The DLC has a long history of success working with partners to preserve this area’s rural landscape. Since its founding in 1985, the DLC has worked with local landowners and communities to protect tens of thousands of acres of critical, resource rich land. An accredited land trust, the DLC has been successful in leveraging millions of private, town, county, state, and federal dollars to preserve open space. Through voluntary land transactions with private landowners, conservation land planning assistance, and continuous public education, the DLC works to protect land while helping to channel new growth in ways which will reinforce our natural and agricultural landscapes and create balanced and sustainable communities.

To accomplish its mission the DLC concentrates its efforts in five key program areas:
  • Working to Protect Strategically Important Conservation Lands
  • Stewarding the Land Under Our Care
  • Engaging the Community Through Outreach and Education
  • Promoting Climate Resiliency
  • Continuing our Commitment to Organizational Excellence

Working to Protect Strategically Important Conservation Lands

The DLC works to proactively protect high-priority, strategically important conservation lands and build its network of protected landscapes.

Conservation Easement Acquisition

The most popular and widely used tool for protecting private land across the United States is the Conservation Easement.
The DLC is widely recognized on a national, state, and regional basis for creating customized land protection plans which ensure that each property’s special scenic, rural, and natural features remain intact to provide a public benefit while meeting the needs of landowners.

In fact, we were recognized by the Land Trust Alliance Northeast Office as one of the top three easement-acquirers in New York State, acquiring easements at a rate far surpassing other organizations in the state.

The conservation easement is a very useful tool that serves not only to protect land but also to help keep it in private ownership. An easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and the DLC that limits the amount and location of future development on a property forever. Land protected by these agreements safeguards many important resources such as agricultural soils, wildlife habitats, wetlands, forest lands, and scenic views.

Purchasing Development Rights (PDR)

DLC’s partnership with landowners and farmers, Dutchess County, New York State, local municipalities, and others has created a powerful tool for protecting farmland and open spaces in Dutchess County.
The DLC has a committed focus on protecting important farmland and, by doing so, also preserving our agricultural heritage. Through a PDR program, a landowner is paid for the value of their development rights in exchange for placing a conservation easement on their land. This allows a farm landowner to reduce debt, enhance a family business, or retire and allow other family members to take over.

Working with the County Farmland Protection Board, since 2001 we have leveraged numerous state, county, and town funding awards and private funding sources to secure millions of dollars for farmland protection in the county. We have worked closely with numerous farm families to ensure that the farms they love remain open and in production. We continue to work on enhancing this program both locally and statewide.

Conservation Land Planning

When landowners planning for their future goals see the connection between preserving the important resources on their own property and the relationship between their land and the adjoining landscape, the result is a well thought-out plan for the land that benefits the landowner, the community, and the rural and natural environment.
Conservation land planning is the process of identifying important resources on a property, as well as establishing opportunities for well-sited development. The DLC uses its county-wide resource protection inventory and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping capabilities to research and map important features such as farmland soils, wetlands, forest lands, habitats, and other natural and scenic resources which are important to protect.

Our professional land analysis has helped hundreds of landowners achieve a better understanding of the unique resource values of their land before making decisions on house siting, protection, sale, or subdivision. We believe so strongly in the benefits of conservation land planning that we provide these services even if it doesn’t ultimately produce a conservation commitment.

The DLC prepares resource analysis and conservation land plans for thousands of acres each year. Our conservation land planning techniques continue to be used as an example by landowners, towns, and the Dutchess County Department of Planning and Development.

As the DLC sees the threat for development on many large properties substantially increase, we work to follow these proposals and encourage sensitive designs that fit into the character and fabric of our local towns, and that will forever protect the most critical resources that can’t be replaced once they are lost. The DLC also works with municipalities on ways to incorporate conservation land planning into their land use ordinances to achieve the protection of important areas.

Municipal Conservation Areas Program

Helping towns preserve open land for the public is something DLC is uniquely positioned to do.
The DLC understands that Dutchess County's open land is vulnerable to development pressure. It is critical that the public has the opportunity to have access to high quality natural areas for passive recreational use. While many local towns want to enhance the quality of life for their citizens by conserving important natural resources and providing recreational opportunities, they often lack the resources to acquire important open land.

With its competent staff, local relationships, and transactional experience, the DLC is uniquely positioned to help communities establish public conservation areas. Towns can turn to DLC for help to successfully achieve the acquisition, protection, and management of important public recreational land.

The DLC’s work with the Town of Dover to acquire, preserve, protect, and open to the public the unique and historic Dover Stone Church property is a great example of how this program works. The DLC, together with the Town, the Friends of Dover Stone Church (a local group of residents), and Dutchess County teamed up to successfully purchase this 58 acres adjacent to the Village of Dover Plains. The Dover Stone Church is a geological formation of metamorphic rock located on the Stone Church Brook that formed a natural cavern and waterfall, and has been attracting people across the region since the 1800s. Its first known reference dates back to the 1600s, when legend states that Pequot Indian Chief Sassacus and his warriors hid in the cave to escape capture and death by the English Army. Using our team-based approach, additional land has been acquired and added to the Preserve over time, and now over 180 acres of important resource rich land are preserved forever and open to the public for passive recreation.

Stewarding the Land Under Our Care

With every easement we accept comes the responsibility to keep our promise to actively steward the land under our care. This promise includes not only annual monitoring but also the equally important job of keeping careful records, maintaining good relationships with our easement landowners, and enhancing land management resources for landowners.
Each year the DLC protects more land using conservation easements. With these easements comes the responsibility of assisting landowners with the ongoing stewardship of their protected properties. We are now privileged to work with over 400 conservation-minded stewards who own land protected by conservation easements.

We are dedicated to maintaining positive, active relationships with these stewards, whose partnership is essential in managing the provisions set forth in the easements protecting their properties. We work directly with landowners to ensure that alterations, permitted new development, and land management activities are in compliance with the terms of their easements. All protected properties are systematically monitored annually, using a combination of landowner contacts, aerial overflights, and ground checks.

In addition, we work with our partner the Columbia Land Conservancy on our joint Farmer Landowner Match Program, and we are in the process of building a program that will provide resources to landowners on best management options for their land.

Engaging the Community Through Outreach and Education

We can all play a part to protect our rural character and incredible open landscape – we just need to know how.
Engaging with and educating our communities about the importance of open land, farming, forestry, land protection, stewardship, and the natural environment through programs and experiences helps foster a better understanding, appreciation, and care for the land that was here long before us, so that it will be here long after we are gone. This is an integral part of the DLC’s mission. We regularly talk with municipalities, students, service and business associations, local citizens groups, and landowners to see how we might work together to achieve a common interest project or program. If you have an initiative or topic and think the DLC could be of assistance, please feel free to let us know. The DLC is reaching out and listening to people from all parts of our community to address the land challenges and opportunities that they care about.

Promoting Climate Resiliency

Land conservation and management play an essential role in addressing climate change and are central to how the world can mitigate climate change and adapt to impacts. By protecting land and habitats from rampant development, the DLC is conserving a working landscape that provides critical carbon sinks. In addition, because plant and animal communities change over time, we can help to ensure that their habitats and ecosystems continue to function in the future by protecting the places they live, especially those areas resilient to climate change. The many benefits provided by healthy land and habitats are critical to the wellbeing of people and the great diversity of plants and animals with which we share the land.

The DLC is in the process of developing new programs so that it can be a resource for and educate landowners and the community about climate resiliency practices and benefits and promote best practices on land stewardship and management with regard to climate mitigation.

Continuing Our Commitment to Organizational Excellence

“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land.”
- Land Trust Accreditation Commission former Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn
Even before the DLC became a nationally accredited Land Trust through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2009, it was committed to organizational excellence and had been following the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices. Each year, the DLC works to become an even stronger organization than before, continuously evaluating our current practices against a detailed accreditation framework so that we can become more effective. We continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards, demonstrating the DLC’s commitment to permanent land conservation. Accredited land trusts are able to display a seal, indicating to the public that they meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust, and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. The DLC is proud to exhibit this seal - a true mark of distinction in land conservation.