Origins of Greenwoods and the Peterson Family Charitable Trust
In the early 1970’s Lawrence Rockefeller purchased a several thousand acre tract in the Catskills and protected it in perpetuity through the use of a conservation easement.
Upon reflection about some of the really large national parks and protected areas such as the Everglades, many barrier islands, Yellowstone and the Adirondacks we realized that many of them had their origins with the families of great wealth of that era. The Rockefellers, Carnegies, Mellon’s, Whitney’s, Roosevelt’s and many others. Their mega estates in many cases became our great parks and preserved national treasures. It was an era lacking estate taxation and those lands were preserved for generations within their families.
That is no longer possible.
Following their lead the state and federal governments became the buyer or recipient of many of these properties preserving them for the public good, hopefully in perpetuity.
We reasoned that in the absence of those great robber barons preserving land today, and with the dwindling national and state treasure, that future land preservation efforts might well be dependent on the common man stepping up to the plate.
It was an article in the Wall Street Journal about Lawrence Rockefeller that led us to think that if he could do it on several thousand acres in the Catskills, why couldn’t we in a smaller measure do it here? We started with an initial purchase of 245 acres and an unannounced goal of trying to protect the entire watershed of the Cranberry Bog. We currently own and have protected through conservation easements 1170 acres and have nearly reached our goal.
It has been nearly forty years since our first purchase and there have been a number of accomplishments to date.
We have a symbiotic and very important relationship with the Biological Field Station in Cooperstown and its parent, SUNY Oneonta. They utilize the entire property and its buildings for teaching and research at no cost to them.
In turn, they provide an opportunity for the Greenwoods board to know that we have a quality, legitimate partner to further our educational mission.
Trout Unlimited, the DEC, Ducks Unlimited, the US Fish & Wildlife, Sapsucker Woods at Cornell, Bucknell University and local Audubon and hiking groups utilize the property for research, recreation and as a demonstration site. There are nearly fifteen miles of maintained trails and hiking paths for researchers and hikers to utilize.
We have protected a large parcel of land from exploitation and like in the film A Field of Dreams , we built a field and the great players returned.
The Beaver, Muskrat, Otter, Bobcat, Fisher, Porcupine, Wild Turkey, Varying Hare, Black Bear, Coyote and White Tailed Deer herd have all returned. The Bald and Golden Eagles, Osprey, Vultures, Falcons, and numerous hawks and owls are residents or regular visitors. Great Blue Herons have multiple nesting sites and American Kestrels, Red Tailed Hawks, Raven and Goshawks nest as well and Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock and Snipe rear their broods. Identified plant species exceed four hundred and bird counts are over 130 with ninety or more nesting species.
We created a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation to be the owner and parent of the Greenwoods Conservancy, and have created an endowment within the trust to ensure its survival. We have a board of trustees to oversee the trust and its adherence to its mission. An Iroquois national is a member of the governing board and unofficially represents the Iroquois nation and its conservation principles.