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June 18, 2001

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

New York City Acquires Conservation Easement In Ashokan Reservoir Watershed

Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that DEP's Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program has purchased a 102-acre conservation easement on a parcel along the Esopus Creek in the watershed of the Ashokan Reservoir.

"This easement is a public-private partnership that will provide permanent protection for the streams, wetlands and buffer areas on the landowner's property in the Town of Shandaken," said Commissioner Miele. "Under DEP's Conservation Easement Program, owners are paid fair market value for the development rights on their property. Since the owner of this land wished to maintain it as undeveloped open space and also wanted to retain title to the property, a conservation easement was a good option."

Protected by the easement are over 3,000 linear feet on both sides of the Esopus Creek, over 1,000 feet of a tributary stream, plus extensive floodplain and wetland resources. No further development will occur on the property, including its open fields, and the landowner's family will continue to own and enjoy this beautiful place. The property supported a fish hatchery in the late 19th century, and the easement permits the landowners to restore and enjoy three small ponds built by a great-grandfather of the present owner. The scenic parcel has extensive road frontage and is close to the Belleayre ski area in Shandaken.

Under DEP's conservation easement program, landowners continue to own and use their property, but they forgo the rights to develop it further through a sale of those rights to the DEP. Landowners who sell easements can also continue economic activities such as harvesting hay crops and timber, provided the activities comply with plans that are approved by DEP.

Commissioner Miele said, "The ability to harvest hay and timber under easement is in keeping with the spirit of the 1997 Watershed Agreement, in which the City recognizes the importance of protecting water quality in a working landscape."

In addition to paying for the development rights, the City will pay a share of the property taxes on each easement it acquires. The City's tax share is determined by the percentage of full market value that the sold development rights represent. For instance, if the removal of development rights reduces a parcel's value as vacant land by 62%, the City would pay 62% of the annual tax bill (in addition to the purchase price paid to the landowner). The percentage of value is set by independent appraisers hired by the City, and differs based on a property's specific characteristics, appraised value and development potential.

Commissioner Miele said, "I want to emphasize that, as with all of the City's watershed land acquisitions, conservation easements are purchased only from willing sellers who want to take advantage of this unique program."

The City is pursuing additional conservation easements throughout the watersheds of its reservoirs, both east and west of the Hudson River. To date the City has secured over 32,000 acres of watershed land in fee, and anticipates protecting additional thousands of acres through easements over the next six years. For more information, or to receive an information packet on the City's Conservation Easement Program, landowners can contact the Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program at (800) 575-LAND.


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600