OSI in the Catskills, continued

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman


Center for Discovery 

The Catskill Mountains, known as “America’s First Wilderness,” is a land of pristine water, protected woods and working landscapes. The Catskills encompass 6,000 square miles in upstate New York that include rugged peaks, six major river systems, forests both working and protected, historic villages and hamlets, and picturesque farms.

The heart of the Catskills resides in Ulster County, where Slide Mountain, the highest of the Catskill Peaks, rises to 4,180 feet, but the region reaches across five and a half other counties: Delaware, Green, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and part of Albany.

In 1904, the State of New York recognized its value and designated 700,000 acres as Catskill Park, including a quarter of a million acres of land that is protected as forever wild forest and set aside from the checkerboard of privately- and publicly-owned land that makes up the rest of the park.

Technically, the Catskill Mountains are not actually geological mountains, but instead a mature uplifted plateau eroded over eons.

The area draws a million visitors each year who come from near and far to hike, swim, camp, bird-watch, rock-climb, canoe, fish or simply go for meandering drives through the hills as autumn leaves put on their fall display.  

The importance of the Catskills extends well beyond its recreational potential; it is the source of pure drinking water for nine million New Yorkers. New York City controls an area of over 1,900 square miles in the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley, which is comprised of the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds. This region delivers 1.4 billion gallons of water daily, mostly by gravity, from upstate mountaintops to New York City kitchen taps. Yet the purity of this water, coming from the largest unfiltered surface water system in the world, is only as secure as the quality of the lands from which it is drawn.

  • A recent study suggests that the Catskills can expect to lose nearly 9 percent of its privately-owned forestland to development over the next six years and shows that the size of forest ownerships is shrinking, making landscape protection increasingly difficult.
  • The looming possibility of casino development and the ever-present demand to develop vacation properties threatens the viability of the watershed, as well as the working forests that support local economies and the environmental integrity of a landscape that is increasingly fragmented.

OSI At Work

OSI started its land acquisition work along the Catskill’s Beaverkill River over forty years ago and is now involved in conservation across the entire region. Our work has included:

  • Protecting over 20,000 acres
  • Protecting New York City’s watershed lands in Delaware County
  • Creating connecting corridors in Ulster County that benefit both recreationists and wildlife
  • Protecting prime farmland in southern Sullivan County
  • Purchasing the 5,405-acre Lundy Estate, which protects much of the corridor between the Catskills and the Shawangunk Ridge, in May 2000.






What You Can Do

Donate to support OSI’s work

Become a part of our mission to safeguard at-risk places through your tax-deductible gift.


Subscribe to our newsletter

We get in touch once a month with our most important news, stories, and updates.

Please leave this field empty