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It is impossible to imagine a world without the river. These majestic bodies of water, perpetually in motion, flow freely throughout the lands we call home before merging with the ocean. In a world before the automobile, locomotive or airplane, the river would often be an efficient, reliable source of transportation which would enable the various peoples of the pre-industrial world to travel long distances with retaliative ease. Rivers were, at a point before many became polluted by the callousness of humanity, a vital food source not just to people, but also the many birds in the sky and wild animals roaming the land. With the fine folks at Battenkill Conservancy, its volunteers work tirelessly to provide protection to the similarly named Battenkill River, water quality and natural land for generations to come.
Two Decades of Aquatic Awareness
“We’ve been around for about twenty years now” said the Executive Director of the organization. “The Battenkill Conservancy (BkC) was really a grassroots effort created by people who moved here around 1993. They recognized the real beauty of the area, as opposed to the people who were from here who took it for granted.” In over two decades of existence, the not-for-profit 501 c (3) organization has amassed over five hundred members and associates, environmental enthusiasts from near and far. While the Battenkill River may be their primary focus and passion, the BkC is actually incredibly diverse, focusing on areas such as outdoor education, multi-use recreation within the preserves, restoring both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, just to name a few. “The focus really hasn’t changed too much, in that it’s still the preservation and enhancement of the Battenkill Watershed, recognizing its natural beauty and remaining aware of threats to it.” According to the group’s director, its current goals are “maintaining clean water and open space accessibility.”
Guardians of Land, Water and Wildlife
Like any other conservation group worth its salt, the BkC has always been actively involved in land conservation. As a 501 c (3) organization, they have the ability to purchase, accept and hold conservative easements. For those who are unaware, a conservative easement occurs when a land owner wishes their land be kept in their personal or familial ownership, but is maintained and kept safe by an outside organization such as the BkC. A legally binding document is written up between the conservancy and the land owner, the words within dictating exactly what all the conservancy can alter about the land, if anything. Typically, this sort of arrangement is done in order to ensure that the land in question remains safe from government or private development and is kept safe, natural and free for generations of nature lovers in the future.
The BkC has a number of land parcels, some conservation easements and others gifts, but all with their own individual alluring qualities. The 16.8 acre Livingston Brook Heron Rookery, for example, is famous for the numerous species of birds which have taken up residence there, using the wetland area as a breeding ground and home, for some. This and other areas are kept safe in perpetuity due to the BkC’s continued coordination with local municipalities and other non-profit organizations, who in addition to providing additional resources and funding help with the planning and execution of large scale projects, on occasion.
A Community Effort in River Conservation
One of the most important aspects of maintaining the health of a parcel of land or body of water is to constantly research new and improved ways to determine the overall health of the area in question. “We run a water quality program called the River Watch Program. We test the river at certain sites on a yearly basis, working with environmental conservationists who work for the state of New York. We provide them with data, which they use to determine in what shape the river is currently in and how it is impacted by life happening around it” said the Director. A benefit of this program, other than the obvious monitoring of the Battenkill River’s health, is that the process of doing so involves more than just government officials. Students (high school and college level), teachers, farmers, land owners and even business owners actively get involved some part of the data-gathering process, making this initiative a win-win for both community building and environmental protection.
A Water-ful Education
As an organization focused not only on the present day trials and tribulations of maintaining the health of a watershed, the Battenkill Conservancy looks ever to the future. Specifically, the group maintains several state-of-the-art environmental education programs created with the intention of educating the next generation of potential environmental activists. “One of our most successful programs is our Outdoor Adventure Program. In it, we have a group of kids on the river for a week, teaching them basic environmental science lessons, appreciation for the river and new skills such as kayaking. Kids these days don’t necessarily get these skills if they live in the area, so we think that it’s really important to bring up the next generation of potential river-stewards, and make sure that they have a direct connection to nature. That’s usually where that sort of connection starts, I believe” said the Director. The program, while not officially considered large enough to be a “camp”, serves as a similar experience for children between the ages of eleven and fourteen. “We do this every year, regardless of whether it’s considered a fully program or not. Even though it costs us a lot of money, it’s worth it to give a love of nature to kids.” With a crew of experienced volunteer educators on their side, as well as a very affordable fee per child, the BkC has had lasting success with the program, and hopes to continue it for as long as possible.
The Battenkill Conservancy http://www.battenkillconservancy.org/index.html is located at 15 West Main Street Cambridge, NY 12816. They can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 518 677 2545.