The “Hudson Hills and Highlands Environmental Leaders Learning Alliance (ELLA),” was launched in October 2007, through a grant from three anonymous donors, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program. The Alliance brings together members of 31 town and village Conservation Advisory Councils, Conservation Boards, and Open Space Committees from across the “Hudson Hills and Highlands” (the Hudson River Estuary watershed of northern Westchester, Putnam, and parts of Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties). These town-appointed volunteers serve as advisors to town councils, planning boards and zoning commissions on critical land use decisions and other important environmental matters.
ELLA provides a much-needed mechanism for improving communication between towns/villages on regional environmental issues that cross political boundaries. The more knowledgeable Alliance members become in relevant technical matters and best management practices, the more effective they will be at guiding their town’s zoning and permitting officials and policy decision-makers. ELLA members participate in quarterly training workshops, share lessons learned, and discuss possible collaborations for multi-town solutions to regional environmental issues. Teatown Lake Reservation serves as the convener and administrator of ELLA. With its unique learning team approach, the Environmental Leaders Learning Alliance aims to positively influence future environmental decisions in the Hudson Hills and Highlands, and to become a model for other regional networks throughout Metropolitan New York, and beyond.