The Plateau is estimated to be the fifth largest forested region in New York State. Its forests still exist in relatively large continuous blocks with few dividing roads. The Plateau’s forests are valuable in providing cleaning air and clean water and ground water recharge. They also provide healthy habitat for many native plants and wildlife. The large unbroken forest is essential to the populations of fisher, bobcat, bear, moose, porcupine, hermit thrush, and black-throated blue warbler. Many birds are experiencing declining population numbers in the Northeast due in part to loss of large blocks of forest.
The Plateau is home to numerous plants that are rare to the regions, and some that are at the global scale. Some examples of rare plant species include: Allegheny vine, Anderson's Peat Moss, Farwell's milfoil, Purple bladderwort and Wood Lily
The ecological distinctiveness of the Rensselaer Plateau has led it to be included in the New York State’s Open Space Plan and recognized as an Important Bird Area by Audubon New York, and the focus of conservation efforts of the Rensselaer Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy.