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Greene Land Trust - February ‘23 Be The Change

by Natalie Criscione

In a society that seems to applaud development and multi-million dollar building contracts, what does it mean to “protect the land”? Why are open spaces and trails important? 

Through the efforts of organizations like the Greene Land Trust (GLT), a nationally accredited land trust, initiatives are underway to preserve and protect land, water, and air in Greene County. Established in 2004, the GLT continues to grow “while promoting an effective balance between sound development and long-range natural resource protection.” Through conservation easements which are “agreement(s) between a landowner and a land trust or government agency,” for which “the easement permanently restricts the uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values,” and purchases made throughout the county, the GLT provides extensive stewardship to natural habitats.

Within the 400+ acres of the Coxsackie Creek Grassland Preserve, for example, conservation is underway to protect the home of the threatened Northern Harrier Hawk and the endangered Short-Eared Owl both of which hunt and nest in grassland areas. To visit the preserve at dusk means a possible siting. And while there, you may also spot Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, or Eastern Meadowlarks. Through a citizen science project in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Conservation, volunteers watch for birds at sunset and take notes about where they are flying and whether they are roosting or hunting. The information is added to data bases where it is tracked and studied.  

Land preservation has vast benefits for both the community and the environment. And, certainly during the last couple of years, natural spaces offered an escape and sanctuary for many. “During covid, a lot of people used our preserves…[they] realized the importance of having open space and trails available,” said Bob Knighton, GLT Board President. “We want to be sure to keep the momentum going to protect more space that can be open to the public——but also to protect space that helps us to do our part to react to climate change, which means preserving forests that are important for both bird migration and also carbon sequestration. We also try to protect farmland—whatever we can do to keep land from getting gobbled up for homesites and other uses.” 

The William Brandon House— “The Willows”(circa 1788), listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, is the GLT headquarters where educational events often take place. There are hiking trails throughout the property that are maintained year-round by dedicated volunteers.  With its location high above the Hudson River, The Willows provides views such as those that inspired the Hudson River School of painters. For those who live in nearby urban areas, it also provides quiet space, away from the highways’ hum and the busyness of life. And, if you happen to bring along your paint palate, you might find yourself channeling Frederic Church or Thomas Cole.  Anything is possible. Or, bring your dog (leashed, of course) for a walk.  

Hiking trails are also available on other properties GLT helps to protect such as the Hannacroix Creeek Preserve, the Octaparagon Wildlife Refuge, and the Mawignack Preserve.    

During the month of February, explore a new area, get outside, and say “yes” to the question “Would you like to round up for the Greene Land Trust?” while you’re in the co-op’s check-out line. And, think about volunteering. Visit the website ( to discover more about Greene County’s natural spaces and how you might contribute to their ongoing preservation.

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