In its more than 30 years, Winnakee Land Trust has developed a highly respected reputation for protecting high value conservation lands in the Hudson Valley and creating recreational opportunities for the community to connect to unique landscapes. One hallmark of Winnakee’s success has been the numerous public private partnerships built across the region to conserve land for public benefit, which include the Towns of Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Hyde Park, Clinton, Pleasant Valley, Milan and several others in formation. Certified by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission since 2012, Winnakee meets the highest national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands.
Among the benefits our work brings to local communities, Winnakee is proud to be a regional driving force in protecting and preserving threatened natural habitats, vulnerable forests, watersheds and productive farmlands. Winnakee’s protection of these critical local lands helps provide our region with clean drinking water, recreational opportunities such as quiet walks through unique woodlands, protection of our neighborhoods from major floods and the myriad ecosystem services that restored forests provide for all life. Additionally, Winnakee supports local farmers and foodsheds, promotes community open space and recreation, encourages outdoor exploration and eco-tourism, and seeks to help preserve the tax base and reduce costs of municipal services. All these factors underlie our vision to enhance and protect the quality of life and unique rural character of our region.
Among Winnakee’s prominent achievements has been the establishment of several treasured destination parks, including the recently awarded “Small Hike, Big View” winner Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill in Rhinebeck; the Winnakee Nature Preserve in Hyde Park and our newest preserve Vlei Marsh with trails along Rhinebeck’s second largest wetland. In total, we have brought over ten miles of new trails to connect the community to lands we permanently protect, which can be explored on our Visit Parks and Preserves pages.
In 2019, a new executive director, Bob Davis, was appointed to build an expanded conservation strategy to increase fee ownership land acquisitions and develop a new model for sustainable management plans for these lands.
Since Bob’s onboarding, Winnakee has seen enormous conservation growth with more land projects in motion than ever before in our history (visit Our Conserved Lands & Forests). These include holdings of locally significant forests, riparian buffers, wetlands, swamps, bogs, and vernal pools. The new properties are all owned by Winnakee and build on Winnakee’s history that began in 1989 to conserve Hudson Valley lands and as well as a renewed vision to extend our impact on our region’s long-term resilience.
Informed by Davis’s expertise in forestry and natural resource management, Winnakee leads regional land trusts in our active stewardship model to restore ecological assets on lands we own. These plans will address pressing conversation needs such as habitat loss for rare and threatened species; mitigation of invasive species, pests and pathogens; forest fragmentation; soil erosion, and water quality protections and improved climate change mitigation.
Winnakee recognizes that forest lands are vital to NY’s ecological and economic well-being. The protection of local forests – and especially our working forests – is a new and distinguishing initiative for Winnakee, unique to the land trust world in New York State. With that in mind, Winnakee has broadened its mission to include forest management expertise and scientific and technical support to landowners who are committed to strengthening the health of New York forests and the wildlife inhabitants who occupy them. This initiative will improve the health and resiliency of the Hudson Valley’s forests and their conservation value.
Winnakee is building its reputation as a local land trust that can leverage its strength and expand its conservation of natural resources to a new regional level. In January 2021, Winnakee Land Trust adopted a three-year strategic plan to build capacity for our enhanced conservation mission. Winnakee’s stewardship plans will have a strong and positive impact on local environmental health and bring multiple benefits to the community.