Land with high climate change resilience purchased for protection near West Mountain

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1,260 acres of space between West Mountain and Lake Luzerne were purchased by the Open Space Institute for protection. The land reaches as far south as Moreau Lake State Park, which the institute also protects. (Source: Google Maps)

LAKE LUZERNE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A span of 1,260 acres of forest and wetland near West Mountain has been purchased by a group dedicated to protecting wildlife and at-risk ecologies.

The Open Space Institute announced this week that they had purchased the “West Mountain Park,” an area which stretches as far north as the Adirondack Park’s southeastern boundary, and as far south as Moreau Lake State Park. It also runs adjacent to Ralph Road State Forest, located between West Mountain and Lake Luzerne.

The 1,260 acres are home to hardwood and softwood forests, and an abundance of different forms of wildlife.

“In fast-growing regions like Warren County, it is becoming rarer to find a property of this size that exemplifies the many benefits of protected land – supporting clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and the storage of carbon to help fight climate change,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, in a press release.

That last point about climate change is a more complicated factor than an onlooker might expect, according to Open Space Institute Project Manager Eve Boyce. It breaks down into two parts: Climate resilience and carbon sequestration.

Climate resilience is a way of gauging how much diverse wildlife a given environment can support under the changing conditions of climate change. Boyce said that The Nature Conservancy runs modeling to gauge how many kinds of animal and plant life will be supported as conditions change, and that the West Mountain Park was deemed above average.

Meanwhile, the soils on the property already have a lot of carbon in them; that’s where the second term, carbon sequestration, comes into play. Protecting land that already houses deposits of carbon means that the institute can stop any of that land from getting used in a way that would disturb that soil, and release that carbon back into the air.

Forests and other land gather over 14 percent of carbon emissions annually, according to institute data. An estimated 116,000 metric tons of carbon is stored in the West Mountain property; more than 90 metric tons per acre.

The 1,260 acres of land are home to turkey, bobcats, deer and bears. Around six percent of the land is DEC-regulated wetland. Wetlands like those in the property are not only a habitat for more wildlife, but also filter rainwater on its way to the Hudson River.

The land is a large part of the Palmertown vision, an initiative from the institute to protect land from the southern end of the Adirondack Park to Saratoga Springs. At the south edge of this stretch of land, Moreau State Park is also part of that vision, and a part the institute is involved in protecting. Boyce said the West Mountain land is around twice the size of that acquisition.

The current total size of the Palmertown project encompasses over 3,300 acres.

Boyce was not able to disclose how much the property sold for. She said the previous owner was an area forestry company. The property is expected to officially be added to Ralph Road State Forest, which will triple that area’s size.

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