August 1, 2017

The Conservation Fund Buys 23,000 Acres Of Forestland In New York, Vermont And Massachusetts

ALBANY, N.Y. — Today, The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of 23,053 acres of working forestland in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Known as Cowee Forest, the acquired lands provide critical connections to existing conserved areas and recreational resources, including access to the Taconic Crest Trail and the Rensselaer Plateau, as well as protection for important wildlife habitat within a short drive from Albany, New York, and Bennington, Vermont.

Located in Rensselaer and Washington Counties, New York; Bennington County, Vermont; and Berkshire County, Massachusetts; the Cowee Forest lands were assembled over generations to support a wood products manufacturing mill in the Rensselaer Plateau and Taconic regions. The lands were sold to an investment fund ten years ago. The Conservation Fund recognized the importance of ensuring that the valuable resources of this large forest, including wood supply to local mills that support nearly 100 forestry-based job, was protected from both subdivision and conversion to non-forest uses.

“This purchase is an investment in the vitality of the Rensselaer Plateau and Taconic Region’s forest economy, which is the largest natural resource-based economic sector in the state of New York,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President and Northeast Representative for The Conservation Fund. “Our goal is to protect forestland of community- and state-wide importance, and we look forward to working with our public and private partners to implement conservation solutions at Cowee Forest that meet the needs of people, protect wildlife habitat and provide economic benefits.”

The Conservation Fund purchased the property through its Working Forest Fund®, with generous support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, allowing time for the creation and implementation of permanent protection strategies with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, communities, and other local partners while preventing fragmentation and development of the land. During its temporary ownership, The Conservation Fund will pay property taxes and will sustainably manage Cowee Forest for timber resources and a variety of conservation benefits, including wildlife habitat protection and public recreational access for hiking, biking, fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

More than 16,600 acres of Cowee Forest are located in eastern New York, with lands adjacent to the Capital District Wildlife Management Area, Cherry Plain State Park and numerous State Forests—including Taconic Ridge, Berlin, Battenkill and Goose Egg State Forests.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said: “New York is grateful to The Conservation Fund for working to conserve this magnificent assemblage of forests, wetlands and streams – the reasons why so many New Yorkers and visitors enjoy the Rensselaer Plateau and the Taconic Ridge. New York State looks forward to working with The Conservation Fund, the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, our sister states, municipal governments and other key stakeholders to determine how best to conserve these precious natural areas for future generations.”

A large portion of the permanent conservation funding for the New York portion will come from the U.S Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), spearheaded by local advocates of working forest conservation like the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance (RPA) and local landowners. LWCF is annually funded by the U.S. Congress, with support from New York’s U.S. delegation representing Rensselaer and Washington Counties: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, and U.S. Representative John Faso.

“The Conservation Fund’s acquisition of the 23,000 acre Cowee Forest is wonderful news,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “For decades important conservation programs like Forest Legacy and the Land and Water Conservation Fund have provided important federal funds for conservation projects across New York State. These programs have helped preserve hundreds of acres of public lands, generated billions nationally in economic activity, and created over 300,000 jobs in New York State. The permanent protection of this working forestland will be just another example of the important conservation work these invaluable federal programs help bring about.”

“With the announcement that more than 16,000 acres of land will be protected from development in Rensselaer and Washington Counties, we are seeing the on the ground benefits of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund in New York.” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I will continue to support federal government’s important role in providing funds to ensure that places like the Cowee Forest are protected for future generations.”

“I applaud The Conservation Fund for their tireless efforts to protect our environment for future generations,” said U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik. “We know in the North Country that preserving our natural habitats is critical to the sustainability of our region and to our economic development. I will continue to work in Congress to support the Land Water Conservation Fund and to pursue smart policies that protect our natural treasures.”

“Forest preservation is vitally important to maintaining Upstate New York’s unique beauty and ensuring visitors continue to come to tour and enjoy our wilderness,” said U.S. Representative John Faso. “The work of The Conservation Fund helps achieve this goal, as this purchase of 16,600 acres in Rensselaer and Washington Counties for preservation will ensure that these lands are maintained and can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Situated within the viewshed of the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the Cowee Forest lands in New York contain a portion of the Albany Road to Massachusetts, a Colonial highway dating to 1753 and the first road that crossed the Plateau and Taconic Mountains. The land will also be managed for improved wildlife habitat for seven species of national importance, like the New England cottontail, and four hawk species listed by the New York State Endangered Species Act—Cooper’s hawk, red-shouldered hawk, broad-winged hawk and northern goshawk.

“This project is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we at RPA are so grateful to The Conservation Fund for making it possible,” says Jim Bonesteel, Executive Director of the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance. “The Conservation Fund has been our longtime partner in implementing the Rensselaer Plateau Regional Conservation Plan goals to conserve the ecological, economic, and recreational resources of the region. This acquisition will conserve significant natural areas including the Poestenkill Headwaters, Stump Pond, Firetower Hill and Turner Mountain, and will support the local economy through continued sustainable forestry and increased outdoor recreation opportunities, while still paying property taxes.”

The Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund uses conservation-focused forest management strategies to enhance forest health and productivity, wildlife habitat and water quality, while supporting the economic well-being of surrounding communities. With more than half of America’s 751 million acres of forests vulnerable to fragmentation and conversion to other uses, the Working Forest Fund is a dedicated source of conservation capital and timberland expertise designed to quickly acquire threatened forests with high conservation value. Over the last three decades, The Conservation Fund has protected more than two million acres of forestland nationwide.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly eight million acres of land, including over 275,000 acres of the former International Paper Company lands in the Adirondacks.

Map of Cowee Forest
A map of the 23,000-acre Cowee Forest can be viewed, here.

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |