Reflections on Conservation in 2010

Aldo Leopold, an American naturalist who is considered the father of wildlife ecology, described in his posthumous 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, the idea of conservation as an ethical principle: 

"A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity."

Six decades later, we believe his words ring true perhaps now more than ever.

Over the last 12 months, we have continued to see the natural world transform. Deep down, at the core of these changes, is land and how we use it. Indeed, as Leopold wrote, the land—endowed with a regenerative gene that mankind will never duplicate—can recover and renew itself, if given the chance.

Are we all doing our part, maybe even more, to give it that chance?

Thanks to generous donor support, the Open Space Institute continued to adapt and to thrive in 2010. Guided by a new long-term strategic plan, we have become wiser, more efficient conservationists and we’re proud of the impact that every project OSI completed this year, from the big to the small, made in the communities in which we work.

Please help us continue our work in 2011 by making your tax deductible year-end gift today.


In New York State

In 2010, OSI expanded public access to both the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the Long Path, increasing recreational amenities for residents and visitors in New York State. In the coming year, OSI will continue to work with partners to create a 140-mile long interconnected trail network running from southern Dutchess County, through Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties and on to the southern and western Catskills, connecting a variety of state parks, state forest preserves, wildlife management areas, city, county and town parks, and nature preserves throughout the mid-Hudson River Valley. 

In November, OSI acquired a nearly 2,200-acre swath in the Adirondacks that connects sustainably managed forestland and preserves important roaming areas for wildlife. The property also included Camp Little Notch, a beloved Girl Scout Camp, the spirit of which OSI is working to preserve in the New Year with a local advocacy group.

OSI also protected five farms totaling 770 acres in three of our agricultural areas—the Rondout and Wallkill valleys, the Catskills and the Kinderhook Corridor in Columbia County. One farm helped protect a tiny but important conservation corridor for wildlife between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park, while another utilized funding from a Clean Water and Open Space Protection Bond Act passed by voters in the town of New Paltz.

On the Shawangunk Ridge, where OSI has protected more than 27,000 acres over two decades, we acquired 67 acres of dramatic cliff face in 2010. These cliffs, some 350 feet in height, were some of the first scaled by rock climbers in the U.S. in the 1930s, launching a new sport that to this day considers the ‘Gunks one of its meccas.

From Canada to Georgia

In 2010, OSI made 18 separate grants to land trusts up and down the East Coast and into Canada aiding in the protection of 310,000 acres. Nearing its 10-year anniversary as a conservation funding agency, OSI continued to support wildlife habitat protection in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts through its Saving New England’s Wildlife initiative.  

Two new initiatives, the Transborder Land Protection Fund and the Community Forest Fund, protected uniquely valuable lands stretching across the U.S.-Canadian border and in northern New England communities with a vested interest in forestland protection, respectively.  

Transborder projects totaling 1,200 acres drew considerable support from the Canadian federal government for protection in the Green Mountain range in Quebec, just north of the Vermont border, and on the Chignecto Isthmus, along the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Beyond the Land

Research at OSI also advanced conservation through studies that will not only inform our own land protection initiatives but could also help shape public policy and national and statewide efforts to preserve habitat and natural resources.  

We have identified incentives to protect 38 million acres of working forestland across the eastern U.S., sustaining jobs and helping communities. We’re studying wildlife migration patterns in the southern Appalachians to determine along which corridors animals travel most often, identifying the most critical lands to protect—before the impacts of climate change take hold.

In November, OSI launched the Alliance for New York State Parks, a new initiative that will advocate for New York’s spectacular but underfunded park system. With assistance from Carol Ash, the former commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Alliance will work with state agencies, private individuals and partner organizations to support and revitalize New York’s 178 parks and 35 historic sites.

We’ve continued to lead a federal initiative to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the federal government’s primary resource for land conservation.

And our Citizen Action Program now provides fiscal sponsorship to 60 grassroots organizations throughout New York City and State, with a particular focus on groups working on local parks creation, urban agriculture and environmental education.

As we recap OSI’s accomplishments on the ground in 2010, we’re reminded again how much the generosity of our supporters fuels our work here. We’re deeply thankful for all that you’ve given and we look forward to your continued support in the New Year. As 2010comes to aclose, we wish you the best.

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