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 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!


We have all heard the classic stories of alien invasions coming to Earth. But did you know that the invasion is happening right now? It’s not an invasion of flying saucers, but rather small plants and creatures that may seem to be plain ordinary members of an ecosystem. These deceptive beasts are none other than: Invasive Species.

Common Invasive Species in New York

How to Manage the Invasions

Help us Stop Invasive Species

So, what’s the scoop? What are they and why are they bad?

An invasive species is defined as a species that is not native to an environment and causes harm to either the environment, the economy, or humans. Invasive species are different from “exotic” species, which are species that come from a different region, but do not cause harm. Invasive species can destroy crops, kill native forest trees, spread disease among native plants and animals, and dominate ecosystems by outcompeting native species. New York is vulnerable to invasive species invasion because it is a big hub for trade.

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:

220px Garlic Mustard close 800 Garlic Mustard: Alliaria petiolata
Identification: First year growth is small hoof-shaped leaves with rounded edges; second year is flowering with flower spikes; and alternate leaves on stems varying from rounded to pointed with teeth.

Where it’s found: Will grow in many landscapes and ecosystems; common on roadsides and along paths.

What it does: Produces chemicals to prevent other species growth and changes structure of forest floor plants.



220px Celastrus orbiculatusOriental Bittersweet: Celastrus orbiculatus

Identification: Thick vine that grows around and girdles trees; young light green tendrils; alternating leaves ranging in shape from tear drop to large rounded; and red berries with yellow husks visible in winter.

Where it’s found: Will grow in many landscapes. Found on edge territory; will climb trees, fences, and other structures.

What it does: Crowds out native species; shades out trees; and girdles plants that it grows over.

1024px Berberis thunbergii in Pennwood State ParkJapanese Barberry: Berberis thunbergia
Identification: Long oval leaves clustered on stems; many thorns; inner wood can be bright yellow; bush coloration green or dark red; small red bean shaped berries; and growth can be small bushes or long branches.

Where it’s found: Will grow in disturbed sites and in forests as random patches; popular ornamental.

What it does: Crowds out native species; changes soil ph and temperature; and harbors tick nests.

220px Purple loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife: Lythrum salicaria
Identification: Tall growth with opposite and whorled leaves with perimeter vein; tall purple flower spike; and square stem.

Where it’s found: Found along roadways, water, and stream banks.

What it does: Produces dense growth making waterway access difficult; outcompetes native plants with dense roots that alter hydrology.






Artemisia vulgaris mugwort 0081Mugwort: Artemisia vulgaris
Identification: Alternating many pointed lobed leaves, vary in shape but all multi-frond like; smooth green stem with small leafy protrusions.

Where it’s found: Popular ornamental for medicinal properties; found in edge habitats, roadways, along water, and waste areas.

What it does: Crowds out native species; contaminates nursery stock through rhizomes; and disrupts natural succession in ecosystems.

Zebra mussel cluster. Photo taken by D. Jude, Univ. of Michigan.Zebra Mussels: Dreissena polymorpha
Identification: Small mussel with brown and tan zigzag stripes and jagged edges; often found in clusters.

Where it’s found: Found in rivers and lakes; dropped out of ballast waters and can secure to boat hulls.

What it does: Crowds out native species; over filters water; causes growth of algae blooms.

Did you Knows:
A species can be invasive but come from the same country. The red eared slider’s native range is in the Midwestern United States but is invasive to New York and the east.

Some large problem species are from the pet trade. People will buy exotic animals, but when they become too difficult to take care of, they will release them into the wild. While this may seem like the ethical choice (rather than have the animal be put down), the species could cause huge problems by becoming a predator or consuming all the food in the ecosystem. Examples of this are the Goldfish and the Burmese Python.

Species can be introduced without becoming invasive. An introduced species will be classified as invasive if it becomes detrimental to the ecosystem or people. Species can also become invasive if an ecosystem changes. With climate change, we may see some species become invasive that weren’t otherwise.

How to Manage the Invasions
When an invasive species is first introduced to a new ecosystem, there is a small window of time where the species can be successfully eradicated before it becomes established. Unfortunately, the way most invasive species are discovered by scientists identifying the problem they are causing, which means they are already established and spreading. When eradication is no longer possible, the focus shifts to management.

There are a few ways to manage invasive species:
Physical removal: physical plant management includes hand pulling, cutting, digging out root balls, and in some cases, burning. Cuttings have to be thrown away in sealed bags in the landfill. For animals, removal is mainly trapping; however this has limited efficiency, so most focus is dedicated to preventing further spread
Chemical removal: chemical removal involves pesticide, insecticide, and herbicides for both plants and animals. Chemical removal has to be done cautiously because there is the potential for chemicals to contaminate soils and water and to harm native or non-target species.

Biocontrol: one management technique that is more challenging is biological control or biocontrol. Biocontrol utilizes the natural predators of the problem invasive species. This often takes several years to establish because there has to be extensive research on the predator so the potential control doesn’t become an invasive species itself. Biocontrol species are often specialist species, which means they only feed on one type of prey.

Help us Stop Invasive Species

The best way to stop invasive species is through prevention. Here are some simple steps that can make a big difference!

  • Follow the trail: Staying on marked trails does more than keep you safe - going off trail can cause fragments of invasive plants to get picked up and carried to another location, or you could be bringing invasive plant material from your yard or garden.
  • Wash Your Clothes: after a hike, it is common to have some mud and dirt on your clothes. There may be hidden species in the mud and dirt. If your clothes are still clean, you can put them in a hot dryer cycle.
  • Scrape those boots: Boots are quite easy ways for invasive species to be carried because of their thick treads with crevices. Carry a small boot brush with you to clean your boots before and after entering a wild area. An incredibly good boot brush is a horse hoof pick. Some trails will even have special boot brush stations at the trail head.
  • Clean fishing gear: Clean fishing gear and boats: clean any plant fragments from your fishing gear, clothes, and the outside of your boat, especially when moving from one waterbody to another. Throw out unused bait in the garbage.
  • Buy native plants: exotic plants are often beautiful additions to gardens, but they are also responsible for invasive species spread. Fortunately, there are lots of colorful native plants that are available for garden use. If you want plants that are exotic, check to see if they are invasive; alternatively, keep exotic plants in pots in your house.
  • Be careful when you dispose of plants: Composting is a great way of keeping plant and food scraps out of the landfill and add nutrient back to gardens and soil. With exotic or invasive species, the process is a little different - composting would allow seeds to stay viable and some plants can grow from broken fragments. Take any plant fragments and throw them away in sealed bags.
  • Spread the word: tell others about invasive species and how they can stop invasive species spread. Help everyone join in the fight against invasive species!



To view the legend, click the "»" (double right-handed arrows) button which is located in the top left-hand corner of the map.

To view more information on preserved properties, easements or other conserved lands, click on a particular property on the map and a pop-up will appear.

kinderhook4Rensselaer County has so many places to explore and learn about our beautiful natural wonders.

Learn more about preserves, trails, waterfalls, and our partners:

Rensselaer Land Trust's Preserves

Waterfalls of Rensselaer County

Local History

Rensselaer Land Trust Partners

Partner TrailsPartner Trails

The Rensselaer Land Trust is an active partner in many trail projects with partners, and on our own preserves. Trails and greenways provide recreational opportunities and environmental benefits, including public health, economic and transportation benefits, and positive effects on community pride and identity.

Rensselaer Land Trust Preserves

The Rensselaer Land Trust has developed an extensive trail system on many of its preserves. To check out these trails, visit our preserves page that has more information and trails maps.

There is a consistent policy on the use of power driven mobility devices and accessibility under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) on RLT owned and managed trails.

Partner Trails RLT Staalensen Preserve

Albany Electric Trail

This proposed 15‐mile recreational trail would begin where Route 203 enters Rensselaer County and would extend north through the Town and Village of Nassau, where it would begin to head west through the Town of Schodack, eventually ending in the Town of East Greenbush near the City of Rensselaer line, in close proximity to Routes 9 and 20. A feasibility study was completed in 2011.

The Albany‐Hudson electric trail will result in the connection of the city of Albany with the city of Hudson. In so doing, trails on the west side of the Hudson River and along the Mohawk River allow for the connection with the very popular Harlem Valley Rail Trail and other trails on the east side of the Hudson.

The Village of Nassau is seeking funding for the first segment through various sources.

Partner Trails Albany Electric Trail VerticalA Facebook page has been established, where you can get the most up‐to‐date news on trail development (

Rensselaer Plateau Trail Vision

The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance (RPA) has taken the lead in developing a trail network on the Plateau that connects county‐wide. The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance worked with the Rensselaer Land Trust and other local organizations to develop the Rensselaer Plateau Regional Trails Vision, bringing all plateau municipalities, landowners, recreation organizations, and the public together to create a vision for a future network of trails. The first phase of the project developed a map of all existing public trails across the Rensselaer Plateau, and engaged the public in a series of workshops for both input and education. A final report summarized the results of the public process, and developed a draft vision map.

Partner Trails RPA

Phase II, which is contingent upon funding, will allow for the development of a Trail Vision Plan. This Plan would illustrate the envisioned future trail network (including alternatives as appropriate). The plan will utilize graphics and photos to help convey the potential of this network as a recreational and economic asset to the Plateau and the region. This document will be distributed widely to inspire action by communities and organizations across the Plateau. For more information, visit

In preparation for a more formal Traverse trail, the Rensselaer Land Trust and RPA do a Traverse Hike every year in September. See the Outings page for details.

We were the lead organization in forming a Rensselaer County Trail Vision Plan in 2009. Since that time many trails have advanced. A Trail Vision Plan was published in 2015 and can be found here.

Taconic Crest Project

A project that began with a "For Sale" sign at an abandoned ski area along the Petersburg Pass, in ten years became a multi-state effort to preserve the Taconic Ridge between New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Some 10,000 acres and a major section of the long-distance Taconic Crest (foot) Trail have been preserved through conservation easements or purchase by state agencies.

Both New York and Massachusetts in 1993 recognized the Taconics, a nearly unbroken wilderness, as a significant biological, scenic, and timber resource. The environmental agencies of each state, in partnership with local conservation non-profits, worked to identify critical parcels for protection and funding sources for the initiative. Groups such as the Taconic Hiking Club, the Trust for Public Land, the National Park Service, Williams College, the Rensselaer-Taconic Land Conservancy (now the Rensselaer Land Trust) and the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation formed a citizens council and joined with the state agencies to address issues of management and use, such as trail marking, maintenance, and mapping.

Partner Trails Taconic Crest Hike 2015This project is a prime example of how public and private partnerships can work to promote landscape scale protection across political boundaries. Preservation of the resources provided by the Taconics continues to be a primary goal of all agencies involved. The Rensselaer Land Trust continues to provide support for this effort and to assist with trail work.

The 37-mile Taconic Crest Trail brings you to breathtaking views and through three states. You can enjoy this wilderness experience, only 45 minutes from Albany, in all four seasons. See for information on the hiking map for this trail. 

Troy Urban Trails

The City of Troy is the lead agency on developing a trail network in the city

River Front Bikeway

The proposed South Troy Riverfront Bikeway/Walkway is a major component of the Working Waterfront, which will significantly enhance and improve the neighborhood’s quality of life and the economic health of South Troy. The bikeway/walkway will be designed to provide a recreational atmosphere in the South Troy Development District, while coexisting with adjacent uses such as business parks, research and industrial facilities, and the proposed Industrial Park Road. The bikeway/walkway will be connected to the Troy­Menands bikeway/walkway, also in the preliminary design stage.

For more information:

Partner Trails CFA Troy Urban Trails WynantskillUncle Sam Bikeway

The Uncle Sam Bikeway is a three mile paved path with wildflowers, waterfalls and shale cliffs providing scenery alongside the route. The bikeway provides excellent walking for handicapped persons and for pushing wheelchairs and strollers. The bikeway is built on an old railroad roadbed and is entirely level with gentle curves as it follows the contours of the adjacent hill. The roadbed was constructed in 1850­52 by the Troy and Boston Railroad, which was leased to the Fitchburg Railroad in 1887, and then to the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1900. The tracks were dismantled in 1972­73 and the bikeway was opened in 1981.

Trail Facts

  • Trail End Points: Troy to Lansingburgh
  • Counties: Rensselaer
  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Trail Surfaces: Asphalt
  • Trail Activities: Walk, Bicycle, Inline Skates
  • Trail Closing: The bikeway is closed from dusk to dawn

For more information see:

Urban Trails – Wynantskill Corridor

The newest trail is proposed to connect the River Front Bikeway via Burden Pond to Prospect Park, with a spur up the Wynantskill Creek to connect to RLT’s Staalesen Preserve. This trail was recently awarded planning funding from the Regional Economic Council/NYS Parks and Recreation. The Rensselaer Land Trust is an active partner with the City of Troy and the Post Contemporary Art Center in developing the trail. A preliminary map of the project can be seen here (INSERT LINK). Check back for updates as the project progresses!

Hudson Greenway

In 1991, the Hudson River Valley Greenway was created in part to establish a network of multi­use trails along both sides of the Hudson River. Today the Greenway is working to create a system of trails from the northern borders Saratoga and Washington counties to Manhattan. The Hudson River Greenway Trail System consists of two main components: a land trail and a water trail for paddling and boating. A major route included in the land trail is Bike Route 9, a north­south on­road bicycling trail.

Parnter Trails Hudson River Greenway

The Greenway Trail System web pages will help you to learn about efforts to develop the trail system, view maps of the trails, download a list of designated trails and sites, peruse information for users and owners of the trail, and explore information on upcoming trail events for the whole family. For information on the walking and bicycling trails please visit their Land Trail pages. For information on the Water Trail please visit their Water Trail pages.

Corkscrew Rail Trail

The rail trail follows a section of the old Rutland Railroad which ran from Bennington, Vermont to Chatham, New York. Due to tight turns between hills, this section was called "The Corkscrew." Although abandoned in 1952, many sections of the rail beds are in good condition. The Corkscrew Rail Trail Association was formed in 2014 by trail advocates from Stephentown and New Lebanon. Crossing county lines, this group is working to get trail segments where the landowners are supportive open for year‐round recreational use, starting small and building links and support. The first segment opened on June 6, 2015. It is over three miles long, and goes south from Knapp Road, Stephentown past the Columbia County Line. The Corkscrew Rail Trail Association plans to work with other property owners to open additional sections in both New Lebanon and Stephentown.

Partner Pages corkscrew railroad historical sign  Parnter Trails Corkscrew Bikes on Trail

The Rensselaer Land Trust and the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance have partnered with and fostered this project. For more information, trail map, photos, and more please see.

Rensselaer Land Trust Trail Vision Plan

We were the lead organization in forming a Rensselaer County Trail Vision Plan in 2009 (insert link to download pdf). That vision is becoming a reality thanks to the work of many enthusiastic volunteers. Explore our Partner Trails and enjoy the growing network of trails in Rensselaer County. For information on how you can join in trailblazing and maintenance, contact the Land Trust at or (518) 659-5263.

thumb Partner Trails RLT Trail Vision Plan Map

ingalls1The Rensselaer Land Trust has conserved over 1,200 acres in Rensselaer County acres in Rensselaer County. These include eight public preserves which you can visit year round. There are also 15 easements and preserves which are on private land or have limited access due to fragility of the environment. We provide outings to many of these areas on a regular basis. See our outings schedule for details.

We can provide great new outdoor recreation opportunities at our public preserves. Our other conserved acres provide very important benefits: protecting rare plants and environments such as fens, providing wildlife habitat, protecting streams and water quality for citizens of Rensselaer County. Conserved lands help Rensselaer County to develop resilience against climate changes and storm events.

Explore our Preserves


Public Preserves

Rensselaer Land Trust owns and operates five public nature preserves with trails open to the public for passive recreation, such as wildlife observation or hiking. Additionally four of our five public nature preserves offer fishing and one has a boat launch. We welcome you to bring your leashed dogs and go for a walk in the woods, snowshoe and cross country ski, bird watch, or bring your fishing poles for a quiet day on the water. All of our preserves are open from dawn to dusk. Please click on our Preserve links below to find out more about our preserves, including directions, maps and general information. Several of our preserves are not open to the public daily because access to the preserve is over private land and trails do not exist. If you are interested in visiting one of these, please contact the office RLT@rensselaerplateaualliance or 518-712-9211 and an escort can be arranged for you.

Note, the following preserves are not open to the public full time; they are only open by arrangement: Bear's Den Preserve, Mud Lake Preserve (Shuba Preserve), and Pineswamp Preserve.

Conservation Easement Lands

easement landingRensselaer Land Trust holds a conservation easement on 15 private lands. Land under a conservation easement is owned by a private landowner. A conservation easement does not mean that the property is open to the public. Rensselaer Land Trust holds some of the property rights, including the right to restrict development of the land. Most landowners elect to retain control over access to the land. Of our 15 conservation easement lands, four allow for public access. Please click on the Conservation Easement lands links below to find out more about our conservation easement properties.


Waterfalls Black River Falls Summer 2014 017With the assistance of area naturalists Steve Young and Russell Dunn, the Rensselaer Land Trust identified 56 waterfalls in Rensselaer County. To find out more about the waterfalls, including locations and descriptions, see Russell Dunn’s Adirondack Waterfall Guide: New York's Cool Cascades.The five waterfalls featured here were those which were visited on the 2000 Rensselaer­Taconic Land Conservancy (R­TLC) waterfalls outing.

Local History

Explore natural areas and the rich history of Rensselaer County through these publications, which were a labor of love by our directors over the past 25 years. Some of the areas described in the portfolios are open to the public. This provides a rich opportunity to read about the history of these areas in depth and then visit the sites for a look at local history today.