In a unique public-private partnership, Putnam County Land Trust (PCLT), Westchester Land Trust (WLT) and Friends of the Great Swamp (FrOGS) recently protected a 115-acre parcel of land in the Ice Pond Conservation Area of the Great Swamp — a region of statewide ecological significance — in the Town of Patterson, New York. The protection of the land, renamed the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Preserve in honor of the Foundation of the same name which was a lead donor to the project, was celebrated at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 22nd at the Preserve.
More than 50 people were in attendance to celebrate this major conservation protection project. In addition to hearing about the path to protection and learning about the unique ecological and community value provided by this preserve, guests in attendance took a guided hike.
During the ceremony, PCLT President, Judy Terlizzi, said, “Protecting these parcels of land, which are a part of a significant ecological system in the Ice Pond Conservation Area, has been a major priority for our three organizations for several years now. The area is endowed with great beauty and natural riches and I like to think of it as a rare and exquisite gem.”
PCLT will maintain sole ownership of the preserve, while WLT will hold the conservation easement on the land, thus ensuring the continued stewardship and protection of this acreage forever. In addition to funding from the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation, WLT and PCLT utilized internal funds earmarked for land acquisition, and FrOGS leveraged federal funding through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) for the project. Additionally, WLT also received a generous contribution from an anonymous private donor.
Lori J. Ensinger, WLT President, recognized the unique partnership that resulted in the protection of these 115 acres, saying, “This project is a shining example of how collaboration and cooperation with the community and like purposed organizations can result in outcomes that benefit the common good.”
About the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Preserve: The Great Swamp & The Ice Pond Conservation Area
Located less than 60 miles from New York City, the Great Swamp is a vital 6,000-acre watershed in the Croton Reservoir system and supplies drinking water to millions of residents in southeastern New York. It is also one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the state stretching nearly 20-miles across the five municipalities of Southeast, Patterson, Pawling Town, Pawling Village, and Dover. The Great Swamp improves water quality, recharges the aquifer, reduces flooding, provides critical habitat for plants and animals and creates open space for recreation and scenic views.
The Ice Pond Conservation Area is a 52 acre oligotrophic glacial lake with drainage flowing north supporting a broad peat-based wetland. This wetland is a mix of shrub-scrub habitat, herbaceous marsh, and open pools inhabited by beaver. The surrounding ridges shelter the broad central wetland, reducing wind velocity through the corridor, retaining humidity, moderating the local climate, and thus fostering a diverse biota. This wetland is one of the four original sites from which a newly discovered species of leopard frog was first described. Some 120 species of birds have also been spotted in the area — some of which are extremely rare and threatened in New York State – and it is a major stopover roost for migrating waterfowl with as many as 5,000 ducks spending the night. Additionally, the area is a habitat for as many as 600 species of vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.
Despite the value of these ecosystems, they are located at the edge of swiftly advancing suburban development expanding north from Westchester County and New York City. Indeed, the area’s rural character and easy access to major commercial centers makes it an attractive place to live and do business. The transformation of the property from developable land into protected open space will yield a significant public benefit and furthers both established local and State governmental conservation policy. As stated in the 2009 New York Open Space Plan, one of the urgent priorities is the protection of drinking water-supply watersheds and water quality. In this regard, the preservation of land proximate to the Ice Pond Preserve and Great Swamp and containing uplands, wetlands and stream corridors that drain into the Croton Reservoir system is a “Priority Project” because such land preservation helps protect the drinking water of more than 10 million people living in New York City and surrounding areas.
About the Conservation Partners:
Putnam County Land Trust
Established in 1969, Putnam County Land Trust is one of the oldest land trusts in New York State. Working with various governmental agencies, conservation organizations, and the public, PCLT has protected natural resources through ownership of sensitive lands, easements, planning strategies, and environmental education. To date, 1,044 acres of diverse habitat have been protected. In addition, PCLT has spearheaded the creation and adoption of legislation — Resolution R-555. The measure has, in turn, preserved over 2,000-acres as Putnam County Conservation Areas. To learn more, visit: pclt.net
Westchester Land Trust
Founded in 1988, WLT recently celebrated 25 years of working with public and private partners to preserve land in perpetuity, and to protect and enhance the natural resources in Westchester and eastern Putnam County. The WLT’s conservation efforts impact the long term health of these communities through protection of watershed areas, air quality, and food supply. In total, the WLT has preserved more than 7,800 acres of open space including 640 acres of preserves owned by the organization.
To learn more, visit: westchesterlandtrust.org.
Friends of the Great Swamp
FrOGS was founded in 1990 as a volunteer organization to protect New York’s Great Swamp. Through land conservation and management, research, and education of the public on the Great Swamp’s values and the threats to its health and integrity, the organiztion protects and promotes the functions and integrity of the wetland and its upland watersheds in Putnam and Dutchess Counties. Volunteers and citizen scientists associated with FrOGS organize educational activities and events, conduct research, and encourage community action and partnerships to preserve and protect the Swamp. To learn more, visit: frogs-ny.org
Photo Info: (L-R) Laurie Wallace, Secretary/Treasurer of FrOGS, Susan Spear, Hudson Valley Regional Director for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Jonathan Wiesner WLT Board Chairman, Judi Terlizzi, President of PCLT, Jon Spanier, President of the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation, and Lori Ensinger, President of WLT.