Protecting our future by protecting our land

Scenic Hudson is celebrating Hudson Valley’s 400th by Saving the Land That Matters Most

Author: By Ned Sullivan
Posted: Monday, December 01, 2008

We’re less than a year away from what will be the biggest celebration in the Hudson Valley in our lifetime—commemorating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s sail up the magnificent river that now bears his name. Scenic Hudson already has begun celebrating by launching its campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most.


This ambitious initiative aims to protect 65,000 acres throughout the Hudson Valley—including iconic views, working farmland, marshlands, forests and Hudson River shoreline—that have been designated by New York State to meet the highest scenic, agricultural and ecological standards. Scenic Hudson aims to protect 30 percent of this land itself, while looking to our partners in 15 national and regional land trusts; federal, state and local governments; businesses and individuals to protect the rest in a collaborative undertaking of historic proportion.


Protecting lands like these profoundly impacts our lives. New waterfront parks spur downtown revitalization, luring new businesses and residents. Conserved farmland keeps the economies of rural communities humming and provides us with fresh local produce. Safeguarded forests keep carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to reduce the effects of global climate change. Preserving breathtaking views sustains the valley’s well-deserved reputation as a world-class tourist destination. All of these guarantee that the Hudson Valley’s wildlife—among the most diverse in the world—can continue to thrive.


Many of the acres targeted for conservation are threatened by sprawling development. Despite the downturn in the real estate market, Hudson Valley developers haven’t scaled back plans to build as many as 75,000 new houses in the next decade, 15,000 alone on the Hudson’s shores. This will have dire consequences for all of us who call the valley home. Bulldozing wetlands will destroy natural filters that purify our water, whose quality already lags behind the rest of New York.

Decimated forests and increased car travel will make it harder for us to breathe—even though air pollution in the valley ranks among the state’s worst. Blasted ridgelines will desecrate views that not only are the mainstay of the valley’s $4.5-billion tourism economy but are cited by executives as a major factor for relocating businesses here. And seven acres of valley farmland will continue disappearing each and every day.


The fireworks and festivals marking the Hudson 400th may quickly fade from memory, but the acres we protect in our campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most will continue benefiting us, our children and all Hudson Valley residents for the next 100 years and generations to come.


Ned Sullivan is president of Scenic Hudson and a former high-ranking environmental official in New York and Maine.

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