Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Announces Protection of 64-Acres of Forest Donated by WestRock

Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC) announced today the acquisition of 64 acres of forestland recently donated by WestRock, a leading supplier of differentiated paper and packaging solutions. This beautiful stretch of land situated just west of the Hudson River in the town of Bethlehem, N.Y., is a rarity among the development that has rapidly claimed the river valley’s natural spaces. Following the generous donation from WestRock Company, MHLC will ensure the land’s permanent protection.

This forestland has long been a focus of local conservation efforts. Along with significant ecological value, the property also has historical interest as part of the original Corning family estate.

MHLC Executive Director Mark King said, “We are so pleased to announce the acquisition of this important property and want to acknowledge the generosity of the WestRock Company that made the conservation of this property possible. The acquisition captures an important part of the former Corning estate, which was such an important part of Albany history and preserves some of the remaining open space in this rapidly developing area.”

Located on historic Corning Hill, the WestRock property was once part of the 700-acre estate of Albany County’s longest-serving mayor, Erastus Corning, and several generations of the Corning family. The Corning estate spanned from Glenmont to the Normans Kill, about a half-mile west of the Hudson River. The property being donated by WestRock is just southwest of the confluence of the Normans Kill and the Hudson River, a location with a rich history and a historically important trade route for Native Americans and early Dutch settlers. The area remains an important economic center for the region as a newly announced wind turbine plant is located ½ mile from the property adjacent to the Port of Albany.

WestRock acquired the property in 1958, and the land has remained largely undisturbed. The company is known for its commitment to sustainable practices and partners with the American Forest Foundation to manage forests for biodiversity, clean water and wildlife habitat. Their generous donation ensures this forest will be permanently protected.

The WestRock property is a beautiful area of mature forest along slopes formed eons ago by the Hudson River. The New York Natural Heritage Program designates this area as a Hudson Valley core forest, a large block of intact forest. Core forest is vital for sensitive wildlife, including many forest songbirds, which avoid nesting in areas with human disturbance. With increasing development along the Hudson River and the surrounding areas, protecting the WestRock property became a conservation priority.

“At WestRock, sustainability is the fiber of our company, and we know we have a responsibility to uphold and improve upon that legacy, said Kevin Hudson, senior vice president of Forestry and Recycled Fiber at WestRock. “While the donation of the Bethlehem, N.Y., forestland better aligns our portfolio of assets with our fiber-based packaging strategy, we are pleased with MHLC’s decision to conserve this property. Their commitment to the preservation of local natural, scenic, agricultural and cultural landscapes makes them a perfect fit for ownership moving forward.”

An advocate for the protection of the WestRock property is the Bioreserve, a nonprofit organization in Glenmont, N.Y., that operates a private conservation program on the adjacent 66-acre property. Used for education and research, the Bioreserve property features a small lab and a network of trails. The organization hosts field trips, workshops and classes for area students and educators on the property. Approximately 60 acres of the Bioreserve parcel is enrolled in the Town of Bethlehem’s Open Space Program, ensuring the land’s protection with a conservation easement. Together, the WestRock and Bioreserve properties form an important block of more than 120 acres of relatively undeveloped land overlooking the Hudson River.

Bioreserve founder Dennis O’Leary said, “For some of the kids in our programs, the only nature they see is vacant lots between buildings. We’re teaching them the value of nature and how nature support them.”

MHLC plans to enroll the WestRock property in the Town of Bethlehem’s Open Space Program, where a conservation easement will protect the land permanently. MHLC plans for the WestRock parcel will allow the Bioreserve access to the land enabling the Bioreserve to extend their educational resources and trail systems. Both properties are accessible to the public only by appointment and prior approval from the Bioreserve. Learn more

Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said, “I am so grateful that the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and WestRock have partnered to protect this ecological gem in Bethlehem. We are fortunate to know that this incredible forest and rich wildlife habitat will be part of our community’s landscape for generations.”

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