Sunday, January 2, 2022

A special kind of connectivity

OSI land

The sprawl along Corinth Road west out of Glens Falls is about what you’d expect — shopping centers, convenience stores, government offices, subdivision signs advertising “huge lots.” Nothing for a bear or a bobcat to see here.

And why would it be otherwise? This is inside a population center and outside the Blue Line, although just barely. Yet to conservationists, the low mountains of the Palmerstown Range in Saratoga County represent a rare opportunity for plant, animal and human alike. 

Indeed, said Jamie Brown of the Open Space Institute, wildland connectivity from southern Vermont into these Adirondack foothills and the Adirondacks themselves is an important goal of multiple organizations that see value in stitching together and protecting long-distance corridors of forestlands.

Land trusts and the state have teamed up in the north to create the Split Rock Wildway,  an uninterrupted forest between Lake Champlain and the High Peaks, work that is continuing on an even larger geographic scale.

And OSI recently purchased a highly strategic 60 acres of ground above the Hudson River that much resembles the middle of a dumbbell connecting two big blobs of green on the map. Those green blobs are the protected lands of the Moreau Lake State Park in the Southern Palmertown range to the south, and OSI-protected West Mountain property and Ralph Road State Forest to the North. The Ralph Road forest touches the Blue Line.

With 7,000 acres protected, this 60-acre hallway has an outsized job. “Small has significance,” Brown said, as we walked up a pretty little stream tumbling through a hemlock wood to a 900-foot knob above the Hudson.

But without service signage, can animals sniff out such a narrow corridor? Thanks to tracking efforts by groups such as The Nature Conservancy and the Staying Connected Initiative, we know that animals do not need Rand McNally to plot a route. If you protect it they will come.

According to the Staying Connected Initiative, animals may not travel the entire length, but these corridors allow existing colonies to freely move, breed and interact over hundreds of miles of forested connectivity.

Brown said these long-distance corridors are a climate change hedge as well, allowing flora and fauna to find new habitat instead of finding their way blocked by development or cleared fields.

Viewing the process from higher still, in 2011 John Davis, author of Big, Wild and Connected, (and who, it needs to be said, destroyed my desire to drive at night after a warm rain, for all the frogs on the road) took a 7,000-mile self-powered trek  to explore opportunities for connectivity along the entire length of the Eastern United States and Canada. 

“This (connectivity) is what OSI is trying to do up and down the East Coast,” Brown said. 

And why should animals have all the fun? “We don’t lock up these lands and throw away the key,” he said. While the newly protected corridor is not open to the public yet, ist is likely to become a northern extension of an attractive network of trails being developed in the Southern Palmerstown Range in Saratoga County, the fastest growing county in the state. A broad coalition of conservation groups, towns and government agencies are hoping Saratoga grows as well in terms of forestland and the environmental, recreational and economic benefits associated with the outdoors.

As that happens, the diminutive Palmerstown Range will become a critical puzzle piece of increasingly essential habitat between the Adirondacks and the Greens.

Photo: OSI Project Manager Jamie Brown on the newly acquired OSI land. Tim Rowland photo

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Adirondack Explorer’s weekly “Explore More” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.




4 Responses

  1. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “If you protect it they will come.”

    “….animals may not travel the entire length, but these corridors allow existing colonies to freely move, breed and interact over hundreds of miles of forested connectivity.”

    “….these long-distance corridors are a climate change hedge as well, allowing flora and fauna to find new habitat instead of finding their way blocked by development or cleared fields.”

    Yes to all of the above. Knowing this, and when you see all of what they’ve torn down in Clifton Park, and other areas, all of the green spaces and corridors they are chopping to pieces, which they continue to chop up unabated…….you just gotta know it’s wrong! But how do you get through to a capitalists, or a property owner who sees dollar signs, not frogs, not salamanders, not insects….. not what is terribly wrong with the thinking of the human animal whose own existence is but a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of it all! Stories like the above are so very nice to read as they give one a sense of hope, but we need so much more of this to be taking shape, this nickel & diming is not in the best interest of the whole!

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “allowing flora and fauna to find new habitat instead of finding their way blocked by development or cleared fields…”

    Or, regards fauna….getting struck while trying to make their way across busy roads to find new habitat, their bruised and bloody corpses lying there while hurry-up man races by, leaving them there to rot, or to continually get run-over, until at last, they are a furry, flattened pancake in the road. If we could just look at these animals as if they were little children!

  3. David Gibson says:

    Tim has brilliantly and concisely weaved this important story together from its disparate elements. Thanks to him, OSI, Saratoga PLAN and for all the other partners working on this multi-part eco.connectivity project.

  4. Rose Anne says:

    Yes! We need more people who consider the non-human fauna, then do something about it.

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