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Report: Room for development and conservation in Catskills


New Paltz, NY – Census data indicates that the Hudson Valley is experiencing some of the largest population growth in New York. To the west, in the Catskills, the population is not growing as rapidly, but is increasing. WAMC's Greg Fry takes a look at a new report, which shows that as populations grow, there may be plenty of space for everyone

A new report issued by the Open Space Institute, a New York City-based conservation organization, takes a look at development in the Catskills - primarily in four counties - Sullivan, Delaware, Ulster, and Greene. Those four counties run along the eastern edge of the Catskills, which is known for its beautiful scenery, mountains, and open space.

According to Kim Elliman, the CEO of the Open Space Institute, the report, titled "Private Lands, Public Benefits," takes a look at where development should go in the future

Elliman says the report also examines whether or not development opportunities exist in areas, where there wouldn't be conflict - where developers and those looking to conserve land can agree. Jonathan Drapkin was one of a number of experts who reviewed the report. Drapkin leads the Newburgh-based public policy research organization Pattern for Progress. He says there's a pendulum that continues to swing between the need for development, and the need to conserve portions of the region.

Elliman says the O-S-I report shows that there is room for the creation of high-value jobs, and for the characteristics that make the Catskills what they are today

Researchers found that between the years 2005 and 2035, population growth will require between 20 and 40-thousand acres of land to be developed, representing anywhere between a 15 and 30 percent increase in land development over that time. According to census data, populations have grown, although slightly, in Sullivan, Ulster, and Greene Counties over the past ten years. In Delaware County, the population has dipped by just under three-thousand.

The report also takes a look at specific areas in each part of the Catskills, and what may be best for development. Elliman says the report takes a closer look at the factors which may play an important role in any kind of decision to build

Elliman also makes mention that parts of the Catskills are experiencing different types of growth - with population growth happening in some areas in the eastern part of the region, while the western Catskills could potentially see development growth, depending on the future of natural gas drilling in New York.