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Open Space Institute Protects Part of New York’s Great Swamp from Development

TOWN OF PATTERSON, NY (Jan. 29, 2024)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the acquisition of nearly 90 acres of New York’s fragile Great Swamp in Putnam County. The Great Swamp encompasses more than 6,000 acres and forms one of the largest freshwater wetlands in New York State. OSI’s 87-acre acquisition is adjacent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) 444-acre Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which is one of the larger publicly protected areas within the Great Swamp.

Just an hour north of New York City and within the Croton Reservoir system watershed, which provides 10 percent of the city’s daily water supply, OSI’s acquisition will help secure long-term access to clean water for millions of New Yorkers. The forested tract includes extensive wetlands and nearly 1,000 feet of riverfront along the East Branch of the Croton River.

The parcel provides wildlife habitat for breeding wood ducks and migrating waterfowl. The New England cottontail rabbit, which is a "vulnerable" species in the northeastern United States because of the loss of suitable habitat, is known to occur in the vicinity of the property. The newly protected property’s location between parallel north-south Highland ridges also makes it an ideal stopover for migratory birds.

“OSI’s protection of the Great Swamp property is a huge win for both humans and wildlife,” said Tom Gravel, senior land project manager at OSI. “The acquisition safeguards precious wildlife habitat and wetlands that naturally recharge the area’s aquifers, which are essential to the health of our communities and planet. Strategic land conservation goes hand-in-hand with providing safe, reliable access to drinking water and protection for the places that our most vulnerable species call home.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC remains grateful to our partners at the Open Space Institute for their exceptional commitment to environmental stewardship and land preservation for all. The 87-acre Great Swamp property has been listed in New York State’s Open Space Plan as a high conservation priority, and the protection of this parcel safeguards wetlands, plants, and animal habitats in the swamp.”

“I congratulate and thank our friends at Open Space Institute and the Bayme family for negotiating protection of a biologically diverse 87-acre parcel. The land slopes east from Couch Road down to the East Branch Croton River. Development would have led to soil erosion and other pollutants impacting the river which is an important source of public drinking water. This parcel is now the center of a protected, 444-acre diverse wildlife habitat block anchored by DEC’s Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area. We celebrate this noteworthy achievement,” said Dr. Jim Utter on behalf of the Friends of the Great Swamp (FrOGS).

OSI purchased the property for $385,000 from the Bayme family.

The newly protected property has been listed in New York State’s Open Space Plan as a high conservation priority. The property was also recognized by New York’s Natural Heritage Program as important to protect because of its connection to other protected lands. The Great Swamp has also been designated by the USDA Forest Service as a Highlands Conservation Focal Area, named by the Department of Interior as a National Historic Landmark, and declared a Critical Environmental Area by Dutchess and Putnam Counties.

OSI intends to transfer the Great Swamp property to DEC as an expansion to the Great Swamp WMA.

About OSI

The Open Space Institute is a national leader in land conservation and efforts to make parks and other protected land more welcoming for all. Since 1974, OSI has partnered in the protection of more than 2.4 million at-risk and environmentally sensitive acres in the eastern U.S. and Canada. OSI’s land protection promotes clean air and water, improves access to recreation, provides wildlife habitat, strengthens communities, and combats climate change, while curbing its devastating effects.

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