Across its landscapes, OSI has taken an outsized role in using land protection and conservation planning to play a strategic game of connect-the-dots. And the stakes have never been higher: Increasing development pressures and climate change necessitate protecting and connecting green corridors in some of the most densely populated areas on the East Coast.
Intact corridors support the movement of plants and animals, allowing wildlife to find food, water, mates, and natural shelter. Wildlife increasingly relies on connected habitat, and these corridors often serve a dual purpose by also improving recreational opportunities for humans.
Dene Lee, who oversees OSI’s Northeast Land program, has been building on OSI’s legacy to develop large-scale habitat connections in two critical New York landscapes. “There is a renewed emphasis on creating conservation corridors and linking protected forests and meadows — connections that enhance recreational access and provide much-needed habitat protection for wildlife,” says Lee.
In the western Hudson Highlands — among the most biologically rich and at-risk regions in New York State — OSI partnered with the Orange County Land Trust and the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference to create the Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan. The goal is to link six state parks and 93,000 acres of protected land, transforming the way both humans and wildlife access and navigate the area.
Shortly after unveiling the blueprint, OSI put the plan into action by protecting three properties totaling more than 300 acres. OSI thereby secured critical wetland habitat and created a 10-mile green corridor near Schunnemunk Mountain State Park that will be transformed into a county rail trail. The project will also protect forested habitat for migratory birds and the federally endangered Indiana bat along the Appalachian Trail.