For the few days of this early spring, the word has been to protect the environment while we still have one. It’s an opportunity to do great things or a chance to let our fragile ecosystems slip slowly into oblivion.
In recent days, we have seen Catskill residents mobilize against a proposed ash landfill in Smith’s Landing that, even if all the permits and plans are approved, is still many years away from reality. We have seen the acquisition of more than 1,100 acres of riverfront property in Columbia County so as to keep it forever wild. And Tuesday, the state awarded more than $100,000 in grants to the Greene Land Trust of Coxsackie and the Columbia Land Conservancy based in Chatham.
Greene Land Trust will use its funding to expand staffing. The grant will help pay for a part-time executive director and for a consultant to improve fundraising efforts. The part-time executive director, who was hired last year with a grant, assists with stewardship and management of 1,000 acres of property.
Columbia Land Conservancy used part of its grant to help purchase the Thompson-Finch Farm in Ancram. Throughh a communitywide effort including a multi-pronged partnership with Equity Trust, Dutchess Land Conservancy and Scenic Hudson, the Thompson-Finch Farm will remain a farm long into the future.
More than 300 donors, multiple organizations and foundations contributed to the $1.5 million cost of saving the farm. Columbia Land Conservancy agreed to a 99-year ground lease with farmers Don and Marnie MacLean, who farmed the property for more than 30 years.
The other part of the grant will be used to further Columbia Land Conservancy’s educational outreach.
It will support the conservancy’s work with Hudson High School and local community groups at Greenport Conservation Area as part of the Learning Landscapes program. Learning Landscapes is an educational model developed by the Land Trust Alliance that encourages students to adopt public land and care for it, while using the site as a learning laboratory.
For all those students, the Learning Landscapes program will teach a powerful lesson — that stewardship of the environment carries a great public responsibility that is a privilege not a mere homework assignment.