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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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

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.

Return Annual Report

Message from the President

bob Crowley

Another year brings another President’s Message. This might begin with a rerun of RLT’s accomplishments over the past year, followed by the initiatives planned for the new year, followed by a reminder that everything RLT does depends on generous donations of time and money, followed by a THANK YOU to all our members and supporters. 

I thought I’d focus on something different this time and use this message to remind us all of the truly remarkable inventory of outdoor recreation resources we have here in Rensselaer County and the ongoing conservation efforts/challenges that go along with those places.  RLT is proud to be one of a number of organizations working to maintain these conservation goals while providing open space for the public.  We’re all part of a diverse community working to make our environment healthy and, in turn, promote our society’s health through that environment.

Twenty years ago, the then Rensselaer-Taconic Land Conservancy (predecessor to RLT) published a 175-page “Guide to Natural Areas of Rensselaer County” which listed and described 35 natural areas/ parks/ preserves/ points of interest/ forests that were open to the public in our county. It’s interesting to note that only one RLT property, our Geiser Preserve in Taborton, was included on that list.

If we did that guide today (and there is an effort afoot to do just that) RLT’s properties would number 16 with 9 open to the public—but RLT is not the only organization contributing to this effort.  Hiking access has expanded greatly at our State Parks in Grafton and Cherry Plain, the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance has created its community forests, and let’s not forget Troy’s Riverwalk.  What greater natural asset could a community want than the Hudson River!? Moreover, there are many less visible but very important, parallel conservation efforts such as: RLT’s Water Quality Improvement Program (Tomhannock Rural Lands) conserving property around the Tomhannock Reservoir; the protection of the crucial watershed on the Rensselaer Plateau;  private property owners who wish to conserve their land through conservation easements; the weekly work of our volunteer trail crew . . . and the list goes on.

With all this comes the risk of taking these accomplishments for granted.  And we’ve seen recently how tenuous some of our assumptions can be.  It’s up to all of us to realize the work needs to go on and put that concept into action, whatever small (or large ) form that action might take.  Just as we each need nourishment, energy, and exercise to thrive, this is true of the outdoor assets of Rensselaer County. 

Let’s get out there and be a part of it.

Bob Crowley, President of Rensselaer Land Trust

Hudson River Access Plan PressReleasePicThe Rensselaer Land Trust is undertaking the Rensselaer County Hudson River Access Plan and is looking for public input and feedback.

SURVEY

What is the Rensselaer County Hudson River Access Plan?

The Plan will provide an inventory of existing public access sites on the Rensselaer County Hudson River shoreline and through outreach, research, and public engagement, identify additional potential sites along the shoreline for access to the Hudson River. The plan will include recommendations and design suggestions for improving access for people of all abilities, improved storm resiliency, and adequacy of facilities for all user groups.

What is the Goal of the Plan?

The goal is “To provide a County-wide planning document that can be used to support and advance the implementation of Hudson River Access Projects that have the support of municipalities and user groups, and improve accessibility and storm resiliency.”

Read more: Rensselaer County Hudson River Access Plan Looking for public input on ways to “get people to the...

We're writing together from the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance and Rensselaer Land Trust to share some very exciting news! As of today, January 1, 2024, the merger between our two organizations is effective, as approved by the New York State Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State.This merger has been in the works for over a year, with board members of both organizations planning together, along with RPA staff, to support a smooth transition and lay the groundwork for many years of conservation to come. In 2024, we will complete a new strategic plan and branding process. We look forward to sharing a new organizational name, mission, and website with you over this next year — all with the aim of more fully serving the land and human communities here in Rensselaer County and beyond. 

What does this mean for RLT and RPA's conserved lands and community programs?The land trust that emerges will own over 3,600 acres of forests, wetlands, and community spaces, and will oversee over 2,000 acres of private land protected by voluntary conservation easements. Together the two organizations have conserved almost 16,000 acres.All natural areas conserved by the land trusts will remain protected in perpetuity.The community programs, volunteer committees, events, and partnerships of both land trusts will continue to serve people of all ages in the Capital Region. The merger will allow us to make greater strides in land and water conservation at a time when it’s more important than ever.We hope you will come along on this journey with us. With you, the new organization will be able to make a lasting, wide-reaching impact. Our climate, our wildlife, and our future generations will have you to thank. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at any time. We would love to hear from you at this pivotal moment for local conservation. Happy New Year, 

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Bob Crowley
Former Board President
Rensselaer Land Trust 
 
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Jim Bonesteel
Executive Director 
Rensselaer Plateau Alliance
 
 

About Our Organizations

The Rensselaer Land Trust was founded in 1987 with a mission to conserve the open spaces, watersheds, and natural habitats of Rensselaer County, NY for the benefit of our communities and future generations.  

The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance was founded in 2008 with a mission to work with the community to promote and facilitate the conservation of the Rensselaer Plateau’s undeveloped and unfragmented forests and other ecologically important areas.  

Collectively, the two organizations have conserved more than 15,000 acres of forests and open space in Rensselaer County. In 2019, RPA and RLT worked together to conserve the 76-acre Poesten Kill Bends preserve in the City of Troy. Both organizations have achieved national accreditation by meeting high standards for land protection, stewardship, and financial and organizational management.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions

When did RPA and RLT first begin discussing a merger? 

RPA and RLT first explored merging 4 years ago. We decided not to merge at that time, but to continue to discuss and consider the possibility in the future. Today, the time is right for both organizations.

What will happen with RLT and RPA Conserved Land?

All land conserved by both organizations will remain conserved in perpetuity. Volunteer committees for community forests and other projects will remain intact. The new organization will continue all the great work begun by both organizations and ensure we can do even more for conservation in Rensselaer County.   

Will there be any staff or leadership changes because of the merger?

All of RPA’s staff and leadership will remain in place. Some members of RLT's Board of Directors will join the new organization's Board. RLT does not currently have staff.

When will the merger be complete?

There is still a lot of due diligence before the merger can be completed. There is no date established. RPA and RLT have been partnering very closely and will begin to act together as a single organization.

What will the new, merged organization be called? 

The new organization will undergo a re-branding process that will include community and stakeholder input. There is currently no new name selected.

I'd like to make a donation to one or both of these land trusts. Who should I donate to before the merger is complete? 

You can continue to support either or both organizations. Your gift will support the work that both land trusts are doing together. We hope that if you've been donating to both organizations, you'll consider continuing to do so. 

I have more questions or ideas I’d like to share. Who should I talk to?

Please reach out to Jim Bonesteel at 518-712-9211 or jim@rensselaerplateau.org or Bob Crowley at 518-659-5263 or crowleyrh@aol.com.