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Hillsdale’s Natural Resources Inventory to lead to open space plan

HILLSDALE — The Hillsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) and its consultants have spent countless hours identifying and compiling the town’s natural resources. In May they held a virtual meeting, and the Hillsdale Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) was formally presented. In the months following the NRI presentation, the CAC has embarked on an open space plan for the town of Hillsdale, a project the CAC expects to complete some time next year.

The NRI Zoom presentation was on May 25. Hillsdale CAC member Gretchen Stevens credited the preparation of the NRI by consultants Nan Stolzenburg from Community Planning and Environmental Association and Rick Lederer-Barnes from Upstate GIS, both of whom worked in close collaboration with the CAC. 

Stevens said the project was funded by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund through a grant to the town of Hillsdale from the Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). As featured on the town’s website, www.hillsdaleny.com, the CAC sought and obtained funding for the NRI in the latter half of 2017; the final 203-page document was completed in February 2020.

Taking into account the physical, biological, agricultural, scenic and other naturally occurring resources, the NRI  features 22 maps showing its geology, water bodies, wetlands and aquifers, floodplains, forests, agricultural resources and other natural resources, as well as descriptions of the area’s plants, wildlife and scenic views and “recommendations for ways to maintain and protect resources of conservation concern.” 

One goal of the CAC was to introduce the public to different aspects of the NRI and how it can be utilized to inform decisions about land and water uses by residents, landowners and town officials.

Stevens guided the public through its various components, delineating the features included in the maps and highlighting the value of various resources — not only to the town of Hillsdale but also to local wildlife, plants and other natural elements. She noted the NRI also addresses a number of threats to natural resources, including from climate change; pollution of water and soils; fragmentation of habitats; infestation of non-native invasive species; human-subsidized wildlife (such as raccoons, skunks and other animals that do well in human-settled areas); and loss of farmland. 

In addition to demonstrating to the public how they might use the NRI to learn more about their land or any property of interest in Hillsdale, Stevens shared what the CAC learned about the land and waters examined in the inventory as well as how to be mindful of land uses and how distinct local features impact other natural resources.

“The great advantage of having the NRI is that it brings together lots of information from lots of different sources into a single document that you have at your fingertips,” Stevens said.

She pointed out the NRI’s recommendation for sustainable uses of Hillsdale’s natural resources and conservation measures that can be employed by individual land owners, developers, farmers, land managers and town agencies engaged in town planning and site specific reviews of land development projects. 

Along with describing recommendations for protecting water resources and biological resources (such as plants, animals and habitats), Stevens also outlined recommendations for protecting farmland and for using the NRI in environmental reviews for new subdivisions and site plans for land development projects.

The NRI can be viewed online at www.hillsdaleny.com/conservation-advisory-council; at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library (at 9091 Route 22); and at Hillsdale Town Hall (at 2609 Roue 23).

Since the formal presentation, Stevens said the CAC has been selling printings of the NRI to the public at the Copake-Hillsdale Farmers Market. 

She added the open space plan is a project “that is often undertaken once a Natural Resources Inventory is completed because it gives us a lot of information about what parts of the town might be most important for open space conservation.”

Stevens noted the CAC will work on the open space project with a professor and students at Cornell University and with the staff at the DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. Though the town is uncertain as to how long the project will take, she said it expects it to be completed by early next year.

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