Chuck and Ned Sullivan talk about smart growth, brownfields and conservation easements in the Hudson River Valley. (Steve Bransford and Mike Lindsay/MNN)
Chuck: Well, here we are in this episode of Love of the Land at the beautiful Hudson River Valley, and we’re welcoming Ned Sullivan from Scenic Hudson to the Mother Nature Network and Love of the Land. Ned, welcome.
Ned: Great to see you, Chuck.
Chuck: Well, Ned, I know we feel the same way about this. We’re going to have growth in this country, period. The population is expanding and it’s just going to happen, but we can do some things to minimize the impact that that growth will have on our natural lands. What are you guys doing here?
Ned: Well, Chuck, Scenic Hudson is working with community leaders. We’re working with residents. And helping them envision a future where the growth and development that’s going to occur is in downtown areas where people can walk and ride their bikes just about everywhere. Where, if they have to commute to work, they can do it by train. Smart growth is about bringing that development so that it minimizes the impact.
Chuck: Ned, let me ask you about some of the other work that you've done. And, I’m particularly interested in what we’re calling brownfield areas.
Chuck: Tell us what a brownfield is and how you're handling those situations.
Ned: Chuck, brownfields are former industrial sites. They might have had a factory on them or a scrapyard or something else. And these are places that, if they’re studied and cleaned up and if the community gets together and develops a vision for what they want to happen there, can be put back into productive use. Right in this town of Coldspring, we bought a former junkyard.
Ned: And we cleaned it up and now it’s part of an 85-acre park that has some of the real history and industrial vestiges of this community. The Scenic Hudson has an initiative to protect what we call “The land that matters the most.” We call it “Saving the land that matters most.” What we think is important, Chuck, is that we leave a lasting legacy of protected land. So we’ve identified 65,000 acres of land along this river that contains the world class beauty like this --
Ned: -- that has earned the Hudson designation by Congress as a National Heritage Area, the President of the United States that said this river is an American Heritage river. And so we are working to protect those lands and many of them are in private ownership.
Chuck: Well, I know that one tool that you use working with private landowners, and it’s something I’m familiar with because I have a conservation easement on part of my property.
Ned: Well, good for you.
Chuck: Thank you.
Ned: That means you're a good steward of your land.
Chuck: Well, I appreciate that. But I would like for you to explain to our viewers what a conservation easement is.
Ned: Well, conservation easement means that you, Chuck, continue to own your land and you could pass it onto your kids, you could sell it to someone else, but you have sold to somebody else or conveyed to somebody else, perhaps as a gift --
Ned: -- the development rights on it.
Ned: And those development rights would have given you the right to subdivide it, to build a Walmart or townhouses or anything else. But you are giving those away or selling them.
Chuck: So you're making a promise that you're never going to develop that land. And one thing that I think is good for people to know is that you can write certain exceptions into the easement.
Ned: That’s right.
Chuck: Like you may want to reserve the right to build one family home on that property or something.
Ned: That’s correct, exactly.
Chuck: Outstanding, outstanding work, Ned. Thank you so much. I appreciate all that you're doing and all that Scenic Hudson is doing in protecting and preserving these beautiful lands up here in the Hudson River Valley. I appreciate you being with us.
Ned: Well, Chuck, thanks for all you're doing to spread the word about the importance of this kind of work.