New York State acquired nearly 600 acres of public land creating the Black Creek State Forest in the town of Esopus, Ulster County, which adjoins the rustic retreat of noted naturalist John Burroughs, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The property will become part of a network of public and private conservation lands surrounding the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary along Black Creek, an important tributary of the Hudson River.
“This acquisition is a terrific example of state, local and non-profit cooperation to protect one of the most intact tributaries of the Hudson River Estuary,” Commissioner Martens said. “The ecological significance and recreational opportunities provided by the Black Creek and its surrounding land makes this property a conservation priority for DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program. The property will conserve the natural habitats, creeks, woods and scenery that John Burroughs introduced to national audiences with his renowned essays, allowing future generation to use and enjoy this precious ecosystem forever.”
The state purchased the land from the Scenic Hudson Land Trust for $1.29 million paid from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund. The state will pay local school, town and fire district taxes for the property. The Black Creek State Forest will be managed to protect and enhance public recreation, forest conservation, fish and wildlife habitat and water quality.
“The creation of the Black Creek State Forest is tremendous addition to the Hudson Valley,” said Senator Bill Larkin. “This acquisition is a wonderful example of preserving environmentally sensitive land for everyone to enjoy and I applaud Commissioner Martens for making this project a priority.”
The network of public and private conservation lands surrounding these properties extends along Black Creek from its mouth on the Hudson River to Chodikee Lake, a popular fishing destination. In addition to Black Creek State Forest and the John Burroughs Nature Sanctuary, the network of preserved natural areas includes streamside lands owned by Scenic Hudson in Esopus. The Scenic Hudson Land Trust has conserved other lands in the area using conservation easements and assembled undeveloped parcels in an eight-mile corridor along the creek.
“Extending a conservation corridor that stretches across several municipalities, this land will connect people with nature, provide opportunities for exercise and recreation, and protect habitats essential for eagles and endangered species. All of these are critical underpinnings for the county’s and valley’s environmental and economic vitality. It is noteworthy that natural areas and parks were identified in the Mid-Hudson’s Regional Economic Development Plan as assets that provide us with economic opportunity,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “In addition, this outstanding landscape has provided inspiration to generations of artists and writers, including John Burroughs. This land preservation victory is a wonderful way to celebrate his life and legacy.”
The new State Forest contains important examples of hemlock-northern hardwood forest, Appalachian oak-hickory forest and red maple-hardwood swamp. The ecosystem is habitat for the northern cricket frog, an endangered species that is now at risk in most of its former New York state range on Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, due to urban sprawl.
“The Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of Ulster County applaud this acquisition,” stated Federation president Joe Liuni, who noted that the federation has long assisted DEC in stocking fish in black creek and Chodikee Lake. “We are especially appreciative that this property will be open to hunting and will be managed with sound forest management principals which benefit all wildlife.”
Burroughs, a friend of Walt Whitman, John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt, moved to the Hudson River Valley in 1873 and wrote books including Birds and Poets (1877) and Ways of Nature (1905). His country retreat in Ulster County, Slabsides, was designated a National Historic landmark in 1968. The 200-acre Burroughs Nature Sanctuary, which adjoins the new property, is open to the public and offers a network of trails that links to the new state forest. “I am sure that John Burroughs would be pleased that the woods where he tramped are now permanently preserved for others to enjoy the nature he loved and shared through his essays,” said Joan Burroughs, the great-granddaughter of John Burroughs and treasurer of the John Burroughs Association.
“John Burroughs is, along with Thoreau and Muir, one of the earliest leaders of the American environmental movement. He is considered by many to be the greatest nature essayist to have ever lived. The acquisition of this significant Black Creek property is a tribute to his rich legacy,” said Assemblymember Kevin Cahill. “Just as Burroughs has done for generations, the preservation of his home environment and assuring public access will enrich lives and inspire minds for many more to come. On the heels of the successful completion of the acquisition of the Big Indian forest at the other end of Ulster County, Commissioner Joe Martens deserves our thanks and congratulations for this important acquisition.”