Skye hero

Open Space Institute Protects Nearly 140 Acres on the Shawangunk Ridge

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (Nov. 13, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the permanent protection of land along the Shawangunk Ridge adjacent to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bashakill Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in the Town of Mamakating. The newly conserved property is part of OSI’s decades-long effort to increase public access to nature, safeguard water quality within the Bashakill WMA, and protect at-risk wildlife habitat.

OSI purchased the 138-acre “Skye” property for $305,000 from conservation-minded landowners Jeanne and Stephen Skye. The Skye property is adjacent to a parcel OSI acquired in 2018. Together, the two properties close a 225-acre gap in the corridor of protected land along the Shawangunk Ridge within the Bashakill WMA.

The Skye property includes portions of the Delaware River and Hudson River watersheds, including the Basher Kill. Protection of the property supports coordinated efforts to protect watersheds that provide clean drinking water for the cities of Philadelphia, Trenton, and other downstream municipalities.

OSI is at the forefront of utilizing climate-resilience science to identify and protect landscapes that will support habitat protection in a changing climate. The Skye property has above-average climate resilience and landscape diversity, meaning it has the potential to support a range of plants and animals as the climate changes. Additionally, the New York Natural Heritage Program has identified several rare, threatened, or endangered animal species living within close proximity to the Skye property, including the bald eagle and least bittern, one of the smallest members of the heron family.

With several trails currently winding through the property, OSI’s protection of the land provides an opportunity for additional recreational access to forested land atop the Shawangunk Ridge.

OSI intends to transfer the properties to DEC as an addition to the Bashakill WMA.

“With this acquisition, OSI builds on its work in the Bashakill, one of our longest-running project areas. It’s a good example of the multiple overlapping benefits provided by protected land,” said Matt Decker, OSI land project manager. “We thank the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for their dedication to managing the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. We also extend our gratitude to Jeanne and Stephen Skye for their passion for conservation and partnership throughout this process.”

“DEC congratulates the Open Space Institute on the acquisition of the ‘Skye’ property, which connects forested land next to the Bashakill WMA with conserved land on the Shawangunk Ridge,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Conservation of this parcel provides critical connectivity for both wildlife and recreation within this diverse landscape.”

“The Town Board and I enjoyed working with Open Space Institute and are very happy with the agreement we came to. We look forward to continuing to work with OSI in the future,” said Town of Mamakating Supervisor Michael Robbins.

Jeanne Skye, former owner of the property said, “We’re happy to accomplish our long-term goal of preserving this special piece of property.”

“The Bashakill Area Association is thrilled to hear of the land addition to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area. The land buffer surrounding the Basher Kill and the surrounding wetland is vital in protecting this priceless gem. There have been a myriad of development attempts in and around the Bashakill in the 50 years since it’s protection, including up on the ridge. It is because of citizens and organizations like the OSI, DEC, and others that the area is still the pristine oasis it is today. We are so grateful to Stephen and Jeanne Skye for pursuing this most ethical route and preserving this land for future generations. They have answered the call to action in the fight against climate change. And congratulations to OSI for another job well done,” said Jackie Broder from the Bashakill Area Association.

Conservation of the Skye property furthers OSI’s long-term effort to create and expand the Bashakill WMA. In the 1970s, OSI conserved the initial 3,107 acres of the Bashakill WMA. Through subsequent projects, OSI has increased the size of protected lands within the WMA to more than 4,100 acres.

The Skye property is adjacent to more than 50,000 acres of protected land extending the 50-mile length of the Shawangunk Ridge Greenway through Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange counties, 36,000 acres of which has been protected by OSI since the 1970s. OSI’s protection of the Skye property safeguards the north-to-south connectivity of the Shawangunk Ridge landscape.

The acquisition advances a larger regional effort, led by OSI and other conservation organizations, to protect a continuous band of protected land from Rosendale, New York, south to the New Jersey border.

With both the Shawangunk Ridge Trail, including the Long Path, and the O&W Rail Trail, including the D&H Canal, running through the Bashakill WMA, OSI’s acquisition of the Skye property also complements its Growing Greenways: West of Hudson Greenway Trails Vision Plan.

Once completed, the Growing Greenways Plan will create an interconnected, multiuse trail network spanning more than 250 miles and connecting more than 20 communities throughout Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange counties. Experience the interactive Growing Greenways StoryMap here.

Lands along the Shawangunk Ridge and adjacent to the Bashakill WMA, like the Skye property, have been listed as priority acquisitions in several regional planning efforts, including the Town of Mamakating Comprehensive Plan (2019), the Sullivan County Open Space Plan, and the New York State Open Space Plan.

About the Bashakill WMA

A state-designated Bird Conservation Area with several wetland areas, Bashakill WMA is a popular destination for paddlers and bird watchers year-round. The Bashakill WMA currently features 15 miles of walking trails, several observation towers, and five kayak and canoe launches, along with access to the historic D&H Canal Trail and O&W Canal Path and Rail Trail.

About OSI

The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Founded in 1974, initially to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today, OSI has been a partner in the protection of over 2.3 million acres in North America.

Over the past 40 years, OSI has protected more than 36,000 acres on and along the Shawangunk Ridge in Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties—a total more than twice the size of Manhattan. The work, achieved with the support of local partners and generous donors, has expanded parkland, created trails, preserved local viewsheds, and protected vulnerable farmland and wildlife habitats.

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