MOUNTAINVILLE – Nine-hundred and sixty-one acres in the Town and Village of Tuxedo in Orange County, adjacent to Sterling Forest State Park have been preserved through an agreement finalized on December 19, 2016 between local officials and the Orange County Land Trust.
The land will be owned by the Town and Village of Tuxedo as open space for public recreation and a conservation easement protecting the land in perpetuity will be held by the Orange County Land Trust.
Comprised of contiguous forest, streams, and wetlands, the land is home to a variety of at-risk wildlife, including Timber Rattlesnakes and Marbled Salamanders. The 2016 NYS Open Space Plan refers to this region as “Greater Sterling Forest,” an ecosystem and vital watershed full of biodiversity with a range of wildlife habitats. According to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Sterling Forest State Park consists of nearly 22,000 acres “among one of the nation’s most densely populated areas, providing a watershed for millions of residents and bountiful recreational opportunities.”
Multiple parcels of land amounting to 961 acres were donated to the Town and Village of Tuxedo by Related Companies, developers of the proposed $900M Tuxedo Farms project. In order for the New York City based company to proceed with their residential development, a separate portion of land had to be donated to the municipalities and placed under a conservation easement, as was required by both the Town and Village of Tuxedo. Town and Village officials also required that the easement be held by a recognized land trust and as a result, the Orange County Land Trust was asked by the Related Group to help formulate and hold the conservation easement.
Orange County Land Trust Executive Director Jim Delaune said: “These critically-important lands are located in the ‘Highlands-Sterling Forest Corridor,’ one of the Land Trust’s highest priority conservation areas as identified in our Strategic Land Conservation and Stewardship Plan. Our goal was to work with the Town and Village to make sure those ecologically-sensitive areas found on these lands would be conserved before the land was handed over to local municipalities, ensuring that water quality, sensitive habitats, and wildlife populations would be protected for future generations.”
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus stated, “This is another great example of the important work being performed by the Orange County Land Trust. As Orange County continues to grow and change, it is important that we preserve and protect those areas that make the County a great place that attracts quality development. This preservation enhances the Sterling Forest area which is so important, not only to Orange County, but our entire region.”
Ethan Winter, New York Conservation Manager for the Land Trust Alliance said, “This project represents a win-win for everyone in the Tuxedo community. Sterling Forest is a cherished and important part of New York’s marvelous natural heritage. By partnering with the nationally accredited Orange County Land Trust, the Town and Village permanently protects a landscape that provides exceptional wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and clean water for millions of New Yorkers. This is what collaborative conservation is all about.”
Town of Tuxedo Supervisor Michael Rost stated, “Today marks an important milestone on the path to Tuxedo’s future, a future that includes a growing, vibrant community in balance with the stark natural beauty of the town, which is the foundation of the gateway to the Hudson Valley. A significant amount of land in Tuxedo will now be conserved by our new partners at OCLT. Their stewardship represents an invaluable service that will protect the native species of the area and enable the land to be enjoyed by future generations. The acreage comes to the Land Trust as part of a comprehensive agreement with the developers of Tuxedo Farms — one of many, significant benefits that the Town has secured in its agreement with them, of which we are grateful. This parcel adds to the immense portfolio of park lands in Tuxedo, which comprise over seventy percent of the Town.”
Village of Tuxedo Park Mayor Mary Jo Guinchard stated: “The Village of Tuxedo Park has long been an advocate of preserving the natural landscape and lakes in and around the historic Village of Tuxedo Park. We are proud to partner with the Orange County Land Trust to conserve the natural lands around the Village of Tuxedo Park and to ensure that our precious and scenic vistas and historic woodlands in and around the Village are protected for present and future generations.”