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Celebrating Our 2013 Conservation Success

One of the things we celebrate at year-end is all we have accomplished in our pursuit of excellence—and there was much to celebrate for the Open Space Institute in 2013.

OSI reached great heights this year, achieving all of our land protection goals and then some.

In 2013, OSI transferred thousands of acres to New York’s state park system, adding significantly to the state’s inventory of protected public lands. We also launched the Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which uses cutting-edge science to identify the lands most likely to adapt to changes in climate.

And New York’s state parks received a second year of much-needed funding for upgrades and repairs due to the advocacy of OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks. 

In every aspect of our work, 2013 was a banner year.

In 2013, the Open Space Institute made 11 transfers to the New York State, adding more than 3,700 publicly accessible acres to the state’s network of parks and preserves. OSI added almost 1,000 acres—including Sam’s Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge—to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County in 2013.

The additions to Minnewaska capped a nearly 30-year effort, over which OSI and its many partners have more than doubled the size of the preserve. Now 21,190 acres and all open to the public, Minnewaska is one of the Hudson Valley’s signature natural attractions. Read what the New York Times had to say here.

Public access was again cause for celebration this summer, when OSI and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust reopened the historic Rosendale trestle. Standing 150 feet above Rondout Creek, the trestle had been closed for repairs for nearly three years, but is now the scenic highlight along the expanded 24-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, also an OSI – WVLT partner project. 

OSI’s acquisition of the Legacy Ridge parcel in Orange County added significantly to the ongoing Black Rock Forest –Schunnemunk Mountain State Park corridor initiative. The 702-acre tract not only provides connectivity for wildlife on the move; its varied topography and complex features will offer resilient habitat, water and food for animals well into the future, even as our climate changes.

Capital for East Coast Conservation

New England towns continued to shape their own destinies in 2013 by preserving recreational and sustainable forestlands in their own backyards. In New Hampshire, OSI’s Community Forest Fund helped the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and the residents of Easton, Sugar Hill and other nearby towns purchase the 840-acre Cooley-Jericho Community Forest, a recreational haven for hikers, bikers and cross-country skiers.

In the Transborder region, OSI issued a mid-course report as its Transborder Fund reached the 25,000-acres protected milestone. Support from the Fund helped the Nature Conservancy of Canada protect and steward Portage Lake, a chain of remote ponds and wetlands, and the surrounding unfragmented forest. The 7,000-acre property lies within a large forest block, ensuring connectivity for wide ranging wildlife such as moose, otter and marten. The land is located in southeastern Quebec, adjacent to 282,000 acres of working forest in Maine.

In Chester County, PA, the Bayshore-Highlands Fund supported a pair of unique and important farmland preservation projects. The 91-acre Nestorick farm is the home of longhorn cattle, belted Galloway cattle, Scottish highland cattle and other exotic animals. But it and the neighboring McAfee farm—preserved with Bayshore-Highlands funding as well—also buffer and protect the Hopewell Big Woods area and the Great Marsh, the largest inland freshwater marsh in eastern Pennsylvania.divider

Advocacy Local, Regional and National

As 2013 began, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo renewed his commitment to state parks by including another $90 million in his budget to upgrade and improve the aging park system. Cuomo’s budget, favorable to parks for the second straight year, indicated that the governor has heard the message of OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks—that our parks system is too valuable to remain in disrepair. With the governor’s aggressive funding and the tireless advocacy of the Alliance, New York’s parks are being restored for the tens of millions of people who visit them every year.

In addition to seeing a second year of increased capital funding for parks, the Alliance successfully completed an initiative in 2013 to raise $500,000 to repair the 3.7-mile Hamilton Point Carriage Road at Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

The Alliance also has an important role in a public-private partnership launched this year to raise money for an overhaul of the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park’s Canopus Lake visitor and recreation area. Together, the partners—including the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks and the State Parks Taconic Regional Commission—have raised $827,000 towards a $1.2 million goal to improve and update run-down public facilities at the park’s swimming beach and “Winter Park” area including the café space, ski rental area and restrooms.

OSI sponsored a nationwide effort for developing strategies to strengthen conservation easements, which are one of the land trust movement’s oldest and most effective tools. The study OSI released in 2013 offers land trusts a series of guidelines for strengthening the terms and effectiveness of existing and future easements.

In the do-or-die final year before the 1964 legislation that created the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires, OSI’s Outdoors America Campaign did not rest in 2013 in its push for Congress to renew and fully fund the nation’s oldest and most successful means for conserving open spaces.

And OSI’s Citizen Action Program was the home in 2013 for 60 grassroots organizations working to better their communities. With an emphasis on maintaining access to healthy food throughout New York City’s five boroughs, the program created a unique intersection between OSI’s grassroots advocacy and farmland preservation initiatives.

As 2013 ends, the Open Space Institute finalized a new strategic plan—one that sets forth a multi-year vision of smart conservation, wise allocation of funds and goals of access to the natural world for both humans and wildlife.

OSI has set its goals for 2014 and beyond. With your support, we will meet and exceed those targets. To make your year-end gift for conservation, click here. Thank you again for your generous support. 

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