DUTCHESS COUNTY, NY (March 16 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the permanent protection of more than 100 acres adjacent to the northern end of West Mountain State Forest in the Town of Dover. OSI’s conservation of this forested parcel is protecting intact and connected forests, safeguarding habitat critical for wildlife in a changing climate, and increasing the availability of protected land for public enjoyment and recreation.
OSI purchased the 119-acre “Pleasant Ridge” property for $600,000 from the Coutinho Family. The property contains ample frontage on Pleasant Ridge Road and OSI’s protection of the land has the potential to provide new access to the northern section of West Mountain State Forest.
The acquisition is part of a larger, regional plan to create a wildlife corridor from the New York and Connecticut Highlands into the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains in southern Vermont, and support the movement of wildlife and people through a heavily developed landscape.
In addition to its abundant and immediate value to the region for recreation and habitat, the “Pleasant Ridge” property ranks highly for its potential to support a diversity of plants and animals as the climate changes. OSI has been at the forefront of utilizing climate-resilience science to identify and protect landscapes that will support habitat protection in a changing climate.
“The permanent protection of OSI’s Pleasant Ridge property demonstrates the real value of protected land for people and for wildlife. The acquisition is a critical step toward establishing regional connectivity of forested lands, fighting back against the impacts of climate change, and providing additional recreational opportunities for the public,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “OSI’s purchase of these forested lands in the Hudson Valley ensures they are protected from development and preserves an important Northeastern wildlife corridor while increasing opportunities for outdoor adventurers to experience nature. DEC is grateful for partners like the Open Space Institute and their ongoing efforts to preserve lands like Pleasant Ridge for New Yorkers and visitors to experience and enjoy.”
OSI’s protection of Pleasant Ridge was made possible, in part, with a $250,000 reimbursable grant provided by Scenic Hudson’s Climate and Environment Justice Fund, which is being matched with OSI’s internal, philanthropic funds.
Richard Yeno, Supervisor of the Town of Dover said, “In recent years, the Town of Dover has come to appreciate the unique ecological and environmental benefits of conserving lands adjacent to existing parks and protected lands- such as the additions of the Nellie Hill Preserve to The Great Thicket Wildlife Refuge and Seven Wells parcels to the Dover Stone Church Preserve. The addition of the Pleasant Ridge property to West Mountain State Forest will protect precious habitats; support connectivity for wildlife, forests, and native and endangered species to coexist; and help ameliorate the accelerating impact of climate change. We are tremendously grateful to the Open Space Institute, Scenic Hudson and the NYS DEC for this collaboration that will also provide new additional recreational opportunities for residents and visitors who see Dover as an emerging regional mecca for nature enthusiasts and hikers.”
“The protection of Pleasant Ridge is a great example of how conservation organizations can achieve more by working together — and act quickly to protect threatened landscapes in a fast-moving real estate market. As a result of this collaboration between the Open Space Institute and Scenic Hudson, this unspoiled portion of West Mountain’s ridgeline will always remain a prominent feature of the local landscape, while offering great potential to expand opportunities for outdoor enjoyment,” said Seth McKee, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Inc., and Land Programs.
Spanning more than 830 acres, West Mountain State Forest currently operates with a singular entrance at the southern end of the Forest near Gardner Hollow Road. OSI’s Pleasant Ridge acquisition provides an opportunity to potentially develop a new entrance, trailhead, and parking area for West Mountain State Forest that will enhance public access to the forest, especially for local communities in southern Dutchess and northern Putnam Counties.
In addition to providing more recreation options for residents, the site will also help to better disperse visitors throughout the Forest.
OSI’s protection of the property also plays an important role protecting the area’s ridgeline and viewshed, preserving the rural character of the town.
The protection of this intact, forested corridor is critical for wildlife habitat and to support the movement of a range of native species, including otter, porcupine, foxes, and larger mammals such as bear and bobcat.
Completely forested, Pleasant Ridge consists mostly of mature upland oak-hickory trees. These trees provide ideal summer roosting habitat for a variety of bat species, including Indiana Bats, and this tree type also generally stores carbon at higher rates.
According to OSI’s data analysis, the property currently stores nearly 96 metric tons of carbon per acre in soils and trees, which is above average for the region. In a 2017 report, the USDA Forest Service announced that, on average, forests in the United States store about 85 metric tons of carbon per acre.
The property contains streams that connect with Burton Brook, a tributary to the Ten Mile River which flows into the Housatonic River and eventually into Long Island Sound.
West Mountain State Forest and the surrounding area, including the Pleasant Ridge property, was included in New York State’s Open Space Plan as a high priority for protection due to the area’s significant wildlife diversity, presence of threatened and endangered species, scenic views, substantial recreational value, and thousands of acres of intact and unfragmented forestland.
The property is anticipated to be transferred to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as an expansion of West Mountain State Forest.