New gift protects 1.3K acres in Ancram

ANCRAM—A “regionally significant” 1,300 acres of farm and woodland has been donated to the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC). The new property is the CLC’s largest land acquisition to date and offers an opportunity for more than just public access.

CLC Special Projects Manager Tom Crowell appeared at the March 16 Ancram Town Board to announce that a portion of Scotland Farm formerly owned by Elizabeth Gilmore was donated to the conservancy.

The transaction was finalized February 27, according to a statement in the conservancy’s latest newsletter.

This view can be seen looking northeast from the newly donated 1,300-acre property in southeast Ancram. Photo contributed

This spectacularly beautiful property includes wide-ranging views of the Berkshire-Taconic range, and is comprised largely of dense mixed hardwood forests, with rocky outcroppings, seasonal streams, woodland pools, and significant wildlife habitat, along with some 400 acres of agricultural land,” says the newsletter.

Mr. Crowell told the Town Board that the 400 acres of farmland will continue to be leased by two area farmers under CLC ownership.

The property is situated west of Route 22, off East Ancram, Over Mountain and Catalano roads.

The CLC’s intention is to use the property for public access recreation, but it is also exploring opportunities for other uses such as ecological research, land management education and site demonstrations of forest management and agricultural practices.

Mr. Crowell said CLC will partner with the Greenagers, a Great Barrington, MA, non-profit group, for trail construction and maintenance on the new property.

The Greenagers website, https://greenagers.org/, says the group’s mission is to provide “employment and volunteer opportunities for teens and young adults in the fields of conservation, sustainable farming, and environmental leadership.”

Mr. Crowell said students from the Taconic Hills School District who are Greenagers, have worked with the conservancy before on trail construction at the Round Ball Mountain Public Conservation Area, a 415-acre site with 7.9 miles of trails at 503 Carson Road, also in Ancram. Round Ball is one of 10 public conservation areas in Columbia County managed by CLC.

The newly-acquired parcel adjoins Round Ball and along with other CLC properties creates a contiguous 1,800-acre section of conserved land.

Mr. Crowell said the Gilmore family retained a house and 80-acres of property and new trails will be designed in a way to protect the property-owner’s privacy. He stressed that trails on the new property are not yet open and are expected to be ready sometime this summer. An access point has not yet been established.

Also noteworthy is that the conservancy will make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the town “at the same rate at which the land is currently taxed” in perpetuity thanks to an endowment fund set up by the Gilmores, said Mr. Crowell.

Councilmen Hugh Clark and David Boice expressed interest in getting trail maps for the new area and Councilwoman Madeline Israel said the town “greatly appreciates” the PILOT payment arrangement.

In a subsequent phone interview, Mr. Crowell said the new property brings the amount of land conserved by the CLC in Ancram to 5,736 acres.

Just last month the Town Board heard that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had purchased 689 acres in Ancram and Taghkanic for a Doodletown Wildlife Management Area. Three hundred twenty-five acres of the parcel lies in Ancram between Doodletown and Westfall roads. At least part of the DEC’s interest in the property is that it is home to the New England Cottontail rabbit, a “species of greatest conservation need in New York” and a candidate for the federal threatened or endangered species list.

In other business the Town Board:

*Heard a lengthy detailed presentation about culverts and climate change by Colleen Lutz, chair of the town’s Culvert Committee and representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative, and the Hudson Estuary Watershed Resiliency Project. The Pat’s Road culvert project was finished in October of last year and another culvert project is planned on Hall Hill Road sometime this year. Residents near the Pat’s Road culvert were up in arms about the damage to the scenic landscape done by the size of culvert and how it was installed.

Councilman Boice questioned how decisions about where to put new culverts are made and wondered why culvert replacement is not happening in places that have already experienced flooding problems.

Town Supervisor Art Bassin said that if Ms. Lutz can secure a $30,000 planning grant for more culvert analysis, the Town Board would be more likely to engage in future culvert replacement. He said “until we prove we can do one of these [culvert projects] well” Highway Superintendent Jim Miller “will not have the appetite for doing this.” The supervisor also said questions, such as those raised by Mr. Boice about culvert-replacement rationale must be answered. He said it is “crucial” that the town get this planning grant

*Heard that one mouse succumbed to the supervisor’s trapping efforts in the last month.

To contact Diane Valden email

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