Connectivity for Wildlife and People (2022)

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.

Farther north, in Saratoga County, OSI and Saratoga PLAN created the Southern Palmertown Conservation & Recreation Strategy, which is serving as the blueprint for local conservation action. The Palmertown plan represents the last best chance to create a green corridor between the Adirondack foothills and Vermont’s Green Mountains. OSI’s work here is urgent.

In 2021 in the Palmertown Range, OSI added 860 acres to Moreau Lake State Park, safeguarding habitat for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly and protecting a property that connects Moreau with more than 1,800 acres of conserved lands. These projects build on OSI’s 30-year history at Moreau, where more than 4,250 acres have been added to the popular park, tripling its size.

Lee credits a unified vision, community support, and a hardworking land acquisition team for OSI’s success in protecting the forested places that wildlife rely on most. “These projects flourish because multiple partners and stakeholders are putting our minds, our hearts, and our passions together to accomplish a long-term vision for a connected landscape. Parcel by parcel, what we’re doing here is transformative work.”

The Southern Palmertown Conservation & Recreation Strategy was supported with funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York's Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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