OSI buys farmland atop Helderberg Plateau

Hillicoss Family Farm

— From the Open Space Institute
The Hillicoss Family Farm property, which is bisected by Cheese Hill Road, is bordered on two sides by property owned by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which abuts the Rensselaer State Forest.

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Open Space Institute has purchased the Hillicoss Family Farm property — totalling 267 acres — for $455,000.

“We have a long history of conservation in the Helderbergs; it’s one of our key conservation locations,” said Eileen Larrabee, director of communications for the Open Space Institute. “We saw it as an opportunity to acquire an asset to add to the state forest.”

She went on, “A tributary of the Catskill Creek made it valuable, and there are beautiful vistas.”

Asked if having the state manage the Hillicoss Farm property is a done deal, Larabee said, “We think they’re enthusiastic.”

She went on to laud the State Environmental Protection Fund. “It’s part of the state budget every year, a $300 million pot of money, part of it designated for land acquisition,” said Larabee. The Open Space Institute can “move faster” than the state, she said, noting the rush to buy the Hillicoss farmland because of impending development.

When the state acquires the land, she said, it will then pay the institute. “We’ll hold it until the state has the resources,” she said.


— From the Open Space Institute
Sweeping views of the Catskills are part of the charm of the Hillicoss Family Farm property, recently purchased by the Open Space Institute.


Larabee also lauded the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy as “a tremendous partner.”

“We acquired land from Albany County that surrounds that on two sides” said Mark King, director of the conservancy, describing the Hillicoss property, as “classic hill-country farmland.”

“People have eked out a living on land like that for centuries,” King said of the rugged, rolling landscape. “It’s really beautiful with a fantastic view of the Catskills.”

The land is near the Rensselaerville State Forest and, according to a release from the Open State Institute, will increase the size of the state forest by 25 percent once the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation acquires it and the adjoining 300-acre parcel that the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy acquired in 2016.

The Hillicoss Family Farm property is made up of two parcels bisected by Cheese Hill Road. The eastern parcel, which is 160 acres, contains a small tributary of the Catskill Creek. The western parcel, which is  107 acres, has sweeping views of the Catskills.

A major subdivision was recently proposed for the farm property, which would have put 18 building lots along the scenic ridge overlooking the catskill Creek, according to the release.

The newly acquired farm property along with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy property and the state forest adds to the patchwork of publicly-accessible preserved lands across the Helderbergs to the Catskill Creek.

“This creates a corridor that supports a wide variety of species,” said King. “A lot of species need extensive forest areas for their survival,” he said, citing the example of forest-nesting birds. Maintaining a corridor helps to slow the spread of invasive species, which change the character of an ecosystem.

Beyond this, King said, maintaining a forest provides a carbon sink hold, which helps prevent rapid climate change.

A considerable amount of land has already been preserved in Rensselaerville.

King concluded that having the acquired property become part of the state forest would be ideal. “It makes sense to have the state managing it,” he said.

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