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.


Invasive Species

Projects imap logoiMap 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)

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.

Projects thompson hill

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. 

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

 


 

Forest Legacy

Forest Legacy Rensselaer County Fall 2 Trix N

The Rensselaer Land Trust was an active partner with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in achieving Forest Legacy status for the Rensselaer Plateau in 2010. With this designation comes the possibility of funding to purchase conservation easements from interested landowners. In December, 2015, Congress granted $5.5 million to fund the preservation of 12,348 acres of working forest on the Rensselaer Plateau. A second application to fund more preservation is now under development. Additional project partners include the Hudson River Estuary Program and the Agricultural Stewardship Association.

To find out more about this initiative, please visit http://www.rensselaerplateau.org/#!forest‐legacy‐program/cnzt


Hudson River Fish Advisory Project

HRFA Fran Martino 2

HRFA Science Club from the Windham Ashland Jewett School District

Since the summer of 2014, the Rensselaer Land Trust has been the recipient of a NYS Department of Health grant to educate people on eating fish from the Hudson River and its tributaries. Environmental educator and EPA Environmental Champion Award winner Fran Martino runs the program for the Rensselaer Land Trust. She offers school and after school programs, seine net fishing expeditions, “Stream Spotting” water quality monitoring training, and canoe trips. The program has provided outreach and education to more than 5,000 participants since 2014, and is now a regular program offering at the New York State Museum in Albany. Search for "Go Fish" family programs at NYS museum's website.

Fran teaches people how to identify different species of fish, and advises people on which fish from which waters are safe to eat in what quantity. Although the Hudson River and its tributaries are much cleaner today than they were 30 years ago, there are still contaminants in the water that are absorbed by plants and animals and may be harmful to people.

Fran has been working with students from The Sage Colleges who will be presenting their capstone projects at the Russell Sage Undergraduate Symposium on April 25, 2018. In collaboration with Dr. Emilly Obuya, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Departments, and Alison Horton Schaeffing, Director of Service-Learning at Sage, students are participating in the course: Introduction to Research Methods which includes a mandatory capstone project where their research findings will be useful in their understanding of their local, national and global environment. The capstone study will also serve as a project-based service learning experience where students are assigned a project that will require them to use diverse skills (writing, interviewing, collaborating, and public speaking) to produce results that address real-world problems and issues involving our immediate community.

Educating people about health issues with local fish ties in with Rensselaer Land Trust’s focus on watershed protection and conservation. This program helps us give people the tools they need to enjoy the outdoors safely and to become good environmental stewards.


Will Wading in This Stream Make Me Sick?

In 2017 Citizen Science Volunteers collected water samples from streams in Rensselaer County communities. These efforts were a component of the Rensselaer Land Trust’s Hudson River Estuary Grant Project: “Will Wading in This Stream Make Me Sick?“ As part of this project we recruited and trained citizen scientists to collect water samples from 18 sites along five tributaries of the Hudson River for enterococcus levels. A sub-set of sampling determined levels of emergent compounds at sites with high enterococcus levels.

Enterococcus is a fecal-indicating bacterium in which studies conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed to be a very good predictor of illness in all waters (marine and fresh waters. Our study design also included a sub-set of samples that were analyzed for the presence of emergent compounds such as pharmaceuticals, hormones, endocrine disrupters where high levels of enterococcus is found.

We are working to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, and further assist municipalities in identifying specific water quality problems for targeted monitoring and analysis. The data recently collected on enterococcus bacteria levels and emergent compounds found at locations throughout the watershed is intended to increase public awareness of water quality conditions.

RLTl Basin Map large copyStreams that were sampled include the Wynants Kill, Poesten Kill, Mill Creek, Quackenderry, Quacken Kill, and Moordener Kill. The stream study sites are located throughout Rensselaer County in the communities of Troy, Rensselaer, North Greenbush, East Greenbush, Grafton, Schodack, and Castleton-on-Hudson. Data was analyzed by qualified labs and the assessment will be communicated to the general public, municipal decision makers and other stakeholders.

Click on the above sample site map to enlarge or downloaded HERE.

Report Cards for each stream site can be reviewed at the following links:
Wynants Kill Report
Poesten Kill and Quacken Kill Report
Mill Creek Report
Quackenderry Report
Moordener Kill Report

Fact Sheets:
Pet Waste and Water Quaility
Medical Disposal and Water Qulity
Septic Systems and Water Quaility

Because the Rensselaer Land Trust wanted to coordinate results from the watershed with Hudson Riverkeeper’s ongoing survey of enterococcus bacteria throughout the Hudson River Estuary, samples were be analyzed for enterococcus using the same EPA-approved analytical procedure. This procedure produces a statistically-based “most probable number” (MPN) of “colony forming units” (CFUs) per 100 ml of sample water. If the mean of no less than five samples equally spaced over 30 days exceeds 33 CFUs/100mL, the EPA standard for acceptable recreational water is exceeded. If any individual sample from a site is greater than 61 CFUs/100mL the standard is also exceeded.

The results of enterococcus findings are available at www.riverkeeper.org.

Sampling Photo

Fran Martino, proprietor of River Haggie Outdoors, has coordinated the project to bring stakeholders together to help achieve goals of the New York State Hudson River Estuary Program as it relates to protecting our streams and sustaining water resources. Expected outcomes will be an increased level of awareness and knowledge of community residents and others about water quality conditions that can lead to a reduction of pollutants and improvement in water quality.

Fran has been working with students from The Sage Colleges who will be presenting their capstone projects at the Russell Sage Undergraduate Symposium on April 25, 2018. In collaboration with Dr. Emilly Obuya, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Departments, and Alison Horton Schaeffing, Director of Service-Learning at Sage, students are participating in the course: Introduction to Research Methods which includes a mandatory capstone project where their research findings will be useful in their understanding of their local, national and global environment. The capstone study will also serve as a project-based service learning experience where students are assigned a project that will require them to use diverse skills (writing, interviewing, collaborating, and public speaking) to produce results that address real-world problems and issues involving our immediate community.

New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) provided the grant, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Hudson River Estuary Program (HREP) administers the funding for this project. This grant supports planning for local stewardship of the river environment to help achieve the goals of the 2015-2020 Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda, and aligns with Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) strategies. Partnering organizations involved on this project include Rensselaer County; the Cities of Troy and Rensselaer; Watershed Assessment Associates; United States Geological Survey; Riverkeeper; and Capital District Regional Planning Commission.


Berkshire-Taconic Regional Conservation Partnership

The Berkshire-Taconic Regional Conservation Partnership is a collaborative of more than 15 partners. The partnership is made up of nonprofit and private conservation groups and public agencies who share the same vision.  Conserving the important places in this region is vital for tourism, the economy, forestry, farming, and public health. The woods, farms, plants and wildlife need cross-border protection to continue to live and to thrive. Learn more HERE.