The Open Space Institute has acquired the 702-acre Legacy Ridge parcel in the village of Woodbury in Orange County, adding to the conservation corridor between the Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk State Park that OSI began protecting in 2010.
The Legacy Ridge parcel had previously received preliminary approval for the development of 287 residential lots, but today’s acquisition will prohibit development and ensures it will remain in its natural state.
OSI intends to develop an internal trail network on the property and open it to the public for hiking and other passive recreational uses.
“The benefits of this preservation project are many,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “It will increase public recreational access, which is notable because of the property’s proximity to already-protected public land, and its ecological significance, in terms of furthering our goal to link Black Rock and Schunnemunk as a connected wildlife corridor, is considerable.”
Three years ago, OSI began working to protect a critical but largely privately owned wildlife corridor between the Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk State Park. Through two 2010 acquisitions, OSI protected 185 acres within the corridor, providing roaming ground for wildlife and preserving vitally important connectivity in a region of New York State known for its diverse habitat and clean water quality. The acquisitions protected land that integrated a mosaic of upland, wetland and headwater stream habitats.
The lands between Black Rock and Schunnemunk comprise an important ecological connection for mature forest resources and their resident fauna. These lands, several hundred acres of which are still privately owned, feature 95 percent cover of mature deciduous forest, high-quality waterways, and in recent years have become increasingly surrounded by development.
The Open Space Institute, along with its partners at the Black Rock Forest Consortium, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and the Orange County Land Trust, have developed the Hudson Highlands Connectivity Project—a unified vision for long-term ecological connectivity in this vital corridor. In addition to habitat preservation, the groups’ plan will provide important links for recreation and preserve scenic viewsheds for the public to enjoy.
“The acquisition of the Legacy Ridge property is a great outcome for the environment and residents of the region,” said Andy Chmar, executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. “Situated in the heart of the biologically rich, 100-plus square mile core of the western Hudson Highlands between Schunnemunk State Park and the open training area landscapes at West Point, its preservation by OSI benefits the public through continued, unbroken scenic landscapes and future recreational opportunities, and the environment through long-term protection of plant and wildlife species.”
“Orange County Land Trust is delighted to once again have the opportunity to work with such great partners on the continued protection of this important wildlife corridor,” said OCLT Executive Director Jim Delaune. “It is true that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and we’ve seen that in this strong conservation partnership. We look forward to exploring future opportunities to protect this region, for both wildlife habitat and scenic value.”
The protection and connection of diverse, natural lands has become critically important in this era of climate change. As wildlife habitat changes due to temperature fluctuations, severe storms and other changes in climate, it is becoming increasingly important to protect places that offer a broad diversity of land features, which will provide species options as they seek to adjust to climactic changes.
The Hudson Highlands, and the Black Rock/Schunnemunk corridor in particular, have earned high marks for their natural diversity.
“The Legacy Ridge property has high ecological value because of its large size, varied topography, and habitats from streams and wetlands to forests and ridgelines,” said William Schuster, the executive director of the Black Rock Forest Consortium, an educational alliance that manages the 3,830-acre Black Rock Forest. “Forest interior birds like the cerulean warbler and wood thrush, mammals like otter and mink, and New York’s state fish, the brook trout, all have better chances of long-term survival when properties like this, bordering other undeveloped lands, are conserved. The conservation of Legacy Ridge also protects the water quality of Trout Brook and connected streams, preserving recreation opportunities and ecosystem health in this part of the Highlands.”
The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and sustain communities. OSI has protected more than 116,000 acres in New York State. Through its Northern Forest Protection Fund and Conservation Capital program, OSI has assisted in the protection of an additional 2.2 million acres from Quebec to Georgia. Please visit www.osiny.org for more information.