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Officials Await Word on Funds to Protect Land in Columbia County

A collective of agencies, institutions and individuals is working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to prevent hundreds of acres of pristine land in Columbia County from falling into the hands of developers. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Officials have their fingers crossed that the federally-supported Forest Legacy Program will help a band of groups including the Columbia Land Conservancy, Darrow School and the Berkshire Farm Center and Services For Youth, permanently protect 13-hundred-ten acres located in Canaan and New Lebanon.

Tom Crowell  is the Director of Outreach and Resource Development at the CLC. He explains the program is administered in New York State by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC replied to a request for comment by email, stating "We applied last year for a grant to purchase conservation easements in New Lebanon and Canaan that would protect these forest lands from conversion to non-forest uses.  The use of conservation easements allows the land to remain in private ownership while ensuring that important public values such as wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest resources and outdoor recreation opportunities are protected."

The CLC says this is the only New York State Forest Legacy Project in this year’s budget.

The FLP recognizes that most forested lands in the United States are held in private ownership and that forest landowners are facing growing financial pressure to convert their lands to uses that would remove them from the forested land base. 

Tom Crowell says it has come down to a "waiting game" for the funding... dependent upon final federal budget negotiations. 

The CLC is encouraging those who support this particular Forest Legacy Program initiative to voice their concerns to public officials, namely Congressman Chris Gibson and U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.