DEC Announces 617 Acres Purchased in Putnam County

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty announced that the State has purchased 617 acres of land in Putnam County that is integral to preserving valuable open space, increasing recreational opportunities, and protecting water quality. The property is located in the Town of Kent, Putnam County, and contains most of the 90-acre Waywayanda Lake, oak forests, and other natural resources typically found in the important Hudson Highlands region.

"Thanks to Governor Pataki, New York State is well on the way to acquiring one million acres of valuable open space by the end of the decade and continuing to enhance the quality of our natural resources through the successful preservation of important open space," Commissioner Crotty said. "This purchase will help further protect the unique Hudson Highlands ecosystem for the benefit of generations of Hudson Valley residents and visitors."

The 617-acre property was purchased by the State using $2,960,800 from the Environmental Protection Fund. New York State will pay local property taxes on the parcel. The long-term management of the property will be guided by the development of a management plan by DEC that will include extensive public input.

The purchase includes one of the larger contiguous tracts of woodland left in Putnam County and adjoins both the Pudding Street and California Hill State Multiple Use Areas. The acquisition will create the California Hill State Forest – approximately 1,000 acres of contiguous land to be devoted to sustainable forest management, recreation, watershed protection and other purposes to enhance and protect natural resources.

Senator Vincent L. Leibell said, "Open space is a critical issue in the 40th Senate District and throughout the Hudson Valley. With the acquisition, Governor Pataki has kept his commitment to the citizens of this State that he would preserve and protect our natural resources."

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef said, "I applaud Governor Pataki on this new State acquisition of land in the Town of Kent. Land preservation is so important as we continue to experience the pressures of development. This is a win for the environment and a win for enhancing the recreational interests of residents of Putnam."

Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute, a land conservation organization that has partnered with the State on land acquisitions throughout New York, said, "This acquisition will protect key watershed lands and will no doubt be welcome news to recreationists who enjoy exploring the Highlands. The Governor has once again demonstrated his commitment to protection of the Highlands and open space protection across New York."

David J. Miller, executive director of Audubon New York, said, "Once more, Governor Pataki has demonstrated his commitment to protect the valuable natural resources in the State. This purchase more than doubles the size of State Forest holdings in a critical part of the Hudson Highlands identified by Audubon New York as Important Bird Areas, and as such will be a valued part of the fabric of bird conservation efforts in the region."

The property is part of the Highlands geographic area (Reading Prong) stretching from Pennsylvania through Southeast New York and Northern New Jersey to Northwest Connecticut. In New York, the Highlands consist of approximately 629,000 acres of rolling forested hills, pristine streams and wetlands, historic sites, special geologic features, and exceptional scenic vistas. Legislation pending in Congress and strongly supported by Governor Pataki would provide federal funding assistance to New York and the other Highlands states to preserve important open space resources in the region. The Highlands consists of New York State Parks including Sterling Forest, Harriman, Bear Mountain, Hudson Highlands and Fahnestock, as well as several State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas.

In his 2004 State of the State address, Governor Pataki set forth the goal of making New York a national leader in open space preservation, building on his earlier commitment to acquire one million acres of land by the end of the decade. Since 1995, New York State has preserved more than 500,000 acres of open space statewide.