Conserving Land • Protecting Resources
Since 1987
 

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Poesten Kill Bends
RLT partnered with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance to purchase this 76-acre property in Troy and Brunswick. The parcel features woodlands, wetlands, beautiful stream views and furthers RLT’s strategy for improving climate change resiliency in Rensselaer County by absorbing rain, holding stream banks in place, and storing carbon dioxide. The property will be managed and maintained by a committee of volunteers and representatives from both land trusts who are working on establishing permanent access to the property.

Drinking Water Protection at the Tomhannock Reservoir
RLT and the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance are reaching out to landholders in the Tomhannock watershed to purchase conservation easements and fee-simple title to properties that will help keep the water in the reservoir clean. We are also developing water quality management educational materials for landowners. The program, a first for Rensselaer County, is supported by NYSDEC and runs until 2022.

Neighborhood Nature Preserves – Startng in Troy
We are especially excited about our new neighborhood nature preserve initiative. Our goal is to provide places for people to spend time in nature within a few minutes of their homes, especially in more uban areas. The pandemic has shown us that people need to get out in nature both for recreation and to spend some time away from therir phones, computers, and TVs. We made a start on this program in 2019 by purchasing an undeveloped seven-acre parcel in Troy. We are adding amenities to turn it into a local green space.

Putting RLT’s Conservation Plan to Work in the Town of Poestenkill
A key goal of RLT’s 2018-2030 county-wide land conservation plan is to assist municipalities in better understanding their land conservation opportunities. In 2019 RLT worked with a volunteer citizen committee in the Town of Poestenkill to prepare a Natural Resource Inventory to help the town in land use planning. The NRI included extensive mapping, and descriptions of the forests, wetlands, surface and ground waters, farmland, and cultural resources of the town. The project was supported by NYSDEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program.

Engaging the Next Generation of Conservationists – Troy After-School Nature Program
Janie Sullivan, our 2019 VISTA fellow, led an after-school environmental education for young people in Troy in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. Activities include nature journaling, leaf rubbing, making recycled paper, and creating bird seed ornaments, among others. Bringing nature to young people may inspire them to protect it and one day become the next generation of conservationists.

Hudson River Fish Advisory Project –“Fish for Fun, Not for Food”
Our collaboration with River Haggie Outdoors, a capital region environmental education provider, continues. The program educates fisherfolk about the consumption of fish caught in the Hudson River and its tributaries. While water quality in the Hudson River has generally improved in recent years, fish caught from the river remain unsafe to eat, especially for women of child-bearing age and children under 15 years of age. Others may eat only certain species and in very limited quantities. Outreach activities include tabling and educational events at the New York State Museum; schools districts; after-school programs; summer enrichment programs; libraries; and community events.

Sponsoring Naturalist Outing Series
Through our partnership with Rensselaer Plateau Alliance we offered a collection of hikes and walks, including the Rensselaer Naturalist Series. Our goal is to bring families and especially young people back outdoors – and away from their bluescreens for a few hours. Visit our website (www.renstrust,org) and the RLT Facebook page for news and schedules about upcoming hikes and events. We hope to see you out on the trail!

Planning for Our Future: New Strategic Plan
The Board of Directors and Staff prepared a strategic plan to guide our intentions and actions during the five years from 2020 to 2025. The plan includes 24 activities under three priorities:
1) Protecting Key Conservation and Recreation Lands,
2) Stewarding Land and Water for Conservation and Public Enjoyment and Engaging People with Nature, and
3) Building RLT for the Future.
It also includes a set of performance indicators, implementation schedules, and a set of organizational values to guide our work.

Message from the President

bob CrowleyI’ve had the pleasure of serving as RLT President for almost a year and I must say, it has been quite an education in everything from Acquisition of land to running Zoom meetings. While that’s all been interesting, the most remarkable part of representing RLT is continuing to encounter a wider range of people committed to promoting conservation than I had ever imagined existed. Here are some examples of who I’m talking about: the Johnson family who graciously donated our Featherweald Nature Preserve; the Hudson Valley Greenway which RLT aided in developing the Albany Hudson Electric Trail; volunteers who devote every Wednesday to improving trails throughout the county; donors who entrust RLT with their thousands of dollars of financial support; community members who generously donate their weekends for everything from building bridges to painting houses to expanding parking lots; local government officials who see the value in RLT’s work; neighbors who (usually) enjoy and thank us for open spaces we maintain; donors who entrust RLT with fifty dollars of financial support; members of the former Schodack Area Land Trust who have joined forces with RLT and the list could go on and on…but I think you see my point.

Read more: 2020 Newsletter/2019 Annual Report

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Your Land Trust Was Re-Accredited
In 2020 Rensselaer Land Trust was re-accredited by the Land Trust Alliance. Accreditation represents RLT’s commitment to our community and the land by maintaining fiscal accountability, ethical business practices, strong organizational leadership, and lasting stewardship of the lands we have conserved. Our accreditation term runs until 2025. This was RLT’s third accreditation. Back in 2008 RLT participated in the accreditation pilot program and was one of the first thirty-eight land trusts out of over 1,700 in the nation to receive national accreditation status. 

 

Keeping Your Preserves Open During the Pandemic is Priority #1
We have kept all of your nature preserves open during the pandemic and they have been well-used. Public visitation to RLT nature preserves has increased dramatically as people throughout Rensselaer County and from further afield have turned to the outdoors for recreation, respite, and to strengthen their spirits. 

We know there has never been a more critical time to provide places to enjoy and appreciate the natural world in our beautiful area. Hard work by volunteers, board members, and staff over the course of 2020 enabled RLT to bring two new properties online – Featherweald Nature Preserve in Buskirk and the Albany-Hudson Electric trailhead in Schodack.

 

Featherweald Nature Preserve
A 45-acre woodland property located on a bluff overlooking the Hoosic River and features several miles of walking trails and a great blue heron rookery. To honor the wishes of the donors we have dual objectives at this preserve: first, we want to bring people into nature, and second, we want to protect the sensitive heron rookery. We will do both by welcoming guests year-round but limiting access to the rookery during nesting season in the spring and summer. The preserve opened to the public on October 25, 2020. We invite everyone to visit this lovely setting. To learn more click HERE.

 

The Empire Trail (Albany-Hudson Electric Trail)
On December 30, 2020, RLT and the State of New York opened a trailhead on the new Albany-Hudson Electric Trail, a 35-mile multi-use trail that runs from the City of Rensselaer to the Columbia County line. The trail is part of the new Empire State Trail that runs 750 miles from New York City to the Canadian border and from Albany to Buffalo. RLT’s trailhead is located across from Nassau Lake and offers vehicle and bicycle parking alongside the trail. The trail has become one of the County’s premier recreational amenities and is a significant economic engine. RLT partnered with the Hudson Valley Greenway in creating the trailhead and will maintain a 6.5-mile portion of the trail in Schodack. To watch the May 22, 2021 open house on YouTube click HERE.

 

Palmer Road Preserve
RLT acquired another property in Schodack, the 57-acre Palmer Road Preserve, after the Schodack Area Land Trust (SALT) chose to disband and convey the property to RLT. This preserve was re-opened to the public in 2021 after we performed maintenance on the trail system. To watch the re-opening ceremony with founding members of the SALT click HERE.

 

Commitment to Inclusiveness
We are especially excited about our neighborhood nature preserve initiative, which solidifies our commitment to ensuring equity is embedded in our land conservation work by creating green spaces in urban neighborhoods. We made a start on this program by purchasing an undeveloped seven-acre parcel in Troy earlier in 2020. We look forward to adding amenities to turn it into a peaceful sanctuary to be enjoyed by the surrounding neighbors. 

 

Putting RLT’s Conservation Plan to Work in the City of Rensselaer
A key goal of RLT’s 2018-2030 county-wide land conservation plan is to assist municipalities in better understanding their land conservation opportunities. In partnership with the NYS Hudson River Estuary program, RLT helped the City of Rensselaer create a natural resource inventory to help them better understand their natural resources for local land use planning. Read RLT's Rensselaer County-Wide Land Conservation Plan HERE.

 

Financial Planning During Unprecidented Times
RLT secured a PPL forgivable loan through the federal government stimulus program and with the help of a development consultant hired through a previous grant we adjusted our fundraising and outreach approaches to reflect the new normal in 2020.

 

Back to Annual Report

bob and john presentation
 
Due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns, we are holding our 2020 Annual Meeting online through a special video presentation. The 2020 Annual Meeting presentation is available starting today on our YouTube Channel, RLT's website, and Facebook.

This presentation includes:
  • An overview of RLT's 2019-2020 activities and looking forward presented by Bob Crowley, RLT Board President and John Winter, RLT Executive Director.
  • The 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award presented to Michael Jensen.
  • Virtual Woods and Water Walk of YOUR nature preserves.
Thank you to our members for the overwhelming response to our 2021 online board election. We are honored to present the following slate of elected Board of Directors for two year terms:
  • Joe Durkin
  • Sally Lawrence
  • Scott Morley
  • Kristina Younger
  • John Munn
  • Tom Phillips, Vice President

Hikers on the Trail websize

New Land Acquisitions

April 2021: New Conservation Easement on Papscanee Island Nature Preserve, East Greenbush
This 156-acre parcel along the east bank of the Hudson River, located on route 9J, features walking trails, wetlands, and woodlands. Rensselaer Land Trust, the Open Space Institute, and Rensselaer County joined together with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community to return this culturally important property on the Hudson River to indigenous ownership – and perpetual protection. In April, the Open Space Institute conveyed ownership of the 156-acre Papscanee Island Nature Preserve to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, while the Tribe simultaneously granted a conservation easement to Rensselaer Land Trust. Learn more HERE.

July 2021: Young's Bog Preserve Expansion, Sand Lake
E. W. Birch Builders and Construction donated two parcels of land totaling 41 acres. Three acres will expand Young's Bog Preserve and a 38.5-acre parcel located across the street will eventually become a second nature preserve there. We expect to add hiking trails and parking in 2022.

October 2021: Moon Hill, Petersburgh
The 191-acre Moon Hill property straddles the Taconic Mountains on its east side and the Taconic-Hoosic Valley on the west; and contains a key part of the summit of the hill as well as forest corridors that link the Northern Taconic Forest with the Rensselaer Plateau Forest. Hill Hollow Brook, a remote tributary of the Little River also runs through the property. There is a high degree of biodiversity here, including several rare plants. The acquisition was supported by the Nature Conservancy's Climate Resiliency Grant Program. We expect to add hiking trails and parking in 2022.

October 2021: Tamarac Road Land, Pittstown
In October we closed on the 82-acre Tamarac Road Property in Pittstown. This land was protected through NYDEC's Water Quality Improvement Program – a grant-based initiative to conserve land in the Tomhannock Reservoir watershed and to protect the drinking water source for 135,000 + people. The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance and the Agricultural Stewardship Association are partners in this program, a cornerstone of which is landowner outreach and education.

The Tamarac Road Property features 53+ acres of open space and 29+ acres of wetlands. This property is forested and includes former agriculture land. The Sunkauissia Creek runs through the property.

 

Stewardship Activities

  • In April we welcomed Marcos Velazquez as our new Stewardship Coordinator.
  • Expanded parking at Featherweald Nature Preserve.
  • Invasive species removal at Staalesen Preserve with corporate partners Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
  • Added a memorial bench called "Sally's Rest" at Robert Ingalls Preserve. The bench overlooks the Black Creek and is named in memory of Bob Ingalls' mother.
  • All the kiosks have been updated with new weatherproof informational panels.
  • All public preserve trails have been clearly marked and measured so we could develop new trail maps.
  • Donation receptacles have been added at several of our public preserves.
  • Created a new maintenance plan for RLT's 6.5 mile stretch of the Albany Hudson Electric Trail. The maintenance coordinator is Tom Phillips, an RLT board member. 

Water, Water, Everywhere – Strong storms over the summer resulted in significant flooding at your Staalesen and Kinderhook Creek Preserves. At Staalesen, the Wynants Kill, typically a calm, slow-moving stream, turned into a torrent and tore two recently installed wooden bridges off their moorings, sending them downstream. Luckily the bridges remained intact and after some ingenious winching and rope work by board members, staff, and volunteers the bridges were put back into place. Watch a short photo documentary at our YouTube Channel.

At Kinderhook Creek, fast-flowing water eroded portions of the stream bank and sent some shoreline trees and plants into the raging river. Hard-working volunteers, board members, and staff have been addressing the damage. We are grateful for their dedicated service to this special place.

We are pleased to report that despite the flooding, both Staalesen and Kinderhook Creek – as well as our other public preserves – remained open for your enjoyment. We recognize that spending time outdoors in nature has become a vital part of our lives during the pandemic.

 

Outreach

April 2021: 13th Annual Tomhannock Reservoir Shoreline Clean-up
On April 24, we held our 13th Annual Tomhannock Reservoir Shoreline Clean-up in honor of Earth Day on a beautiful Saturday. A big thank you to the 30+ volunteers, including Troy’s Mayor Patrick Madden and the group from the Hoosic River Watershed Association. The reservoir is the source of water for more than half of Rensselaer County.

May 2021, Open House at Albany Hudson Electric Trail, Schodack
On May 22, we welcomed trail visitors to an open house at Nassau Lake trailhead on the new Albany-Hudson Electric Trail, a 35-mile multi-use trail that runs from the City of Rensselaer to the Columbia County line. The trail is part of the new 750-mile Empire State Trail that runs from New York City to near the Canadian border and from Albany to Buffalo. RLT has a multi-year agreement with the Hudson Valley Greenway to maintain a 6.5-mile portion of the trail in Schodack. RLT's trail head and parking area in Schodack. The new trail is a popular new destination for bikers, walkers, and families in the Capital Region. Learn more HERE

June 2021: John B. Staalesen Vanderheyden Preserve's 10th Anniversary
On June 26, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Staalesen Preserve with the local community and RLT members. Special remarks by Bob Crowley, RLT's president and Troy's Mayor Patrick Madden were followed by a preserve tour with Staalesen's volunteer preserve stewards Bob Crowley and Joe Durkin. If you missed it live, you can catch the day's highlights at our YouTube Channel.

July 2021: Palmer Road Preserve Re-Opening, Schodack
This 57-acre neighborhood Nature Preserve features a mile-long walking trail through woodlands with a branch of the Moordener Kill running through the property. Palmer Road Preserve was transferred to Rensselaer Land Trust late 2020 upon the voluntary dissolution of the Schodack Area Land Trust. During this past spring and early summer our stewardship crew worked to clean-up and mark trails for the re-opening ceremony on July 31. Learn more HERE.

September 2021: Erica’s Overlook Trail Opening Ceremony
On September 25, we opened a new memorial trail at Kinderhook Creek Nature Preserve in the higher elevation woodlands of the preserve. The new trail, marked with green blazes, is called Erica’s Overlook Trail and is named for Erica Phillips, the daughter of one of your board members. Erica passed away in 2017 after a brief illness complicated by cystic fibrosis. Erica’s Overlook Trail is the second memorial trail at Kinderhook Creek Preserve. The SAY Trail, which runs along the shoreline of the preserve, is dedicated to the memory of Steven A. York, the son of one of the preserve’s land donors, who also died at a young age. Watch a short video of the breif ceremony and see pictures of the trail at our YouTube Channel.

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