Indian Ladder Farms was used as a backdrop and example during the unveiling of Conservation Partnership Program grants totaling $1.4 million statewide.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens on Thursday, April 24, announced the annual conservation grant awardees, which included 50 nonprofit land trusts statewide. The Capital District received 14 grants totaling almost $350,00 to 11 organizations, with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy receiving the most funds at $68,5000 for professional development.
Grants statewide will also tap an additional $1.1 million in private contributions and community support.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said the grants would be used to protect “some of finest natural landscapes” in the state.
“You are obviously standing on one of them here at the Indian Ladder Farm,” Martens said.
Peter Ten Eyck, owner of Indian Ladder Farms, said about a decade ago his family was weighing whether to retire the development rights of the land. Through the help of various organizations, Ten Eyck received $848,000 to sell the development of the 320-acre property.
“A lot of money was raised by more than a thousand people,” Ten Eyck said.
Ten Eyck brought his 14-year-old granddaughter with him when he signed over development rights of the land, despite her reluctance to sit with him during the long process.
He said to her, “Some day you are going to be my age, and chances are you might have grandchildren your age, and they are going to ask you why there is this one patch of green that is still left in a giant housing development at the base of the mountain. You can say … ‘I was there.’”
Indian Ladder in the Town of New Scotland was the first farm to obtain a state agricultural protection grant ensuing the natural landscape would remain.
Seth McKee, chairman of the Land Trust Alliance’s New York Advisory Board and land conservation director for Scenic Hudson, said the farm was a “great example of the value of agricultural lands to the state.”
McKee said the farm, while producing more than 20 varieties of applies, enhances the quality of life for the community and provides an economic benefit.
“Local communities across the state are benefiting from the increased capacity of local land trusts … to engage land owners, educate the public and protect the special places that New Yorkers love,” McKee said. “This increased capacity is due in large measure to the Conservation Partnership Program that we’re celebrating today.”
Since the program started in 2002, more than 570 grants totaling $9.5 million in EPF funds have been awarded to 85 different land trust organizations across the state.
The state’s investment has also leveraged more than $11 million in additional funding from communities and private donors. The Land Trust Alliance administers the program’s grants in coordination with DEC. The grants are funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
“This program is a powerful example of the partnerships that have made a huge difference in preserving open space, keeping working landscapes working and protecting the base of New York’s billion dollar outdoor recreation industry,” Martens said.
State officials said the Outdoor Industry Association claims outdoor recreation in the state supports 305,000 jobs and generates $15 billion in wages and tax revenue.
A 2011 study by the Trust for Public Land found every dollar invested in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund generates around $7 in total economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and public health.
Martens said EPF funding has increased more than 20 percent over the last three years. The “bad practice” of “sweeping unspent balances” has also stopped, he said. This year’s budget also provided a $9 million increase in EPF funding.
The 11 organizations awarded conservation program funding will go towards a variety of initiatives, he said.
“The grants will leverage additional funds to expand the area’s network of trails, protect natural areas, increase community connections to their food, strengthen land owners and community outreach and implement national standards for land trust excellence,” Martens said.
Mark King, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, said the funding its receiving will be used to hire an additional staff member.
“We really are fortunate to have so many opportunities, and there is so much more we can do,” King said. “So, building this capacity is really the key to it.”
King said he has seen land trusts evolve over the years. The focused used to be on plants and animals, he said, but it has shifted to people.
“People are really at the key to what we are doing,” he said. “Our vision is really to connect communities and people to land. We’ve all heard many times of how discontented we are becoming; well, land trusts are really the key to bringing that connection back to us.”