For the Hoosic’s natural community, the last five hundred years have been chaotic! Before then, the watershed was mostly forested, though Native Americans cleared fields and raised crops along river valleys. In some areas they also burned the woods regularly, thus managing the land to produce more wild game. Wolves, deer, and bison all roamed here. The Hudson River contained salmon; trout were abundant in tributaries such as the Hoosic, Walloomsac, Tomhannock and Kinderhook.

Ever since the first colonial settlers arrived in the 1600s the natural community has been changing rapidly and drastically. Many forces have been at work– the clearing of forests for crops and pastures, the damming and pollution of the river, the arrival of new pests and pathogens, and (more recently) the effects of acid precipitation, roads, and ever more non-native species. Wolves, mountain lion, fisher, bison, moose, deer, and salmon either disappeared entirely or became quite rare. Introduced insects and diseases devastated the American chestnut, American elm, and other trees.

Over the past century, as farms faded away, factories shut down, and stricter environmental laws came into effect, some of the vanished native species returned to our recovering lands and waters, where they mingle and compete with a host of new species. The forests and streams we enjoy today may remind us of the old wilderness, but they are really different, and still changing. They are a mix of old and new-some species declining, others thriving. All play a role in maintaining clean air and clean water in the watershed.

Here’s a sampling of the watershed’s natural communities:

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