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Reflections on conservation in 2012

At the Open Space Institute, we believe that conservation is an investment in a healthy planet and a sensible future for our generation and those to come. 

As 2012 ends, we are drawn to reflect on the world around us and we are invariably reminded of the importance of land.

Conservation will be one of the keys as society seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change by protecting and restoring stronger shorelines. By saving land we are preserving the farms that grow our food and the forests that keep our waters clean. We are creating and expanding state and local parks and preserves where we reconnect with the natural world.

Thanks to generous donor support for our work, OSI was once again able to make great strides in 2012. From Canada to Georgia and from wildlife habitat to parks, you are helping us make a difference.

We are hopeful that we can count on your continued help. To support the Open Space Institute as we look forward to 2013, you can make your tax-deductible year-end gift now.

Rails and Trails, Parks and Farms

OSI acquired and preserved 1,043 acres in New York State in 2012, and, as the year ends, we’re preparing to transfer thousands of additional acres to New York state parks, adding significantly to the state’s inventory of protected public lands. 

Farm preservation was once again at the forefront of OSI’s efforts in New York State in 2012. Teaming with the Orange County town of Warwick, OSI protected two farmland properties using funds from the town’s Community Preservation Act.

Restoration work continued on the historic Rosendale Trestle, which should be reopened to the public by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

In the Adirondacks, the Friends of Camp Little Notch signed an agreement to lease, with an option to purchase, the OSI-protected site where many of the group's members attended summer camp as girls. In addition, the Friends announced the reopening of the camp for the first time since 2008.

Other notable acquisitions included a 233-acre parcel that protects one of the last major waterfalls in private ownership in the Shawangunks, Little Stony Kill Falls, and The Croft, a unique 59-acre open space tract adjacent to the Teatown Lake Reservation’s 875 acres of forests, swamps, meadows, groves, streams and farmland in Westchester County.

Finally, the Open Space Institute and a pair of partners protected 435 acres of scenic forestland on the southern Shawangunk Ridge known as the Ridgeview property. In time, OSI plans to sell the parcel to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as an addition to the Huckleberry Ridge State Forest.

Capital for Conservation

In 2012, OSI successfully completed Saving New England’s Wildlife, a three-year, $5 million capital fund that accounted for the preservation of more than 20,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. In 2013, OSI will direct two new funds that using emerging science and innovative approaches to conserving biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.

In the forested blocks of Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, the Southern Cumberland Land Protection Fund will support conservation projects that promote regional-scale conservation of habitat and biodiversity.

Similarly, the Northeast Resilient Landscapes Initiative seeks to preserve wildlife habitat by  protecting the most physically diverse lands that will provide refuge for flora and fauna—now and well into the future—in targeted sites from Maine to West Virginia.

OSI’s Conservation Finance program continued to make grants in New England this year as well. In 2012, OSI assisted in the conservation of more than 2,100 acres in the vast Transborder corridor connecting the United States and Canada. Another initiative, the Community Forest Fund, carried on throughout the year and played a vital role in projects such as the creation of a new town forest at the junction of two national scenic byways in the town of Albany, New Hampshire.

The Bayshore-Highlands Fund, which was launched in 2011, made grants and loans to help protect hundreds of acres in southern New Jersey and the Pennsylvania Highlands, including one site that—instead of being developed for high-density housing—now protects habitat for a critically endangered species.

Advocacy Local, Regional and National

2012 began with a major victory for OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans in January for an $89 million funding increase for repairs, upgrades and restorations at 48 state parks and historic sites. In April, the state legislature put its stamp of approval on the funding, which came through the New York Works Infrastructure Fund.

In 2013 we will continue to spread awareness about New York’s underfunded park system, secure funds for selected projects and work to ensure that the governor’s funding stays in place in future years.

OSI was also involved in the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) plans to provide additional funding for land transactions near military sites in Georgia and Florida. The DOD is interested in limiting incompatible development in the vicinity of military bases and it requested OSI’s help in determining which sites were most in need of protection.

In coastal North Carolina, OSI highlighted opportunities for landscape-scale working forest conservation when it issued Retaining Working Forests: Eastern North Carolina, an analysis that suggested as many as 344,000 acres in the region could ultimately be converted to other uses–costing North Carolinians jobs while compromising water quality and wildlife habitat.

Another study, this one to be released in early 2013, will offer recommendations on how land trusts can improve conservation easements, one of the movement’s oldest preservation tools.

Nationally, OSI’s Outdoors America Campaign worked in 2012 to secure federal funding for conservation, while locally, our Citizen Action program added four new groups and continued helping grassroots environmental groups create sustainable communities.

OSI was able to accomplish many great things this year. We have expanded our initiatives and helped strengthen the communities in which we work. From all of us here, thank you for your support in 2012. 

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