Lecture: “The New NIMBY: Nature in My Backyard,” April 22nd

Come celebrate Earth Day and help kick off our Birds and Bees Wildlife Needs event series on Tuesday, April 22:

Dr. Chris Nagy will be giving a lecture entitled – “The New NIMBY: Nature in My Backyard.” Dr. Nagy will focus on the connectedness of animals, plants, and humans while highlighting the role that both preserves and private lands play in protecting the environment and our quality of life. Light refreshments will be served at 7:00, lecture begins at 7:30pm. Bedford Historic Hall, (608 Old Post Road, Bedford).

This talk is part of the Birds and Bees: Wildlife Needs event series brought to you by Bedford Audubon Society, Mianus River Gorge, Pound Ridge Land Conservancy and Westchester Land Trust.

About the lecturer: Dr. Nagy, Director of Science and Land Management at the Mianus River Gorge, is an ecologist whose research focuses on Eastern screech owls and coyotes in New York City, the effects and management of white-tailed deer, and protecting the biodiversity in suburban forests.


Research Assistantship Program Grants – Now Accepting Applications for 2014

We’re now accepting applications for our Research Assistantship Program.  The RAP offers 3-years of funding for thesis research to graduate students investigating applied ecology in urban and suburban ecosystems. RAP students are awarded a grant of $5,000/yr for two (Master’s) or three (Doctoral) years.

The application deadline is May 1st.  More info is available here and the application is here.  Please email Chris Nagy at research@mianus.org if you have any questions.

UPDATE: Forests and Clean Water Lectures

The Bedford 2020: Forests and Clean Water lectures have been rescheduled for 7pm March 6th, at St. Mathew’s Church Parish House.

MRG Executive Director, Rod Christie, and TNC Director of Ecological Management in New York, Troy Weldy, will be giving talks on land and water protection in our area. 

Topics will include:

  • Significance of Forests to Life as We Know It
  • Forest Regeneration: Impact of Deer Browsing and Invasive Species
  • Strategies for Forest Regeneration and Water
  • Protection by Homeowners and Sanctuaries

For further info and to register please visit bedford2020.org

St. Mathew’s address: 382 Cantitoe St., Bedford, NY 10506

Forests and Clean Water Event, Thurs. 2/13 @ John Jay Homestead

Bedford 2020 is hosting a joint lecture on forest management and water protection this month.  MRG Executive Director, Rod Christie, and TNC Director of Ecological Management in New York, Troy Weldy, will be giving talks on land and water protection in our area. 

Topics will include:

  • Significance of Forests to Life as We Know It
  • Forest Regeneration: Impact of Deer Browsing and Invasive Species
  • Strategies for Forest Regeneration and Water
  • Protection by Homeowners and Sanctuaries

The event will be held on Thursday, February 13th at the John Jay Homestead in Katonah, NY.  There is no ticket charge, but registration is required.

For further info and to register please visit bedford2020.org


2014 College Intership in Suburban Ecology (CISE) applications now being accepted

The application period for our 2014 College Intership in Suburban Ecology (CISE) program has begun. 

The CISE program offers summer or semester internships to college students and recent graduates who are interested in learning about the unique challenges facing urban/suburban natural resource managers. Through a variety of research and land management projects, interns are trained in the skills needed to pursue a successful career in the environmental sciences. College interns work individually and collaboratively with RAP students, and also serve as additional mentors to WTP students.

More info and the application form can be found here.  Applications are due March 14, 2014.  Email research@mianus.org or call Chris Nagy at 914 234 3455 if you have questions.

Conservation Cafe presents: From Garbage to Black GOLD: Realizing the Value of Food Waste

When:       Fri., Jan. 24, 2014, 8:30-10:30 am

Where:      Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, NY

 Program Presenters:

 Moderator:  Braeden Cohen, Greenburgh Nature Center Composting/Sustainability Specialist & Educator:

Scope & expense of food waste problem in Westchester; composting as profitable solution to food waste; basic mechanics of composting food along with yard organics.

 Jean Bonhotal, Cornell Waste Management Institute, Dep’t of Crop & Soil Sciences:

Economics of food waste composting; case studies of food waste composting operations in New York State.

 Terry Laibach, NYS Dep’t of Environmental Conservation Region III Recycling Specialist: 

NYS-DEC requirements for food waste composting in New York;  examples of food waste composting facilities currently in operation or in planning stages in New York State.

Sarah Groat, Stone Barns Center For Food & Agriculture, Manager, Soil, Recycling, Compost Operations

How Stone Barns turns Garbage To Gold as part of both their mission and business operations.


Who Should Attend:

Municipal officials, DPW officials, school facility managers, grocery store associations, restaurateurs, homeowners, the agricultural community, gardening enthusiasts, organizations that have high food waste disposal costs and those concerned about waste.


Registration:  Registration at 8:30 a.m.   

Program begins at 8:45 am.  This is a free program.


Sponsors:       Westchester County Parks, Friends of Westchester County Parks, Pace University, Grassroots Environmental Education, Teatown Lake Reservation, the Greenburgh Nature Center, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, Mianus River Gorge and Westchester Land Trust.


Location:        Greenburgh Public Library

                         300 Tarrytown Road, Elmsford, NY 10523

                         (914) 721-8200

                         Go to www.greenburghlibrary.org

MRGP Leading Effort to Purchase 20-Acres in Twin Lakes

$400,000 Remains to be Raised Before December 31st

Twin Lakes ForestOnly two months remain to raise the funds needed to purchase 20 acres of ecologically sensitive land in Twin Lakes. To date, Mianus River Gorge Preserve (MRGP), along with generous contributions from private donors, The Nature Conservancy and the Town of Bedford, has raised $3.85 million towards the total purchase price of $4.25 million. An additional $400,000 remains to be raised before the December 31st deadline.

Twin Lakes Project

The 20-acre land purchase (in orange) combined with existing conservation easements (crosshatching) and general protection areas makes the total land protected almost 60 acres and protects the majority of the Pine Brook watershed.

Protecting the 72-acre Twin Lakes property in southeast Bedford NY from development has been a conservation priority for MRGP for over 25 years. Acquiring the entire property ultimately proved to be too expensive, so MRGP has focused its efforts on protecting the most unique and ecologically important land. This 20 acres of continuous forest contains beautiful upland forests, rare flora and fauna and critical watershed lands leading down to the lake. Combined with an existing conservation easement (which MRGP helped secure) and the general protection areas, this land purchase preserves over 60% of the original Twin Lakes forests. An additional 19.5 acres of adjacent land under conservation easement to MRGP on the other “twin” lake across the road makes the total land protected almost 60 acres and protects the majority of the watershed for Pine Brook.

If you would like to help save Twin Lakes, please contact Rod Christie at rchristie@mianus.org or at 914-234-3455.
You may also make a secure online donation through PayPal.

Thank you for helping to make our long-term project of protecting Twin Lakes a reality!

Conservation Cafe on Caring for Our Forests – March 23rd

Conservation Cafe

Friday, March 23, 8:45 a.m. – 10 a.m. (Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.)
Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, NY

With all the recent harsh weather wreaking havoc on our local tree population, what does it take to protect the trees that are left behind? Find out how you can help protect and preserve the trees in your local community.

The program will feature:

  • Rick Harper, from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester, who will discuss the importance of urban forests and their value to the ecosystem
  • Mark Gilliland, from the Village of Irvington’s Green Policy Board and Chairman of the Tree Board, who will discuss the results of the recent tree inventory and present analysis of the data collected during the study;
  • Frank DiMarco, Commissioner of Tuckahoe Department of Public Works, who will discuss the town’s newly revised tree ordinance.

A panel discussion with a question-and-answer session will follow with:

  • Brendan Murphy, Forester with the Watershed Agricultural Council, who will discuss helpful information about choosing and planting native trees for reforestation efforts on public land as well as in your own backyard;
  • Allan Douglas, Field Operations Planner for Con Edison, will give a brief overview of their Vegetation Management Program and respond to any inquiries.

Pre-registration is requested. Register online or by calling (914) 422.4053.

Cafe co-sponsored by Mianus River Gorge Preserve

MRGP Protects Land Parcel

5.2 Acre Corridor is Contiguous to the Gorge

82nd land parcelIn March, the Mianus River Gorge Preserve (MRGP) completed a bargain sale for a 5.2 acre lot on Mianus River Road that is contiguous with other MRGP property. The approved building lot runs along the ridge top that stretches from St. Mary’s Church Road south to East Middle Patent Road.

This site protects uplands that are the headwaters of Piping Brook, a tributary of the Mianus River that flows into the Bargh Reservoir, a source of drinking water for 130,000 people in southern NY and CT.

The property is also an important wildlife corridor for many large animal species, including rare bobcats. It is a connector to a 40 acre MRGP parcel to the north and another 100 acre one to the south. If this parcel had been developed, this narrow corridor would have been destroyed, severely impacting local wildlife populations.

By protecting this very visible ridge top, MRGP is also protecting the view from Mianus River Road and East Middle Patent Road as well as helping to preserve the rural character of the Middle Patent area of North Castle.

The Staff and Trustees of the MRGP would like to thank all of the neighbors for their efforts to rally support for this project as well as donate funds that made the project possible. Donors included private donations, the MRGP Land Fund, and The Nature Conservancy.

New Landscapes in Land Preservation

Rod Christie

MRGP Executive Director Rod Christie

Editor Patricia Barry sat down with Executive Director Rod Christie to discuss how recent economic events have impacted the Preserve.

I’ll start off our interview with the question that is probably on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The recession has taken a toll on many non-profits’ operating budgets. How is the Gorge doing?

Last year, we were down by quite a bit in terms of contributions. This year, we are not sure yet, but I would say that it promises to be a similar situation. We are getting hit in a number of ways: fewer givers, supporters giving less, foundations with reduced endowments giving less or not at all. I have to say, though, we do have a good number of very loyal supporters who really believe in our mission and who have been there when times are tough. We are very grateful for their continued support.

With less money coming in, how does that affect what you can do?

Well, because we are small and lean to begin with, we can weather bad times a bit easier. Our undergraduate and graduate students provide a lot of valuable work and research for our investment. And we have part-time employees and volunteer help. There’s also a positive aspect to the recession as the depressed housing and tight credit market may create opportunities for us to purchase land or try to protect land….

So there are opportunities for the Gorge in this market?

Sure, with the proper resources. In the current market, a depressed housing market means lower land values, true, but on the other side, people are more reluctant to buy expensive homes so less building is going on and any land a developer has in their portfolio may have to stay in inventory longer. There is also less cash available so loans to buy land are harder to come by. All this could be helpful for the Gorge in that it slows downs the process of land transfer. It gives us more time to possibly negotiate on a property with the owner. Also, the owner might be willing to sell it for less money or sell their property to ease a tax burden.

Land is still enormously expensive. How can the Gorge compete?

By far, the best course of action is for us to stay in touch with the owners of the properties that interest us and negotiate with the owners well before their properties go on the market. Sometimes the Gorge is able to work out a deal that protects the ecologically sensitive or contiguous parcels of land by conservation easements or purchase and still gives the landowner a tax break and/or some cash. The Gorge might then have lead time in order to raise funds for the purchase.

If talks with the owner do not bear fruit and the land is sold to a developer, the Gorge has several options to protect land. I’ll give you an example. Let’s assume there is a parcel of land contiguous to the Gorge holdings. It is an expensive piece of land making an outright purchase by the Gorge difficult. The first option would be to negotiate a partial development sale. The Gorge could raise funds to purchase the wetlands, wildlife corridors and other ecologically sensitive areas. This would give the developer cash and still preserve buildable and road accessible land for development. This is not a perfect solution, but it is oftentimes the way land is preserved in this day and age when raising funds is so difficult.

Why would a developer agree to a partial development sale?

Aside from the cash, it makes sense for the developer to sit down with us at the beginning before he/she goes to the planning board. If we can work out a plan to preserve the most ecologically fragile or contiguous parts of the property and the developer can show that they have mitigated the impact of their development beforehand, it decreases the time that it will take to have their project approved.

This brings us to another option that the Gorge has for preserving and protecting property – a more adversarial option. If all else fails, the Gorge will work with the planning process of one of the five surrounding towns to protect wetland and water resources and wildlife corridors on that property.  The planning board might then require that easements be put into place or land set aside. Over its 55 years, the Gorge has developed a good reputation as an organization that uses good science to back its land protection recommendations.

Most of these scenarios need funds to purchase land. Where would the money come from?

This is the million dollar question – no pun intended! Westchester County has a fund for land acquisition, but like most funds these days, they may not have much to work with. The NY DEC does have funds for land acquisition and we recently worked with Pound Ridge Open Space Committee to add “Northern Westchester Watershed and Biodiversity Lands”, including the Gorge, to their priority list of areas for land protection projects (and possible NYS funding). We have had some success with Open Space Funds from the local towns. Recently, we completed a purchase with the Pound Ridge Open Space Committee, for example.
For some of the larger land purchases, we could consider other types of financial arrangements, such as working with a group of conservation-minded investors who purchase the land and allow the Gorge to buy it back from them over time at very low interest. Land trusts, of course, have to be careful in the way they go about buying and selling land.

What are some of your biggest challenges going forward?

Our biggest challenge will be acquiring the resources to address any priority land parcels that will be coming to market in the next five years. But we are optimistic. We just received funds from two grants from the NYS Conservation Partnership Program which is DEC funds administered through the Land Trust Alliance. These types of grants are very important to organizations like ours as they help us raise more funds for land protection.

The mission of Mianus River Gorge, an independent, not-for-profit organization, is to preserve, protect and promote appreciation of the natural heritage of the Mianus River watershed through land acquisition and conservation, scientific research and public education throughout the region.
Mianus River Gorge, 167 Mianus River Road, Bedford, New York 10506     914-234-3455     info@mianus.org
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