- David Morris Cunningham
- Christine DeBoer, of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust.
Although Christine DeBoer, originally from Miami, has lived in the Hudson Valley for less than a decade, she understands the importance of protecting the region’s natural landscape. As the executive director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, she sees the same beauty that’s inspired countless artists, activists, and naturalists, and has made it her goal to conserve the integrity of the land as much as possible for future generations.
“What I love most about this job is working with people in this area—there is so much passion for the land,” DeBoer says. “I find that a lot of people who move away often end up coming back because of how much they love the region. And many landowners want to protect their properties from development.”
DeBoer, 34, came to New York for grad school and her love of rock climbing. She was the first person to graduate from Bard’s dual master’s program, with degrees in environmental policy and in teaching. She was offered the executive director position three years ago and has worked an average of 60 hours per week to bring various projects to life, including extending the New Paltz-Gardiner portion of the rail trail through Rosendale and Ulster, and the restoration of the Rosendale trestle. The next project lined up is creating public trails across 118 acres on Joppenburgh Mountain, also in Rosendale.
“The main mission of the Land Trust is to create legal land-protection agreements that place restrictions on what can be done to a property, in order to protect its conservation value,” she explains. These restrictions—called easements—are forever binding; they cannot be removed. They can only become more restrictive. “We monitor the land annually and legally uphold the landowner’s wishes to ensure it won’t be developed or mistreated. This becomes more difficult as the land is sold to second and third owners, but so far people have responded well and we’ve avoided going to court,” she says. To date, they’ve placed more than 1,600 acres in conservation easements in southern Ulster County alone.
DeBoer doesn’t have much spare time outside of her job, but she has devoted most of it to another passion of hers: dogs. “I love my two dogs and I know so many people who wish there was a dog park around here,” she says. “So I’ve been working with others for about two and a half years to create a safe space for dogs to run.” The city asked the group to become a nonprofit—now For Paws of Ulster, Inc.—and they’ve acquired land at the Field of Dreams recreational area in New Paltz. “It’s not always easy, but these are the things I love the most,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” Wallkillvalleylt.org