

Please help protect our drinking water today and in perpetuity. We need you now more than ever for this vital initiative. If interested in helping in either way, or connecting us with other potentially interested parties, please reach out to Deb Balliet, Executive Director at deb@renstrust.org or 859-230-0980 (direct line/text).

To learn more check out our website dedicated to Water Quality Improvement Program

 

To view a larger map click here to open a PDF.

Tomhannock Watershed Buffers Map


Invasive Species

Invasive species can be plants, bacteria, insects, or other animals - anything that does not come from the ecosystem it is residing in. Some species were brought by mistake by mistake, often hitching a ride on cargo or being dumped in ballast waters from ships, while others are from ornamental plants that grew out of control. Read up about some of the common invasive species that can be found in New York:

Common Invasive Species in New York

How to Manage the Invasions

Help Us Stop Invasive Species

Other Online Resources

Projects imap logo


iMap Invasives Reporting

The Rensselaer Land Trust has joined the ranks of citizen scientists to increase knowledge and control of invasive species—a major threat to ecosystem health. As a reporting organization in iMap Invasives, a nationwide database inventory and mapping tool, we provide information about the location of known invasive species and track our control efforts at two specific locations—our Staalesen Preserve and the Hoosic River in Johnsonville.

iMapInvasives New York is New York State's on‐line all‐taxa invasive species database and mapping tool. The comprehensive database can be and is used for:

  • the collection, distribution and analysis of invasive species observation, survey, assessment and treatment data
  • the coordination of early detection and rapid response efforts through email alerts
  • analysis in GIS and modeling programs

It is easy to become a reporter to the database and we encourage our members to do so as Rensselaer Land Trust affiliates at http://imapinvasives.org/nyimi/report_invasives/. You don’t need a login account to make a report. You will need a picture of the plant or insect you are reporting, GPS coordinates if known (Google maps can provide), and to answer some basic questions about the location, size of the infestation, and time that the observation was made. You can get greater access to the database and its reporting capabilities by obtaining a login account. There are two levels of training and access available—a simple on‐line tutorial and quiz gives you basic access and gets you added to the e‐mail list, and a half‐day in‐person training offered once a year gives you certification at more in‐depth levels.

The database is managed by the Natural Heritage Program in cooperation with Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), and is funded by the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).


Hoosic River Water Chestnuts

IMG 2297Rensselaer Land Trust owns and operates a public canoe and kayak boat launch about eight miles upstream from the Johnsonville Dam on the Hoosic River in Rensselaer County. The logical place for users of our facility to pull out is the public boat launch on River Road that is associated with the Dam and is owned by the Brookfield Renewables Company. Over the past ten years, this boat pull‐out has become increasingly choked with the invasive plant species known as water chestnut (Trapa natans), making it very difficult to navigate. This plant is spread by seed and is most effectively controlled through physical hand pulling over a period of five to ten years, as the seeds can remain viable for up to 12 years.

Rensselaer Land Trust organized our first annual “Water Chestnut Pull Out Day” on June 20, 2015. (See our events calendar for upcoming annual work dates that are usually scheduled in June or July) This was timed to occur before seeds are set, to help stem the further dispersal of the infestation. We succeeded in attracting about 40 volunteers over the course of the day, and successfully cleared a channel approximately 10 feet wide and 500 feet long to provide access to the boat launch.

IMG 3022The Hoosic River Watershed Association (http://hoorwa.org/) based in Williamstown, MA, joined the effort as a co‐sponsor, and provided volunteers. We partnered with the Johnsonville Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary to provide food, beverages, and access to bathrooms at the firehouse over the course of the day. We hired Hannan Waste Disposal, a local Poestenkill company, to haul away the full 12‐yard dumpster of material to CTI Agri‐Cycle in Buskirk—a commercial composting facility—where it was composted at high heat. The composted material will be distributed only to farmers with fields that are not in proximity to water. These local partnerships, connections and contributions to the local economy were established to support the multi‐year effort that will be required to keep the navigation channel open. We purchased waders and collection baskets, materials for a boat washing station, and a 600 foot floating rope with buoys that was used to focus volunteer efforts on a navigation channel.

IMG 2289

We learned a lot this first year. However, establishing anything other than a narrow navigable channel is probably not realistic without mechanical harvesting. We are observing that in addition to the boat access that the channel is providing, the increased linear footage of “edge” on the infestation that is not in the river current is improving fish habitat. Another task accomplished this first year was to record and document the extent of the infestation in a nationwide database of invasive species known as iMap Invasives, which is a tool that we will continue to use to monitor the size of the mat, and to document our control effort and its effectiveness (or lack thereof). All of our research is confirming that without mechanical harvest, the best that we will be able to achieve is the maintenance of access to the launch and not control of the infestation.

 


Staalesen Preserve Invasive Species Management

With funding from the Louis and Hortense Rubin Community Fellows Program, the Rensselaer Land Trust is partnering with Dan Capuano, Assistant Professor of Biology at Hudson Valley Community College, to develop a plan for managing the invasive species at our John B. Staalesen Vanderheyden Preserve.

The Land Trust is managing the Staalesen Preserve as a park open to the public and as a nature preserve. Our goal is to improve the front portion of the property into a beautiful gathering spot for the public, while also maintaining wildlife and native plant habitat and the natural ecology, especially in the back portion of the property and along the Wynants Kill.

However, preserving the natural ecology of the preserve is challenging. Several invasive plants, most notably Asiatic bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, and Phragmites reed, have established themselves over much of the preserve, and in some areas are the only plants. Invasive plants crowd out native plants, and provide unsuitable habitat for many wildlife species. In initial efforts to improve habitat, more than 300 trees and shrubs have been planted in partnership with NYS DEC, the Hudson River Estuary Program’s Trees for Tribs and the City of Troy. While establishing themselves in the short term, these new trees and shrubs, and more of the existing native plants, are in danger of being replaced by the invasive species if the latter are not controlled.

In order to move forward with restoring the natural ecology of the preserve, an overall plan is needed to guide the control and management of the invasive plant species. Mr. Capuano will lead the effort to develop this plan, and we hope to complete it this year.


Thompson Mill (Valley Falls)

Projects thompson hill

2016
The Village of Valley Falls, with the assistance of the Rensselaer Land Trust and the Hoosic Watershed Association, applied to the Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfield Assessment Program for a grant to test the old Thompson Mill property for hazardous substances and to conduct site planning for possible reuse of the property, including possible development into a park. The vision for the property is a 23-acre park with a mile of Hoosic River waterfront that will be used for walking, fishing, nature observation, and other passive recreation. The grant is the first step towards clean up. Awards were announced in May 2016. This application was not funded.

2017
The Village asked for and received an extensive debriefing on why the grant was not funded and The Village reapplied in 2017, again with the assistance of RLT and HOOWRA. This time, the application was fully funded, and a contract awarded to the Village in October of 2017 with a three-year term.

The narrative for the grant proposal can be found here.

2018
Rensselaer County began foreclosure proceedings against the tax delinquent owner of the property in November 2017, and completed this process on August 21, 2018.

The Village of Valley Falls conducted a competitive procurement for professional services to complete the Brownfield Assessment project. The contract for these services was awarded to Weston and Sampson of Colonie in April of 2018.

Work has begun on Phase 1 Environmental Documentation. The project will include full site testing, the formation of a remediation program, public outreach, and site planning. For more information, you may e-mail the Village's project manager by clicking HERE.

2019
The Village of Valley Falls invited Village residents and other interested parties to a Public Information Meeting on June 20, 2019 at the Village Hall. The Village’s consultants, Weston & Sampson, have completed, and the Environmental Protection Agency has approved, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and are preparing to conduct testing and analysis as part of Phase II investigations over the summer and fall of 2019. This will determine the presence of any hazardous materials that may have been left behind from operations of the old Thompson textile mill, which sits on the Hoosic River near the Route 67 bridge. Representatives from Weston and Sampson and the Village will be available at the meeting to present the findings to date and discuss upcoming investigations.

A Brownfields Site Specific Fact Sheet can be found by clicking HERE.

2020
 
During 2020, Phase II Environmental documents were prepared and accepted by the EPA. The Phase II included an archeological assessment, a Hazardous Building Material (HBM) assessment to identify the presence of Asbestos Containing Material (ACMs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) containing material and lead based paint in building materials, as well as a limited subsurface investigation and analysis of soil from areas where RECs were identified.
 

Phase II Findings :
■ ACMs, lead-based paint, and PCB-containing caulk were identified in the Site building material and building rubble.
■ Shallow soil (0-2 ft) within three limited areas are impacted with contaminants of concern above applicable NYSDEC standards and likely related to illegal dumping, historic operations and/or the building fire.
■ Two previously undocumented archaeological areas have been identified at the Site, and the potential exists for archaeologically significant artifacts to be uncovered in at least three (3) other areas onsite.

Phase II Recommendations:
■ Site access be restricted and post warning signs about structural integrity of the building and the presence of asbestos and PCB material. -  This has been accomplished
■ Demolish the remainder of the building and properly dispose of debris to eliminate safety hazards.
■ Handle all HBM in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
■ Complete a Contamination Assessment (CA) of the HBM and develop a site-specific variance for ACMs.
■ Complete additional subsurface investigations within the footprint of the building to further characterize soils and groundwater.
■ Shallow soils with contaminants in excess of NYSDEC standards should be excavated and properly disposed as part of redevelopment activities.
■ Complete additional archeological monitoring during any future subsurface investigations or redevelopment and submit findings to SHPO to determine eligibility to list as Registered Historical Place.

If you would like to read the full document you may e-mail the Village's project manager to obtaine the large document elctronically.
 
In addition, a Conceptual Reuse Plan has been updated based on previous public input, comments of stakeholders and investigation results.  A Powerpoint presentation of this plan can be found HERE.  A public meeting was held on October 15, 2020 at the Village Hall to present these findings and plans.

The Village has successfully applied for a HBM Contamination Assessment and Variance  to provide more accurate remedial cost estimates.  The best estimates available are that it will cost approximately $2M to demolish and dispose of the contaminated mill remains.  The Village has retained legal counsel to ascertain if any of the previous landowners can be held liable for any of these costs.
 
The Village has applied for additional EPA Brownfields funding to continue to assess the site.