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Increasing the Momentum, Halting the Threats Annual Report 201 4 To our supporters, Last year we outlined an ambitious, long-term vision that would take our work…
Increasing the Momentum, Halting the Threats Annual Report 201 4 To our supporters, Last year we outlined an ambitious, long-term vision that would take our work into a new orbit. This year we made great strides toward realizing these plans: ã We celebrated the completion of exciting parks that “connect the dots,” linking people to the valley’s natural beauty and creating long-distance trails that will greatly enhance recreational opportunities. ã We protected more than 1,600 acres that contribute to world-class views, conserve critical habitat and keep family farms in business. ã We secured new partners vital for achieving the goal of our Foodshed Conservation Plan—to preserve the agricultural lands that supply fresh, local food to populations in the valley and New York City. ã We continued spearheading community efforts to protect waterfront assets—parks, homes and key infrastructure—from rising sea levels and flooding. These successes bring us closer to achieving our vision of a healthy, prosperous Hudson Valley. They make this a better place to raise a family, to start a new business or to enjoy a vacation. Unfortunately, competing agendas for the region have unleashed a tidal wave of threats unprecedented in Scenic Hudson’s history. These plans imperil the natural treasures we’re working so hard to protect: ã Massive shipments of volatile crude oil in unsafe railcars place the Hudson Riverfront and communities along it at grave risk from explosions and spills. ã Proposed towering transmission lines jeopardize some of the region’s most productive farms, significant historic sites and parks. ã Atop the Palisades, an office tower would destroy vistas cherished for centuries. ã If left in the Hudson, toxic PCB contamination could block the river’s recovery and waterfront revitalization plans for another generation, while a proposed desalination plant in Rockland County endangers one of the estuary’s most vital habitats. Scenic Hudson’s track record offers outstanding proof that people, working together, can stop irresponsible projects. We’ve reached “do-or-die” moments in these campaigns: Our effectiveness over the coming months in combating them will determine the outcomes. If these competing agendas prevail, we all stand to lose—which is why your advocacy and continued financial support are absolutely essential. By partnering with us to sustain our vigorous fight, you’ll demonstrate that you share our vision—the right, the only course to ensure a bright future for this magnificent valley. James C. Goodfellow, Board Chairman Ned Sullivan, President Front cover: Scenic Hudson’s West Point Foundry Preserve in Cold Spring. Right: James C. Goodfellow (left) and Ned Sullivan overlooking the Palisades, site of LG Electronics’ proposed office tower. Our Vision: Connecting the Dots Working with partners, we’re linking our conserved lands to village and urban centers, mass-transit hubs and hospitality businesses—reinforcing the region’s recreation-, agriculture- and tourism-based economies. Increasing the Momentum This year we celebrated completion of three collaborative projects that greatly enhance recreational opportunities along the river: Scenic Hudson Park at Peekskill Landing has transformed a 4.4-acre former industrial site we purchased into a prime place to experience the astonishing beauty of Peekskill Bay. The city partnered with us by securing funding for the site’s cleanup and new amenities, including a shoreline boardwalk, docks for kayaks and small watercraft, and trails. This is the fifth park we’ve helped create in the proposed 51-mile Westchester RiverWalk along the county waterfront. In Beacon, Dutchess County, a new trail now provides a long-missing link between our Madam Brett Park and the city’s riverfront (including our Long Dock Park). Partners included the city and Metro-North Railroad. The trail also supports development of the Beacon Loop Trail—a scenic route from the city’s waterfront train station to its vibrant Main Street. New parks we helped create in New Baltimore (far right) and Peekskill provide river access and afford magnificent vistas. And in New Baltimore, Greene County, Scenic Hudson’s Long View Park allows visitors to explore the property’s extraordinarily diverse landscape—1,200 feet of Hudson shoreline, rocky bluffs, forests, rolling meadows, woodland pools and a pond. Open fields afford vistas extending to the Berkshires, hence the park’s name. We protected these 76 ecologically important acres. The New Baltimore Conservancy created and manages the park. Our Vision: Connecting the Dots Building upon our collaborative work with Walkway Over the Hudson, the Dyson Foundation and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce to make the Walkway an even greater economic driver for the region, new signs now alert visitors to the Greater Walkway Experience, highlighting nearby restaurants, historic sites, parks and other attractions. Along with new zoning we spearheaded at both ends of the span, the signs should extend the Walkway’s success into downtown Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and Highland, Ulster County. Victories on the Horizon We also made excellent progress on two long-distance trail projects: Thanks to financing we assembled—including funds from Scenic Hudson, a generous private donor and a state grant—the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail has progressed to the master plan phase. This nine-mile, off-road route will connect the train stations and downtowns in Cold Spring, Putnam County, and Beacon, Dutchess County, with popular hiking trails in between. The project team includes the two counties and four municipalities through which the trail would run, as well as a number of state and nonprofit partners. With the acquisition of a trail easement, we advanced creation of the John Burroughs-Black Creek Corridor, an eight-mile hiking and paddling route along the tributary from our Black Creek Preserve in Esopus to Chodikee Lake in Lloyd (both in Ulster County). Another conservation easement we acquired protects unspoiled views from a portion of the proposed trail. Adjacent to the Esopus Lakes property we protected in 2011, we acquired a critical parcel that will enable us to create a gateway facilitating public access to the future 310-acre preserve whose extensive forest, meadows and wetlands invite a host of recreational opportunities— hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, or simply admiring sweeping Hudson River views. Above: A rendering of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, which will link downtown Cold Spring and Beacon to popular hiking trails. At right, our Esopus Lakes property, poised to become a new park. halting the threat: Unsafe Oil Transport What happened in Canada could very well occur here. Valley communities are just as vulnerable as Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic, where unsafe railcars bearing volatile crude oil derailed in July 2013. The resulting explosion killed 47 people and leveled half the downtown. Since then, accidents in the U.S. involving these cars have forced residents to evacuate their homes, threatened drinking water supplies and polluted sensitive wetlands. Every day, as many as 320 of these same puncture-prone DOT-111 railcars bearing highly flammable Bakken crude oil journey down the Hudson River’s western shore, passing through communities where we’ve made major investments—Albany, Catskill, Kingston, Esopus, Newburgh, Nyack. Three trains bearing DOT-111s have derailed in the valley. Fortunately, none were filled with oil at the time. However, the odds of a catastrophe occurring here soon could rise: Proposed expansions of oil terminals in New Windsor and Albany would increase by another 1.8 billion gallons the virtual pipeline of crude passing through the region by train, barge and ship. Ironically, the very first ship to carry Bakken crude down the Hudson ran aground and punctured its outer hull, luckily without losing any of its 12-million-gallon cargo. Even worse, much of this additional crude would be tar sands, which sinks when spilled, making cleanup virtually impossible. Current emergency response measures are woefully out of date and incapable of handling a “worst-case” spill or explosion. Leading the Battle In Washington and Albany, we’re spearheading efforts to halt a disaster waiting to happen. We’re urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to order the immediate ban of DOT-111s for transporting Bakken and tar sands crude oil. We’re pressing the state Department of Environmental Conservation to order full environmental impact reviews of pending permits for the proposed oil terminal expansions, and the Coast Guard and state to strengthen prevention and cleanup resources. And we’re calling for rules requiring Bakken crude to be processed at its source, making it much less volatile. In addition, through well-attended forums we’re hosting in riverfront communities, we’re educating residents about the risks they face and the need for them to take action. Right: A fleet of outdated, unsafe DOT-111 railcars crosses the trestle at Iona Island, on the Hudson River near Bear Mountain State Park. Daily shipments of flammable Bakken crude oil in these cars put the river and communities along it at risk from spills and explosions like the one that leveled half of a Quebec downtown (above), killing 47 people. Our Vision: Supplying Fresh, Local Food “The Food Lovers’ Guide to the Hudson Valley,” a blog promoting the region’s exploding farm-to-table movement, said it best: “The Scenic Hudson Foodshed Conservation Plan is innovative, daring and much needed. It should be implemented.” Increasing the Momentum Leading by example to achieve the goal of our Foodshed Conservation Plan— to preserve the valley’s highest-quality agricultural lands—we ramped up our own farmland protection efforts this year. With federal funding and partnerships with the Columbia Land Conservancy, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Open Space Institute and farm families, we conserved more than 1,200 acres on 11 farms—many in communities where we’re committed to protecting a “critical mass” of farmland, helping to sustain their agriculture-based economies. These properties include farm fields in Stuyvesant, Columbia County, that support one of the region’s largest dairy operations; orchards in Livingston, Columbia County, that grow apples and other fruits sold to wholesalers and local consumers; and farms in Red Hook, Dutchess County, that provide meat and vegetables to greenmarkets and restaurants in the region and New York City. We also secured early buy-in for the Foodshed Conservation Plan from fellow land trusts, farmers, municipal officials, and food-policy and hunger advocates. Protecting those lands that make healthy, local food more accessible to populations in the valley and New York City will play a key role in combating childhood obesity, which has tripled statewide over the last three decades. Farms we recently protected supply homegrown produce locally—including the market (top) at Kesicke Farm in Red Hook—and in New York City. Our Vision: Supplying Fresh, Local Food Making this investment could mean the difference between life and death for many productive family farms beset by strong development pressures. It also would make prime farmland more affordable for the next generation of farmers. In addition to promoting public health, the valley’s working farms are the foundation of local and city food economies, ensure food security and contribute substantially to the region’s $800-million agricultural industry and $4.75-billion tourism economy. In Dutchess County alone, it’s estimated that farmers’ markets, pick-your-own operations and wineries attract about 20 percent of the county’s visitors. At Foodshed Conservation briefings we helped convene this year, state legislators spread the word to their colleagues about the urgency of protecting the region’s farmland. We also delivered the message to New York City residents—and Mayor Bill de Blasio—at a Gracie Mansion reception we hosted for the city’s top-achieving high school students. The plan’s importance was reflected by the proposed designation of the Hudson Valley-New York City foodshed as a Regional Priority Conservation Project in the state’s 2014 Draft Open Space Conservation Plan, New York’s land protection blueprint. The reception we hosted with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (center) showcased our Foodshed Conservation Plan—a blueprint for protecting the region’s most important farmland. Victories on the Horizon State Farmland Protection Program funding for 75 percent of the cost will enable us—in collaboration with land trusts in Orange, Rensselaer, Dutchess and Columbia counties—to partner with farm families and conserve five of the valley’s most productive farms. And despite the news that federal funding for farmland protection in New York will be far less than anticipated next year, we’re reaching out to private donors to fill this gap so we can sustain the momentum of our farmland protection work by acquiring conservation easements on seven additional farms in Columbia and Ulster counties. At the same time, through a sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis, we’re pinpointing those agricultural properties that also feature habitats whose conservation is critical for building long-term resilience for wildlife. Making these lands a protection priority will maximize the benefits from our future investments. halting the threat: Towering Power Lines New, high-voltage transmission lines proposed to pass through 25 valley communities in seven counties would have devastating impacts on some of the region’s most productive farmland. And what about their impact on those who rely on this land for their livelihood? As third-generation farmer Andrea Tranchita, who raises livestock near a line destined to expand under one of the proposals, told The New York Times, “If they triple the voltage, as they said they would, there’s no way I can keep animals underneath. And if the poles widen, I’ll lose the field and we’ll go out of business.” Already New York State loses a farm to development every three and a half days. This new threat just compounds the pressure on the 171 active valley farms—30,000 agricultural acres in all—the proposed lines could bisect. And that’s not all we stand to lose. Also at risk are 625 acres of critical wetland habitats; 5,600 acres of world-class vistas, cultural and historic sites, and popular parkland; and the Hudson River (which the lines would cross), potentially endangering water quality and vital habitats. What’s more, homeowners along the proposed corridors face the potential threat of towers soaring up to 165 feet and fear their land will be taken by eminent domain. Adding insult to injury, staff of the state Public Service Commission (PSC) has recommended that valley ratepayers foot 90 percent of any projects’ construction bills as well as 80 percent of cost overruns, leaving developers with little incentive to meet their $1-billion budget. A petition drive by the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition has garnered signatures from thousands of citizens opposed to power lines that could bisect farms, backyards and critical habitat in 25 valley towns. Leading the Battle To stop this, we helped establish the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (www.hvsec.org), which is providing vocal grassroots advocacy in many communities along the proposed routes. Together we’re strongly urging the PSC to suspend consideration of the outmoded transmission lines until it can answer the threshold question of whether lines are needed at all and provide an analysis of 21st-century alternatives that would meet energy demands without harming the Hudson Valley’s economy and environment. If any projects move forward, we’re insisting they stay within existing rights-of-way in terms of height, width and length. The bottom line: If downstate customers require more electricity—which the PSC hasn’t satisfactorily determined—it can’t come at the expense of valley farmers, residents and businesses. Our Vision: Protecting World-Class Beauty & Nature The Hudson Valley’s natural splendor remains the linchpin of the region’s economy and residents’ outstanding quality of life. Increasing the Momentum The 19 transactions we completed this year assured the permanent protection of lands of astonishing natural beauty—creating new opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors and supporting the region’s $4.75-billion tourism economy. Our victories included fields and orchards in Columbia County that sustain their communities’ agricultural heritage, a forested property that enables us to expand our Shaupeneak Ridge preserve in Ulster County and unspoiled woods adjacent to the popular Roosevelt Farm Lane in Dutchess County. The 62 acres of prime farmland we protected in Greenport, Columbia County, not only contribute to dramatic views enjoyed by visitors to Olana State Historic Site but offer scenic vistas of the Catskills to visitors on busy Route 9. We acquired both a conservation easement—which will allow a group of young farmers to expand their operations—and a trail/parking easement that will facilitate future public access to 321 scenic and habitat-rich acres we’ve protected along South Bay Creek. Victories on the Horizon We’re on track to protect 38 acres on the ridgetop of Illinois Mountain in Lloyd, Ulster County, adding to the 242 acres we’ve previously conserved there. This ecologically important land is highly visible from multiple locations in Ulster and Dutchess counties, including Walkway Over the Hudson, the Mid-Hudson Bridge and Poughkeepsie’s Waryas Park. Eventually, popular trails we’ve created on the mountain could be extended to this property. A conservation easement we acquired on 80 acres of fields and woods in Esopus, Ulster County, not only preserves a farm property but guarantees that visitors to Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site—directly across the river—will continue to enjoy unspoiled scenic vistas. In New Baltimore, Greene County, we protected nearly 150 acres immediately across the road from Scenic Hudson’s Long View Park. Trails eventually could link the two properties, affording a rare opportunity in the upper Hudson River Estuary to hike from the river’s shore to a ridgetop alpine forest. More than half of the acreage on the 190-acre Brown Farm in Stuyvesant, Columbia County, consists of high-quality agricultural soils, making its preservation a priority of our Foodshed Conservation Plan. Adding to our urgency in safeguarding it, the farm’s hilltop location makes it prominently visible from the Hudson River and many parks along the western shore. Brown Farm in Stuyvesant (right) is prominently visible from numerous public viewpoints. Fields and woods we protected in Esopus sit directly across the Hudson River from Vanderbilt Mansion. halting the threat: A Landmark Destroyed “It’s LG versus the world.” That’s how WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer kicked off an interview last June with Ned Sullivan about the battle over plans by the South Korean electronics giant to construct a 143-foot office tower atop the Palisades in New Jersey, desecrating this National Natural Landmark. Those opposing LG’s irresponsible plan—branded a “public shame” by The New York Times—include the director of the National Park Service, four former New Jersey governors (two from each party), Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and seven communities near Englewood Cliffs, the borough whose planning board rubber-stamped the zoning variance required for LG to build this monstrosity. In addition, the World Monuments Fund named the Palisades to its 2014 “Watch List” of globally important natural and cultural sites at grave risk of vanishing. As long as LG insists on a tower that will stand above the trees, we’ll continue our court fight to overturn the v
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