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Newly-Conserved Land in Orange County Advances Wildlife Connection between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park

CORNWALL, NY — May 8, 2017 — Land within an ecologically sensitive corridor between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park in Orange County is now permanently conserved, thanks to the Open Space Institute (OSI), the Black Rock Forest Consortium (BRFC) and Orange County Land Trust (OCLT). Located in one of the most rapidly-developing portions of the state, the acquisition provides important links for future recreation and habitat corridors, and preserves scenic views for the public.

As part of this conservation effort, two properties totaling 90 acres will be permanently protected (map and photos here). Both properties are located in the middle of the subject area for the Hudson Highlands Connectivity Project, a long-term conservation plan advanced by the three organizations for protecting this vital block of mature forests as a wildlife corridor.

“Orange County is one of the fastest-developing portions of New York, and also one of the state’s most ecologically diverse regions,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Conservation of the properties not only preserves recreational access in the region, it also protects invaluable plant and animal habitat. We are grateful to our partners for their efforts in protecting this precious land.”

 “After completing field assessments of these properties and reviewing regional modeling done by The Nature Conservancy and others, we found that these parcels are of value to breeding birds, carnivores, and wetlands wildlife, and contribute to both landscape and habitat diversity,” said Bill Schuster, Executive Director of Black Rock Forest Consortium. “We are pleased to have partnered with the Open Space Institute and the Orange County Land Trust to make this important conservation transaction possible.”

“Protecting key portions of land in the Black Rock Forest wildlife corridor is essential to supporting habitat diversity and wildlife migration within the Forest,” said Orange County Land Trust’s Executive Director James Delaune. “We are pleased to have played a role in securing the protection of these properties and applaud the Open Space Institute and Black Rock Forest Consortium for leading this crucial effort.”

To permanently protect the properties, OSI conveyed the first 43-acre section to BRFC, which will own and manage the property as an addition to its 3,800-acre forest preserve. OSI also conveyed a conservation easement on the second, 47-acre property to be held and monitored by OCLT. Together, OSI and BRFC funded the entire $294,000 purchase of the two properties.

The properties build on OSI’s 2014 acquisition of a conservation easement on the nearly 4,000-acre Black Rock Forest. In 2016, OSI donated the easement, valued at $1.3 million, to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to help create a publicly-accessible land connection between Storm King State Park and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park; preserve a scenic viewshed corridor; and connect 60 miles of recreational trails and 8,600 acres of open space. With the same transaction, OSI and BRFC dedicated $1 million to the protection of key buffers on the Western edge of Black Rock Forest. 

Stretching between Black Rock and Schunnemunk, the Hudson Highlands Connectivity Project comprises an important connection of mature forests and wildlife. These lands, several hundred acres of which are still privately owned, feature 95 percent cover of mature deciduous forest and include high-quality waterways. 

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