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The Cowee Lands

The former Cowee Lands were one of the first properties RPA set out to conserve in 2008. Before RPA was officially an incorporated not-for-profit, Jim Bonesteel became aware of the Cowee Lands and the value they hold for conservation. He made a phone call to our partners at the Conservation Fund and put into motion the protection of 23,053 acres across Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York State. 16,600 of those acres lay in Rensselaer and Washington Counties in NYS. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is in the process of purchasing the land from RPA for public use and wildlife management. RPA provided the boots-on-the-ground effort that made this monumental moment for conservation possible.


The Cowee Lands were officially conserved in 2017. Read below for more details and to learn about the future of the property.



National non-profit acquires working forests for future permanent conservation to support local timber economy and recreational access


Albany, N.Y. – The Conservation Fund has purchased 23,053 acres of working forestland in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Known as Cowee Forest, the acquired lands – including more than 16,600 acres in Rensselaer and Washington Counties, New York –   provide critical connections to existing conserved areas and recreational resources, including access to the Taconic Crest Trail and the Rensselaer Plateau, as well as protection for important wildlife habitat.


The Cowee Forest lands were assembled over generations to support a wood products manufacturing mill in the Rensselaer Plateau and Taconic regions. The Conservation Fund recognized the importance of ensuring that the valuable resources of this large forest, including wood supply to local mills that support nearly 100 forestry-based job, was protected from both subdivision and conversion to non-forest uses.


“Our goal is to protect forestland of community and state-wide importance,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President and Northeast Representative for The Conservation Fund. “We look forward to working with our public and private partners to implement conservation solutions at Cowee Forest that meet the needs of people, protect wildlife habitat and provide economic benefits.”


The Conservation Fund purchased the property through its Working Forest Fund® allowing time for the creation and implementation of permanent protection strategies with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, communities, and other local partners while preventing fragmentation and development of the land. During its temporary ownership, The Conservation Fund will pay property taxes and will sustainably manage Cowee Forest for timber resources and a variety of conservation benefits.


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said: “New York is grateful to The Conservation Fund for working to conserve this magnificent assemblage of forests, wetlands and streams – the reasons why so many New Yorkers and visitors enjoy the Rensselaer Plateau and the Taconic Ridge. New York State looks forward to working with The Conservation Fund, the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, our sister states, municipal governments and other key stakeholders to determine how best to conserve these precious natural areas for future generations.”  


Photo: Nate Simms

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