Ancram marshals green brain trust

Pictured are cows at Chaseholm Farm, which won a Good Earthkeeping Award in 2020 after being nominated by the Ancram Conservation Advisory Committee. Photo contributed

ANCRAM—Pandemic or not, the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) produced a long list of achievements and activities in 2020 as reported by Chairperson Jamie Purinton at the Town Board’s January 21 meeting.

The nine-member, all volunteer CAC is made up of landscape and plant experts, farmers, writers, environmental scientists, planners, researchers, teachers, doctors and a zoo director. That’s a lot of brain power packed into one group all aimed at “the preservation and ecological well-being of the town’s flora and fauna.”

In fact, Ancram’s Conservation Advisory Council serves as a model for towns around the county interested in establishing the same kind of human resource in their communities.

Included in the CAC’s mission is research, disseminating information and advising other town agencies about the management, development and conservation of the town’s natural resources. To that end the CAC devoted countless hours and contributed multiple papers to the town’s Zoning Revision Committee to aid that group in its ongoing quest to update town zoning regulations.

Topics covered included: regulations for solar farms, logging, major and minor subdivisions, and improvements to the ridge line and steep slope protection regulations.

In a follow-up phone call this week, Ms. Purinton noted that since the coming of the coronavirus many properties that have been on the market for years are now selling like hotcakes—not only in Ancram but around the county. She said some of those properties include “marginal land” on steep slopes or in low-lying areas that have environmentally complex limitations of which buyers may not be aware.

Current steep slope regulations offer recommendations about ways to mitigate environmental and visual concerns, not requirements.

ZRC topics commented on by the CAC were generated at zoning forums involving the public, who identified the topics as those that need more work, Ms. Purinton said by phone.

The CAC also provides input to the Planning Board. CAC member Erin Robertson, who is also a Planning Board member, provides monthly updates on activities of that board and seeks CAC advice on environmental issues. The CAC “reviewed a house site within the scenic corridor on Route 22 and wrote substantive recommendations to mitigate environmental and visual impact of this new home.” The CAC opined that “current regulations need to be better enforced, and in some cases strengthened, to protect the scenic corridor,” said the CAC’s year-end report.

The CAC is also involved with the Roe Jan Watershed Association (RJWA) in its continued water sampling at two sites in Ancram on Wiltsie Bridge and Hall Hill roads. Ms. Purinton said “generally the Roe Jan Kill is in good shape.” Water test results are posted on the RJWA website at .

Last year, the CAC also continued its efforts by public request and with the support of the Doodletown Road community, to persuade the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to reconsider its plan to clear and log 75 acres at the Doodletown Wildlife Management Area. About 10 neighbors signed the letter written and signed by the CAC. DEC responded to the letter and the CAC renewed its objections based on the importance of forests especially during this time of climate change, but so far, the DEC has not changed its forest clearing plans.

Also in 2020, the CAC “made numerous calls to Dutchess County Transportation and DEC regarding their need to provide better protection for the turtles and snakes…”

The reptiles were trapped on the newly-completed section of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail between the Town of North East in Dutchess County and Ancram in Columbia County “by the long sedimentation barriers—causing them in many cases to suffer and die.” Pressure from the CAC was part of a larger response from the community to remedy this situation.

‘Current regulations need to be better enforced… to protect the scenic corridor.’

Ancram Conservation Advisory Council

The CAC also provided input to the town to update its procurement policy in favor of purchasing and using recycled paper and sustainable cleaning products.

In March 2020, CAC member Kim Tripp, DO, PhD, on the CAC’s behalf nominated Chaseholm Farm for a Columbia County Environmental Management Council Good Earthkeeping Award.

Subsequently chosen for the award, Chaseholm is a third-generation dairy farm that is now a USDA Certified Organic, 100% grass-fed dairy that farms more than 500 acres in Columbia and Dutchess counties, (Ancramdale and Pine Plains). The farm produces raw and pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt and meats—all pesticide and hormone free, nutritionally dense, and sustainably produced.

Together Sarah Chase, who runs the farm, and Jordan Schmidt, a certified nutritionist, offer public programs about Chaseholm Farm’s ecological and forward-thinking approach to farming.

Ms. Purinton says the CAC can credit its success and good work to its members who are informed, passionate and committed to the environment. She invites anyone interested to consider volunteering.

To contact Diane Valden email

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