Conservation Program Overview

As an intact, mature deciduous forest dominated by native species, Black Rock Forest represents an increasingly rare natural resource. It retains high habitat and species diversity, including populations of rare and endangered plants and animals. The Forest and surrounding Highlands provide critical refuge for mammals with large home ranges, like the bobcat, coyote, otter, and black bear, as well as severely at-risk forest interior birds like the cerulean warbler. To increase protection for the 160+ bird species residing in Black Rock Forest, the Consortium has applied for designation of the Forest and immediate surroundings as an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA).
 
The Consortium's conservation goals include translating research knowledge into models for better management of natural resources, promoting ecological connectivity, developing management plans for threatened species and problematic invasive species, and managing human activity to minimize adverse impacts and enhance safety.
 
Connectivity
The Consortium is working with partners to secure critical portions of a wildlife corridor connecting thousands of acres of habitat in the Hudson Highlands. A key acquisition in 2013 by our project partner, the Open Space Institute, resulted in the conservation of Legacy Ridge, a 700-acre parcel between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park that had been slated for development, but is now under permanent conservation easement.  Please see Wildlife Corridor for project details.
 
Ecosystem Management
The Consortium's Forest Management Plan was developed in the early 2000s in consultation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It is guided by ecological principles and the findings of prior research in Black Rock Forest and the region. The Cornwall community supports the plan, which involves dedicated volunteers from the Black Rock Fish and Game Club and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, who contribute to safety patrol and trail maintenance, respectively.
 
Since 2013, Consortium staff have documented renewed regeneration of native tree species, including birches, maples, and oaks, saplings of which had been absent from the forest understory due to deer overbrowsing. Successful tree regeneration is a welcome outcome of the Consortium's ecosystem management in a region that has experienced decades of overabundant deer populations and associated decimation of the understory, key plant species, and habitat for other native animals.