Bozenkill Conservation Corridor continues to grow with 30-acre donation

Bozenkill Corridor

— Photo from Don Kelly
Resilient land: The Bozenkill Corridor is considered an area that is climate-change resilient, meaning it has the capacity to adapt to climate change while maintaining diversity and ecological function.

ALBANY COUNTY — With the addition of 30 acres of land in Knox, donated by Don and Donna Kelly of Knox, the Bozenkill Conservation Corridor has become one continuous preserve that stretches over 448 acres from the Bozenkill Preserve at Westfall Road in Altamont west a few miles to the Wolf Creek Falls Preserve in Knox.

The Kellys have lived on the edge of the Bozenkill Valley since 1990. The donated land was purchased in 2007 from a private owner, Kelly said. His interest was always to hold the land for preservation and eventually donate it to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. The donated land will link Wolf Creek Falls with the rest of the preserve to the east.

“The Bozenkill Valley is a special and rare place, a place for everyone to enjoy and find serenity in their own lives,” Don Kelly wrote The Enterprise in an email.

Having been raised in Altamont, Kelly has been interacting with the land since his father, a biologist at the University at Albany, would hunt for grouse on it. Kelly said that be had been raised in an era of activism and awareness. At one time, he said, the Bozenkill had been threatened by Interstate 88.

“There was a lot of grassroots activism that preserved it at that time,” he said.

Mark King, the executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the organization that has stewardship of the Bozenkill Conservation Corridor, told The Enterprise that the Kellys donation is important because it links ownership of the land. “More importantly, it protects additional land along the Bozenkill, which feeds the water supply for the town of Guilderland,” King said.

The Bozenkill Corridor is climate-change resilient, meaning it can adapt to climate change while maintaining diversity and ecological function. This is because the Bozenkill ravine is a bit cooler than its surrounding area; it has a deep, shaded waterway that is ideal for some species.

In this way, it becomes a refuge for species that might be affected by changing temperature. “So, we want to protect it from a lot of change there,” King said.  

“There has also been a history of logging and other detrimental uses in that area, that we think is not ideal for that type of environment,” King said. “Finally, it's just a beautiful, natural area that few people have had a chance to explore. We’ve been fortunate to protect a bunch of land there, and open up various areas to public use.”

“The horrific logging that was done in the mid 1980s and 1990s throughout this valley should never be repeated,” wrote Kelly. “Not only were priceless old growth trees lost for pennies, but the damage done to the stream and ancient walls and overall topography was equally horrific

With the benefit of hindsight, King knows how important it is to protect natural areas that are relatively undisturbed and have remained intact — which is to say, not developed or overwhelmed by human activity — like the Bozenkill.

“We know from years of experience that places that have more intact forest can support species that might otherwise not do well,” King said.

The classic example, according to King, is the scarlet tanager, a type of interior forest nesting bird that depends on large tracts of forest that are contiguous and not broken up by development, agriculture, or some other disturbance.

“Another species that we’ve had numerous reports of in the past is otters,” King said.  

Otters require very clean water. They move around alot and generally don’t do well with human disturbance. “So having a larger protected natural area certainly helps a species like that,” he said.

“Under the stewardship of the MHLC this parcel we have donated will be carefully managed for the protection of its resources and wildlife and opened to the public in time as part of the Bozenkill preserve,” Kelly wrote.

King said that due to the area’s relative inaccessibility, in the near-term there are no plans to create trails or open that particular spot to the public. Currently, the MHLC is working on expanding trails in the West Fall Road area.

“I hope that by continuing this discussion, other adjoining landowners will come to understand the need to protect this amazing and vital place and donate — even in part — the remaining unprotected parcels,” wrote Kelly, urging, “Go for a walk there soon — I suggest when the turkeys are gobbling one early spring morning — it will say all that needs to be said .”

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