Protecting Our Heritage

At Mohonk Preserve, we protect the places you love and we make sure that they stay protected forever. Since our founding in 1963 we have protected over 8,000 acres of breathtaking cliffs, forested hollows, hidden wetlands, and pristine streams. With help from our members and supporters, we do this through careful prioritization and adherence to strict quality standards for land conservation and nonprofit management. Our professional staff and volunteers are dedicated to protecting the places that make the Shawangunks special and upholding the Preserve’s land ethic in perpetuity.

Our land protection work is multi-faceted and involves maintaining strong relationships with landowners and local communities, negotiating land transactions and land protection agreements, and monitoring our protected lands to ensure that they are not threatened or challenged. This work relies on sophisticated map-making systems, which also enable us to provide tailored maps and wayfinding information for the Preserve’s visitors.

More than fifty years after we began, our goals remain unchanged: we protect the Shawangunk Mountains by conserving key recreation areas, fragile habitats and scenic viewsheds. Working together with you, we’re leaving a conservation legacy that will remain for generations to come, fulfilling our promise of saving the land for life.

For more information about the land we protect, contact Ed Pestone, Land Protection and GIS Manager, at, 845-255-0919 x1236.

Land Protection at Mohonk Preserve


Excellence, Trust and Permanence

For over sixty years, Mohonk Preserve has been setting the standard for long-term land stewardship as New York’s largest member and visitor-supported nature preserve. As part of our commitment to excellence in land protection, the Preserve is a longtime member of the Land Trust Alliance, and adheres to LTA’s Land Trust Standards and Practices, the ethical and technical best practices for securing lasting land conservation.

In 2012, the Preserve took the next step in ensuring the promise of perpetual land protection by applying for accreditation with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of LTA. The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. In 2013, as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, the Preserve received our official accreditation.

Accreditation is not a one-time action, but a tool to foster continuous improvement requiring renewal on a five-year cycle. Mohonk Preserve successfully applied for renewal of our accreditation in 2018 and again applied for renewal in 2023. As part of the rigorous renewal process, the Commission will review the Preserve’s application, policies and programs, focusing on our activities during the past five years. In addition, the Commission also invited public input in the form of signed, written comments on the pending application.

Mohonk Preserve looks forward to continuing to meet the highest standards of land conservation, stewardship and nonprofit management, and fulfilling our promise of saving the land for life.

Click here to view a video by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission to learn more.

What We Protect

The land we protect is valuable in many different ways. Each piece of land is unique – one property might offer safe harbor for a rare plant or animal, while another enables two trails to be connected, and yet another keeps a scenic view from being marred by inappropriate development.

We focus on key environments, such as:

  • Cliff and talus slopes that support ferns, lichens, reptiles, and other rock-dwelling species, and are prime recreational areas for climbers.
  • Ice caves, where rare alpine plants, bats, and rodents thrive year-round.
  • Ravines, the deep, misty gorges that support hemlock trees and shelter wildlife such as bobcats and coyotes.
  • Pitch pine barrens found on bedrock at high elevations and considered to be one of the most unique and rare types of forest in the world.
  • Historic and prehistoric places. Nestled in the forests of the Preserve are the remains of the Trapps Mountain Hamlet, which is listed on the National and State registries of historic places. Five out of about 20 Native American rock shelters in the northern Shawangunks are located on the Preserve.
  • Bird habitat and migration routes. Protected cliffs allow hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures to travel and rest during seasonal journeys. Fields, cliffs, and forests support many species of birds, some of which are rare and threatened.
  • Streams, swamps, wetlands, and woodland pools provide habitat for wildlife and recharge groundwater aquifers that provide clean water for area residents.
The Shark Fin rock outcropping of Lost City, and cliffs surrounded by yellow autumn trees
Photo by Siu S. Yuen
Bobolink bird sits on a fence wire and looks to the left
Photo by Susan Barry

How We Protect Land

Through gifts, purchases, and voluntary agreements with landowners, the Preserve protects land that is important for ecological and cultural reasons. In general, land that we protect shares a common boundary with the Preserve, is easy to see from the Preserve, or could become integrated into the Preserve in the future.

The two primary tools we use for land protection are land acquisition and conservation easements.

Land Acquisition – We work with interested landowners to protect their property through donation or sale of land to the Preserve. This transfers ownership of property to the Preserve, and this land is then integrated into our management plans and is opened to the public for recreation.

Conservation Easements – Some landowners want to continue to own their property while putting permanent protections in place. A conservation easement can be the right tool for these owners. According to the Land Trust Alliance, a conservation easement is “a voluntary legal agreement between a
landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits the uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values.” Conservation easements allow landowners to retain many rights of ownership including the right to sell their property or pass it to heirs.

Three Mohonk Preserve staff members look for signs of an old property marker on a tree
Photo by Julia Solomon
Sunlight shines through the trees, the Pin Oak Allee continues straight back, a bench visible on either side. A walker with their leashed dog is in the distance
Photo by Stephen D. Stewart-Hill

Our Partners in Conservation

Photo by Gerald Berliner

It takes more than one preserve to protect a mountain ridge that stretches 50 miles from southeastern New York to the New Jersey state line. To meet this challenge, the Preserve plays an active role in coalitions and partnerships committed to protecting beautiful and unique places, wildlife, clean air and water, and outdoor recreation.

Over a half-million visitors come to the ridge every year to hike, bike, climb, and enjoy the quiet beauty of this rugged landscape. We work closely with our neighbors on the ridge, Minnewaska State Park and the Mohonk Mountain House to ensure that we are acting in coordination to protect the fragile ecosystem we share while offering the best possible experience to our visitors. We also work with partner organizations such as Open Space InstituteWallkill Valley Land Trust and others to advance common land protection goals.

The Preserve is situated in five towns in Ulster County – Gardiner, New Paltz, Marbletown, Rochester and Rosendale. We stay in close communication with these municipalities and share information in support of open space protection.

The Preserve also assisted in the creation of the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway, which connects 11 local municipalities and major tourism destinations around the Ridge with an 82-mile loop of roads. The byway helps direct tourists to visit area businesses and other destinations, showcasing all that natural areas have to offer and supporting local economies.

For more information about the land we protect, contact Ed Pestone, Land Protection and GIS Manager, at, 845-255-0919 x1236.

You can make a difference in protecting the Shawangunk Ridge!

  • Become a member today. Be our partner in preserving the ridge!
  • Support our work with a donation. Your donation helps us protect at-risk properties, care for our protected lands and offer internship opportunities to promising college students. Gifts are fully deductible to the extent permitted by law and can be tailored to meet your financial and estate planning needs.
  • Protect your land through a conservation easement or land transaction with Mohonk Preserve.
  • Care for nature in your own backyard. By landscaping with native plants, conserving wetlands, and reducing the use of garden and lawn chemicals, you can provide homes for birds and other wildlife and reduce pollution.

Banner photo by John Mizel