It’s time for summer fun on the land at Mohonk Preserve! We have a full schedule of programs and events that will help you and your family get into nature. Experience outdoor Qigong at the Slingerland Pavilion, sign up for a Full Corn Moon Night Hike or take A Walk Back in Time to the Van Leuven Cabin.

In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll update you on our forest resilience initiatives, outline our reaccreditation process with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, and share ways we are welcoming community members to nature. We wish you a happy, healthy summer and hope to see you soon!

Banner photo by Winnie Abramson

Applied Forest Ecologist Kate O'Connor among hemlocks by Iris Gillingham

Managing for Forest Resilience

Of the over 8,000 acres of natural lands protected by Mohonk Preserve, 7,000 acres are forested and regionally and nationally significant. Large-block chestnut oak stands support abundant wildlife, and dense groves of hemlock-northern hardwood guard cold-water streams and provide habitat for breeding birds and native brook trout. These forests, like many in the northeast, are under stress from forest pests, deer browse, weather changes and other climate change factors. The hemlock-northern hardwood and chestnut oak forests, which comprise half of the Preserve’s total acreage, are particularly vulnerable.

To address these challenges, the Preserve has created a Climate-Adapted Hemlock-Northern Hardwood Forest Management Plan, which was developed based on a climate vegetation assessment and hemlock forest health research findings. Conservation and recreation values were considered, and locations were prioritized based on need, impact and accessibility.

Under the plan, the Preserve will conduct and pilot active interventions within 250 acres of these threatened forest habitats to promote biodiversity and resilience against climate change. Activities in these targeted areas will include regenerative silviculture techniques, such as thinning overstocked stands and creating and managing new and existing canopy gaps to facilitate healthy growth. We will seek to control deer browse and invasive vegetation and help mitigate wildfire damage by widening high-priority firebreaks. We will also develop new GIS data and mapping tools for use in monitoring, assessing project success and informing forest management efforts.

As a conservation leader for decades, Mohonk Preserve is well positioned to undertake this work. Our Conservation Science program maintains long-term scientific data on weather, landscape change and species, and is a station member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations. Professional staff with expertise in ecological monitoring and applied land management lead teams of volunteers to track landscape conditions and work to participate in land management decision-making. The Climate-Adapted Hemlock-Northern Hardwood Forest Management Plan will be led by Mohonk Preserve Applied Forest Ecologist Kate O’Connor with support from the Conservation Programs, Stewardship and Visitor Experience teams. Portions of this work have been supported by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Protection Fund, The Nature Conservancy’s Resilient and Connected Network Grant Program and the Land Trust Alliance’s Land and Climate Program.

“Whether you’re trying to maintain half an acre or 8,000 acres, tackling the impacts of climate change on the landscape can seem overwhelming at any scale,” Kate noted. “The hardest part is often determining where to begin. We’re starting small, working to maintain ecosystem services and visitor experience through silviculture in high-priority areas. By selectively cutting trees that are overcrowded and in poor health, we can give the remaining individuals the room and resources to grow and provide adequate space to encourage the seedlings of more climate-adapted species. We’ll manage regeneration areas closely for deer and invasive species to give the young forest patches the best chance to mature. The firebreak piece is a particularly urgent component that will protect the investment of these other efforts on the ridge.”

The hazardous smoke from Canadian wildfires we’ve all experienced over the past several weeks is a grim reminder of the increasing danger posed by wildfires. In the coming weeks, we plan to start our work widening firebreaks on existing carriage roads and trails to support forest health and biodiversity and help mitigate fire risk. This expansion aligns with the Shawangunk Ridge Fire Management Plan developed by Mohonk Preserve in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership, Open Space Institute and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Widespread standing dead hemlock trees on steep slopes are potential fuels for catastrophic wildfires, and dead trees along trails pose threats to recreational users. Removing hazard trees and widening firebreaks will reduce fire risk, protect visitor experience and advance transition to more climate-adapted species along firebreak edges.

We look forward to sharing more news about our ongoing work on this essential and multifaceted project.

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Land Protection & GIS Manager Ed Pestone by Megan Napoli

Continuing Our Commitment to Conservation

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 is again applying 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.

Heading up this process for the second time is Mohonk Preserve Land Protection and GIS Manager Ed Pestone, whose expertise includes land acquisition, easement and boundary monitoring, maintenance of property records, and geographic information systems management.

“Accreditation involves much more than just one area of the Preserve’s operations,” Ed noted. “It covers multiple departments and programs, including land protection, conservation science, stewardship, visitor experience, development and finance, along with related staff and our Board of Directors.”

In addition to reviewing information provided by Mohonk Preserve, the Commission also invites public input in the form of signed, written comments on the pending application. Comments must relate to how Mohonk Preserve complies with national quality standards that address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards, visit To submit a comment, visit or email your comment to Comments may also be mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments, 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Comments will be most useful if received by Nov. 17, 2023.

”As one of the nation’s legacy land trusts, Mohonk Preserve has long been a leader in the conservation community,” said Preserve President and CEO Kevin Case. “We look forward to working with the Land Trust Accreditation Commission to ensure that the Preserve continues to meet the highest standards of land conservation, stewardship and nonprofit management, and fulfills our promise of saving the land for life.”

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Healthy Ulster 2023 sign up by Tom Weiner

Welcoming Neighbors to Nature

At Mohonk Preserve, a crucial part of our mission includes inspiring people to care for, enjoy and explore the natural world. Our access and inclusion programs play an important role in insuring that more people can experience nature through healthy outdoor recreation, education programs and community science opportunities.

One of our most popular access and inclusion initiatives is our annual Healthy Ulster Pass program. Ulster County residents are invited to visit the Preserve and receive a free, six-week, all-access pass. This year, 4,200 passes were distributed in May at the Preserve’s Visitor Center in Gardiner, Testimonial Gateway Trailhead in New Paltz and Spring Farm Trailhead in High Falls.

2023 marked the 13th year the Preserve has offered the Healthy Ulster Pass program and during this time we have distributed over 50,000 free passes to Ulster County residents. Thanks to our longtime partners at the Ulster Savings Charitable Foundation for their ongoing support of this great community event.

Another important access and inclusion resource is our Library Lending Program. Established in 2013, this program allows people to check out a Preserve pass the same way they would check out a book from a library. The Library Lending program helps to bring more people into nature, increasing nature’s relevance in their lives while also helping to ensure its future preservation. It also supports local libraries by adding value and diversity to the benefits of library membership and increasing access to community resources. Over 35 area libraries from Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Sullivan counties are currently participating in the program.

So that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, Mohonk Preserve actively promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities on the land and within our programs through our NatureAccess® program. We offer a variety of services for visitors, including consultation before arrival and universally designed programs wherever possible. The Preserve is pleased to offer the use of our two all-terrain wheelchairs for day visitors at our Visitor Center by reservation or on a first-come first-served basis.

Along with our access and inclusion programs, there are other free or low-cost ways to enjoy the Preserve. Mohonk Preserve’s Visitor Center is free and open to the public daily, along with the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Loop of the River-to-Ridge Trail. Preserve access at any of our trailheads is always free for visitors under 16 when accompanied by an adult.

We are continually exploring ways to make the Preserve more welcoming and accessible for people of all ages and abilities We have recently installed inclusive and family-friendly amenities, such as additional benches and picnic tables, and improved our Children’s Forest at the Visitor Center. We look forward to sharing our progress with you in coming issues of Ridgelines.

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View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers below!

See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

Seasonal Updates

IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received April 1 through June 30, 2023.

Get Into Nature: See a full list of upcoming programs here.

Take It Outside! Join us on Thursday, August 24 for a STEAM Outdoors Workshop for Educators. This program is in partnership with Ulster BOCES, learn more and register here.

Leave No Trace Spotlight Event: Join us on Friday, July 28th to Sunday, July 30th for family fun activities, learning, playing games, and practicing Leave No Trace principles. See a full schedule of events and learn more here.
New Strategic Plan: This year we began a new strategic planning process to respond to future challenges, needs, decisions and projects. Click here to see our updated strategic plan.​​​

“Wonders of the Shawangunks,” a photo exhibit by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers, is on display at the Gardiner Library until September 30. Learn more about the exhibit here.

Save the date for our upcoming special events:

MOHONK PRESERVE BUSINESS MEMBERS. Thank you to all our Business Members. See the full list of Mohonk Preserve Business Members in our area guide.


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