Conservation Easements: A Critical Time for Working Lands

Conservation Easements: A Critical Time for Working Lands

Much like our farm and forest families, the Watershed Agricultural Council’s(WAC) Easement Program faced unprecedented times in 2020. The year began on a high note with the addition of two forest easements, totaling 400+ acres. But just as spring had sprung, a usually energizing time, our world literally shut down. We were sent home to work and acquisition efforts were placed on hold. Despite the many stresses, it became abundantly clear that outdoor life, access to open space, and a steadfast local economy were more important than ever. It appeared that despite the uncertainty there could not be a more critical time for working lands conservation. With that as motivation, our team persevered. This year became an “all-hands on deck” approach to assist landowners with education and stewardship. Even with the shutdown we were as busy as usual. Staff processed ten notifications, 40 activity requests, including 16 commercial timber harvests, several new rural enterprises, three rights-of-way, and one new agricultural building. We are incredibly proud of the easement landholders who carried on despite this year’s challenges. Our soils may be tough here in the Catskills, but so are those who sow it. Here’s to a bigger, better and healthier 2021!

Working Lands Remain Active

While many things were paused this year, working landscapes were as active as ever. When you combine a hard-working farmer, well-managed property, a working easement, a good logger and a tough stream crossing — what do you get? Our Catskills economy—working farms and forests supplying NYC with drinking water and conserving the natural resources.

The 400+ acre Tuttle Farm has been a mainstay of the Windham, NY area for generations. The Tuttle Farm is one of the largest remaining farms in the Windham area, due in part to the working conservation easement placed on the property through the Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) to help continue its legacy. Scott Tuttle has managed the 300+ acres of woods on the farm with the help of Dave Jaeger who is harvested 175 acres this year.

A team effort allowed for this harvest:

  • The WAC Easement and Forestry Programs oversaw the harvest, loaned a 30’ and 40’ bridge and provided cost share to help implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to make it possible.
  • Bridges were placed end-to-end across the 70’ wide Batavia Kill to allow access to the woods being harvested.
  • The BMPs helped to slow and disperse run o keeping it out of streams.

This team effort is part of the WAC playing an active role in keeping NYC’s drinking water clean and Catskills streams running clear.

Read the 2020 Annual Report here.