ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Hudson River Estuary Program protects the ecology around parts of the river where a watchful eye is needed, and helps to restore areas that have undergone damage. Recently, the organization has taken a big step forward, by completing not one, but two plans for Hudson Valley-area wildernesses.

The program recently completed plans in Putnam and Columbia County. The former is the Green Corridors Plan for the Eastern New York Highlands. The latter is the Taghkanic Headwaters Conservation Plan, which sets sights on the Taghkanic Creek’s headwaters. Both plans are centered around connecting priorities and resources between the municipalities within the respective wildernesses, in order to better protect them.

“Preserving natural connections between habitats is critical for wildlife movement, climate adaptation, and resilient ecosystems,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC applauds the leadership of our Land Trust partners in working with local communities to create shared conservation visions for the eastern Hudson Highlands and for the Taghkanic headwaters watershed.”

The Green Corridors Plan combines existing data and resources with community feedback from the towns of Philipstown and Putnam Valley, as well as state and nonprofit groups. The data used includes land studies based around water quality preservation, existing conservation priorities, and Open Space Index info.

The result is a set of maps showing what areas are of the highest conservation value. The maps show areas that are considered of the most value for Philipstown and Putnam Valley. They also show the habitats of endangered animal species in need of protection, including the bald eagle, spotted salamander and American eel.

The Taghkanic Headwaters plan brought in voices from the towns of Claverack, Copake and Hillsdale. It identifies species for protection, such as the pied-billed grebe and stinkpot turtle, and also identifies creatures that could do the local ecology harm. Those include invasive species such as the emerald ash borer and hemlock wooly adelgid, as well as the pathogenic beech bark disease. Around it all, the impacts of climate change are identified as the greatest threat to the Taghkanic region.

This plan outlines three main goals. First, forests must be better protected to withstand climate change impacts. Second, Taghkanic Creek’s clean water must be protected in order to protect threatened wildlife species. Finally, connections must be built and strengthened between the communities of Claverack, Copake, Hillsdale, Taghkanic and the city of Hudson, in order to join together in protecting the watershed in which they all exist.

The movement of plans like these are spurred in no small part by the loss of animal populations. The Green Corridors plan quotes the United Nations: “One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction – many within decades.”

Both plans were completed thanks to funds from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Estuary Grants Program, part of the state Environmental Protection Funds. Those funds are given out by the DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the Cornell Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.