How the spongy wetlands of the Rensselaer plateau save homes from flooding


POESTENKILL – Following ecologist Jeff Briggs through the 350-acre Poestenkill Community Forest is to walk along a trail crossing streams, over small wetlands and deep bogs in the Rensselaer Plateau to reach the Big Beaver Bog hidden.

The plateau is the key to climate resilience for all who live in the Hudson River Valley.

The 23-acre Big Beaver Bog serves as a giant sponge, absorbing rain to protect those beneath its 1,600-foot-high location on the plateau from water that would otherwise cascade after heavy rains.

“It’s like a sponge. It retains the water and lets it out slowly, ”said Briggs, board member of the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance.

Standing along the bog, Fred McCagg, the Nassau Highway Superintendent and another Rensselaer Plateau Alliance board member, said, “You can see the streams coming out of the Big Beaver Bog.”

Even the Big Beaver Bog Trail, covered in mossy vegetation, has a sponginess. Walk along the path that starts from the parking lot at the end of Legenbauer Road and you will feel a soft padding with every step.

Keeping an eye on global warming and its impact on the local climate – the most obvious being the increased frequency of major storms – the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance has launched a $ 2 million campaign called “Forests Forever Campaign: Stronger Communities Through Conservation “.

“This fundraising campaign aims to preserve a healthy forest range,” said Annie Jacobs, alliance communications director.

Plateau Forest spans much of central and eastern Rensselaer County, including parts of the cities of Berlin, Brunswick, Grafton, Hoosick, Nassau, Petersburgh, Pittstown, Poestenkill, Sand Lake and Stephentown . The plateau stretches from Columbia County south to north to the county line with Washington County. The Rensselaer Plateau Alliance has preserved nearly 13,000 acres of the 118,000 acres of plateau forest. There are over 3,000 acres of wetlands on the plateau.

The objective of the alliance is to add land to keep the forest continuous. By keeping the space open, the alliance hopes to ensure climate resilience that will help protect not only communities on the plateau, but also those at lower elevations.

The streams that start at Big Beaver Bog flow into the Poesten Kill which winds through various towns before ending at the Hudson River at Troy. Briggs said the bog is holding back water that would otherwise rush towards Troy.

“The forest and bogs all play a role in flood containment,” Briggs said.

Jim Bonesteel, executive director of the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, said that as development pressures continue, the alliance wants conservation measures taken to protect the local environment, improve air quality and meet the challenges of climate resilience.

The alliance has already raised $ 1.6 million to meet its goal of $ 2 million as it nears the end of the first year of the three-year campaign.

“The campaign will support the acquisition of significant forest land on the Rensselaer Plateau and help establish an endowment for long-term land management,” according to the goals set for the fundraising campaign. There is a six minute video on the online campaign.

Alliance leaders were encouraged to see deep into the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 as people found their way to the trails of the plateau. They said families and individuals came to the forests to explore, spend time in nature, and were able to do so safely.

Those who ventured into the forest took advantage of its connected trails, wetlands and waterways, which the countryside aims to preserve and expand.

Information about the fundraising campaign and the Rensselaer Plateau can be found on the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance website at

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