Today The Nature Conservancy in New York announces the acquisition of 621 acres along the Berkshire Taconic Ridge. The land exchange will fill in a long sought missing piece of the South Taconic Trail between these popular sections of New York's Taconic State Park at Copake Falls and Rudd Pond, providing the alignment for an estimated five miles of new, public trails, and expanding the park by some 250 acres. The proposed trail route traverses high elevations along the western side of the ridge offering spectacular views of the Harlem Valley and the Catskill Mountains in the distance.
The transaction, which involves New York State, The Nature Conservancy and a private corporation, results in the permanent conservation of 621 acres along the New York State side of the Berkshire Taconic Ridge. “The Nature Conservancy was interested in brokering this deal because it will protect the Taconic Ridge’s intact, healthy forests along the Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York border. The Mount Riga properties, the largest remaining private holdings available for development within the Berkshire Taconic landscape, are very important to conserve,” explains Katie Dolan, executive director of the Conservancy’s Eastern New York Chapter (ENY).
“This deal represents one of the most complicated transactions ever undertaken by the ENY Chapter and marks the completion of a project that began nearly thirty years ago,” says Mark King, director of land protection programs. “New York State has, for many years, wanted to extend the Taconic trail system and sought to purchase missing link parcels along the Ridge. The Conservancy was interested in helping out, since the wetlands at the base of the Ridge include habitats for bog turtles and other rare species.”
The success of the project resulted from the willingness of the three parties, The Nature Conservancy, Mount Riga Incorporated and New York State Parks, to stay engaged long enough to craft an exchange of interests that met each of their goals.
“The key leverage making this multi-faceted deal come together was a generous donation of a 320 acre property along the ridge to the Conservancy in 2003. Mount Riga Inc. wanted to acquire part of the lands donated and as a result, agreed to encumber a portion of their property with conservation easements and sell other lands to New York State. In exchange the Conservancy conveyed a portion of the donated property, restricted by a conservation easement, to Mount Riga,” adds King.
"Since the end of the 19th century, the families that own Mount Riga Incorporated have protected over 4,000 acres of the Berkshire Taconic Plateau. We continue to believe that responsible private ownership is an important part of land conservation. We are pleased to cooperate with our neighbors, the ENY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and New York State Office of Parks and Recreation who understand that our intense and locally focused interest in Mount Riga contributes to the protection of a larger ecosystem," says spokesman Robert O'Brien. "Enhanced recreational opportunities for hikers and conservation of environmentally significant land offer benefits that will continue for centuries into the future."
"The Nature Conservancy will continue to look at other property easements along the New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut borders,” adds Dolan, “to complete its overall forest block preservation goal of 30,000 protected in the Berkshire Taconic landscape.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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