Conservation Advisory Council

CAC Meetings

The Hilldale CAC meets at 7 pm on the 4th Thursday of each month at the Hillsdale Town Hall. Meetings are open to the public.

CAC Members

Paul Duernberger
Mary King
David Lewis, Chair
Gretchen Stevens
Open seat

CAC members are appointed by the Hillsdale Town Board. If you would like to become a member, we encourage you to attend the next CAC meeting to learn more about our work.

Then, write a letter of interest to the Town Board describing your background relevant to the work of the CAC, your interest, and your availability.

CAC Mission

The CAC’s mission is to gather and disseminate information, conduct research, and advise other town agencies in matters related to the conservation of natural resources. The CAC considers issues of air quality, surface water and groundwater quality and quantity, and soils, as well as plants, animals, and habitats of conservation concern, and other issues bearing on the integrity of ecosystems and sustainable uses of the natural resources that support the health and well-being of the human community.

The CAC’s role in policy-making and environmental reviews is advisory only. The CAC takes a science-based approach to questions related to natural resource conservation, provides information as needed, and proposes solutions and alternatives that aim to avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts to sensitive resources.

The basic tasks of the Hillsdale CAC are: 1) assisting the Planning Board in reviews of land use proposals; 2) gathering and providing natural resource information to town agencies, land use applicants, and the general public; 3) conducting a town-wide natural resource inventory and open space inventory; and 4) providing recommendations for local policies, procedures, and legislation related to natural resource uses and conservation.

The Hillsdale Natural Resources Inventory

In the latter half of 2017, the CAC sought, and ultimately obtained, funding for the creation of a Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) for the Town of Hillsdale.  The funding, graciously provided by the Hudson River Estuary Program of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, has permitted the CAC to obtain the services of Nan Stolzenburg, a Certified Environmental Planner (AICP), who has assisted over 60 upstate town in land-use planning, and Rick Lederer-Barnes of Upstate GIS, an Independent Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist and Environmental Planner, in preparing the NRI.  They, together with the CAC, will collect information and produce a final document illustrating and describing the town’s natural resources, and explaining their significance to the Hillsdale community.  In the course of the creation of the NRI, residents of Hillsdale and other interested members of the public will have opportunities to contribute information from their own knowledge and observations.

To introduce this project, we explain below the nature of an NRI, its purposes, where we are going from here, and how members of the public can assist us now. Please note that even at this early stage, residents of the town can begin contributing to the NRI by providing photographs of Hillsdale’s natural resources and scenic beauty. Instructions for submitting photographs appear below.

What is a Natural Resources Inventory?

An NRI compiles information about and describes the important, naturally occurring resources of the area.  The Hillsdale NRI will include descriptions of the Town’s topography, bedrock and surficial geology, soils, water resources (streams, lakes, ponds, groundwater), biological resources (plants, animals, and habitats such as forest, meadow, and swamp), scenic areas, and outdoor places for public recreation.

The NRI will include three basic components: maps, associated data and information sources, and a descriptive report.  Maps will show the location and extent of resources such as forests, surface and ground waters, farmland, and scenic areas in the Town. They provide a visual way to understand patterns of natural and cultural resources and how they relate to each other and to nearby developed areas.  Associated data will explain aspects of the maps and the information they are based on, as well as presenting in tabular or other form data that are not easily mapped.  Finally, the descriptive report will provide summaries of each resource, explain their ecological significance and human uses, and offer recommendations for sustainable uses and protections for resources of concern.

What is the purpose of the NRI?

The NRI will be a reference document for use by town agencies, landowners, and others seeking information about the specific nature of Hillsdale’s resources and landscapes. It will provide the Town Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the CAC and others with information highly relevant to comprehensive planning, policy-making, and determining the effects that land use decisions may have on important resources of the Town. In addition, it can be used by landowners in making decisions about the most desirable use of their land or simply as a source of information that can help them better appreciate the land they own and its relationship to the Town as a whole.  And it will be available to potential developers or prospective residents in assessing the resources the Town has to offer.

What will happen next?

Over the next three months or so, Nan and Rick will be collecting all the publicly available data on the various natural resources of the Town and mapping and describing the natural features of the town.  The CAC will be seeking additional information that is available locally but may not be readily available from other sources.  In the late Spring, we will hold the first public meeting to discuss the findings so far and invite the public to give feedback on our findings, to mark up maps to identify missing data, and to highlight areas of special value that need attention in the NRI. Based on that input, the inventory will be modified as necessary, and drafting of the final NRI will begin and continue for several months.

How can I contribute to the NRI right now?

You can submit photographs for use in the NRI now.  The CAC invites any Hilldale resident or friend of Hillsdale to submit photographs of natural resources in the Town, including, but not limited to, interesting habitats, water features, animals, plants, scenic views, or other notable natural features.  We will credit the photographer for any photo used in the final NRI.

To contribute a photo or photos, please submit them to the CAC by email at email hidden; JavaScript is required.  In submitting photos, it is CRUCIAL that you change the file name to include the “what, where, who” of each photo.  For example, you might title a file “PaintedTurtle_PleasantHillFarmPond_MarySmith.jpg”.  We thank you for all contributions.

Habitat Fact Sheets

Habitat Fact Sheets (prepared by Hudsonia Ltd.) offer brief descriptions of some of the common and less-common habitats that occur in Hillsdale, how to identify them, some of their ecological values and associated plants and animals of conservation concern, and some recommendations for conservation. We encourage landowners, developers, town agencies, and others to view, print, and distribute these to anyone who may want to learn more about the natural areas all around us. Habitat Fact Sheets [PDF]

Other Downloadable Documents

Guidelines for Conservation Analysis
Hillsdale Habitat Summary
Trout Fishing in Hillsdale
Very Destructive Pest, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

Hillsdale Groundwater Study:

 Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Conservation Advisory Council?
A Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) is an advisory body that serves to gather and disseminate information, conduct research, and advise other town agencies in the development, management, and protection of natural resources.

How is it established?
A CAC is established by the Town Board by ordinance or by local law under the statutory authority of Section 239-x of Article 12-F of the NYS General Municipal Law. CAC members are appointed by the Town Board. The Hillsdale Conservation Advisory Council was established by town law in 2008.

What does the CAC do?
The CAC provides information, tools, and advice for town planning and environmental reviews of land use proposals. The CAC gathers information on natural resources and conducts detailed analysis of planning issues and environmental impacts, and thus can provide a more comprehensive base of information for the land use decision-making carried out by the Planning Board and other town agencies.

Members of the Hillsdale CAC routinely attend the monthly meeting of the Planning Board, and provide comments on potential environmental impacts of proposed development projects under review. At the Planning Board’s request, the CAC also conducts site visits and submits written and verbal reports on their findings. The CAC takes on other projects assigned by the Planning Board, as needed, related to Hillsdale resources or town policy-making.

Current Projects, Winter-Spring 2015

Farmland Inventory
The CAC has been conducting an inventory of active, abandoned and potential farmland throughout the town. We are using GIS to map farmland on the basis of recent aerial photos and field observations, and recording the current uses (e.g., pasture, hayfield, cropland, nursery, vegetables, etc.). The objective is to provide information on our current agricultural resources to inform land use planning and decision-making. We hope to complete the map in spring 2015.

Stream Inventory

The CAC is gathering information on Hillsdale streams–their history, current water quality and habitat quality, fish communities and other biota–and developing an inventory that will help us identify our highest-quality streams as well as those that have been damaged and might benefit from restoration efforts.

Ash Inventory

The emerald ash borer is an aggressive, non-native insect pest that poses a huge threat to all species of ash trees in the region. As of winter 2015 it has not yet reached Hillsdale or surrounding towns. The CAC is undertaking an inventory of ash on town lands and along public roads. The inventory will provide baseline information for monitoring the health of ashes, for detecting early infestations of the emerald ash borer, and for implementing a plan to slow the spread of the insect and protect public safety.

Past Projects

  • Obtained grants for a townwide groundwater study completed by the New York Rural Water Association in 2009.
  • Developed a list of vetted consultants in various disciplines related to land use, such as wetland delineation, forestry, engineering, biology/ecology, hydrogeology, soil science, land surveying, and land use planning.
  • Researched regulations and practices related to construction of artificial ponds, and prepared a summary report for the Planning Board.
  • Researched local regulation of wind energy development, and conferred with the Hillsdale Green Solutions committee on an advisory document on local standards for review and operation of wind facilities.
  • Solicited and obtained a “Hillsdale Habitat Summary” prepared by Karen Strong, Biodiversity Outreach Coordinator, Hudson River Estuary Program, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Developed draft Guidelines for a Conservation Analysis to be used when gathering information for submission with a new development proposal.
  • Developed a draft outline for a Natural Resources Inventory for Hillsdale.
  • Developed a memo to the Town Board describing the threat posed by the Emerald Ash Borer and offering recommendations for action.