Open Space Institute announces easement to protect historic Catskills farm in Sullivan County

New York, NY - June 13, 2005 - Today the Open Space Institute (OSI) announced that its land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy (OSC), had acquired an agricultural conservation easement encumbering 246 acres of historic farmland on the Collins Farm in the Town of Rockland, Sullivan County. The acquisition advances OSI's conservation strategy, developed in conjunction with Trout Unlimited and Audubon New York, in the Beaverkill/Willowemoc watershed in the southern Catskills. 

OSI, Trout Unlimited and Audubon New York have been working together for more than a year to identify properties, such as the Collins Farm, that help protect the region's world renowned fishery and scenic quality .OSC purchased a conservation easement protecting Collins Farm, also known as Century Manor Farm, which sits atop a hillside overlooking the village of Livingston Manor, and lies between Bascom Brook and Collins Brook, tributaries of the Willowemoc River. 

The acquisition, made possible with funding from the Lila Acheson and Dewitt Wallace Endowment, marks only the second purchase of development rights on viable agricultural lands in Sullivan County. In March, OSI acquired the first conservation easement in Sullivan County. This transaction protected the Stonewall Preserve, 298.5 acres of farmland owned by the Center for Discovery.

“There is a lot of history here on this farm and it's a big relief to me to know that its future is secure,” said Dave Collins, whose great-grandfather acquired the original parcel in 1850. “The fields where I grow hay are enjoyed by friends in the community who like to cross country ski. Those fields will always be there and my friends can come any time to enjoy them. You know, I could die tomorrow. Now, if I do, there's no way they can turn this historic landscape into a gated community with million dollar homes,” said Collins. 

“The southern Catskills are under enormous development pressure,” said Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute. According to Martens, OSI's first conservation focus in the 1970s took place in the Beaverkill Valley, where the Collins farm is located. While OSI has renewed its commitment to the Catskills region, Sullivan County has yet to benefit from assistance from the State of New York for farmland conservation. “We are proud to help protect this historic farm, and to help draw attention to the plight of those who want to plant crops, not houses, in their fields,” said Martens. 

Although this is the second farmland project ever completed in Sullivan County through an agricultural conservation easement, the Collins Farm is well known to OSI. In 1986 OSI negotiated two conservation easements on 49 acres on the northerly and easterly ends of the farm. “This deal adds the remaining property and allows OSI to restate, and harmonize, the covenants covering the entire 246 acres,” said Jennifer Grossman, OSI's vice president for land acquisition. “The Collins Farm is the most recent addition to OSI's ongoing conservation program for the Catskill area,” said Grossman. “We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Dave Collins, who has a deeply felt love of the land and the tradition of farming. We hope his example encourages other farm families to join OSI in its effort to permanently protect this area's historic landscape and unique open space,” added Grossman.

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