Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the preservation of 5,789 additional acres in the Taconic Mountains that will protect critical open space and expand recreational opportunities to support the local economy. The preserved areas include the recent State acquisition of 2,446 acres adjoining the Taconic Ridge State Forest and 3,343 acres being added to the Berlin State Forest through a partnership with The Conservation Fund.
"Getting outside and enjoying nature has been one of the few pleasures for many New Yorkers during these challenging times and with the continued expansion of preservation we are providing even more opportunity for recreation while ensuring that critical open spaces are protected," Governor Cuomo said. "The Taconic Ridge provides stunning, sweeping views of the rich environment and thanks to our preservation efforts it will be a destination for New Yorkers for generations to come."
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently acquired the four old Cowee Forest parcels, known as the Stickles, Nugent, East Mountain, and Misery Mountain tracts, from The Conservation Fund using $4.85 million from the EPF. These acquisitions will double the size of the Taconic Ridge and Berlin state forests and provide critical connections to recreational resources, including access to the Taconic Crest Trail. The purchases also protect tributaries of the Little Hoosic River, one of New York State's wild trout streams. As part of DEC's state forests, these lands will be managed for multiple uses, including timber production, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and recreation.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New Yorkers and visitors alike will have new opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Taconics thanks to these significant acquisitions, which will expand the Capital Region's State Forests and the many benefits they provide to wildlife, habitat, water quality, and our ongoing fight against climate change. We are grateful to our partners at The Conservation Fund, and especially for Governor Cuomo's continued commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund, the introduction of the Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act, and other critical investments in forest conservation and preservation."
Vice President and Northeast Representative for The Conservation Fund Tom Duffus said, "These forests are part of a larger 16,000-acre working forest landscape that The Conservation Fund is working with the state and other local partners to protect in order to support the vitality of the Rensselaer Plateau and Taconic Region's forest economy. Now part of the New York State Forest System, the valuable resources of this forestland, including wood supply to local mills, recreational access, protection for water quality and wildlife habitat, will be ensured."
In addition to expansive forest, the Rensselaer Plateau supports several unique wetland communities, including sedge meadow, dwarf shrub bog, spruce-fir swamp, and kettle hole bog, an impressive mammal diversity not typical of the greater Capital District, including black bear, fisher, otter, bobcat, and moose, and is included on National Audubon Society's list of Important Bird Areas in New York. The Rensselaer Plateau's large forest blocks serve as core areas from which wildlife corridors to other forested areas extend and, according to the Natural Heritage Program, provide potential refuge for wildlife moving from southern areas or lower elevations in response to climate change.
Located in Rensselaer County along the Massachusetts and Vermont border, the DEC's Taconic Ridge and Berlin State forests are primary gateways in the Taconic Mountains that conserve important natural resources and provide diverse outdoor recreational opportunities. Their rolling hills, forests, scenic vistas and over 34 miles of trails, including the Taconic Crest Trail, are ideal for hiking. For more information about the Taconic Ridge State Forest, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/72874.html.
Governor Cuomo's 2020-21 enacted State Budget sustains EPF funding at $300 million, the highest level of funding in the program's 25-year history. In addition, this year's Budget added $500 million to the State's already historic $3 billion commitment to water quality improvements. The Budget also creates the Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act. If approved by voters in November, the Bond Act would fund critical environmental restoration and climate mitigation projects in every corner of the state to ensure New York is able to adapt to the intensifying impacts of climate change, and reduce emissions, while creating jobs and local economic development.