By Dan Shapley
A 100-year-old philanthropist, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, will give $20 million of her fortune to Scenic Hudson, an environmental group that works to protect New York's Hudson Valley. The bequest, through the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, will benefit the group's efforts to preserve parks and preserves along the banks of the Hudson, an American Heritage river. The river inspired America's first homegrown artistic movement, the Hudson River School of painters. The wild and Romantic landscapes the painters celebrated are still loved today, but explosive real estate prices in the past several years have led to a great deal of residential development in the valley. One of Scenic Hudson's goals is to channel that growth into existing cities and villages, and preserve outlying farmland, forests and shoreline parcels. Scenic Hudson's president, Ned Sullivan, blogs for The Daily Green about ways people can act to better the environment in their own backyards. For his latest post to Backyard Matters, click here
. Davis, the widow of Wall Street financier Shelby Cullom Davis, is a kayaker with a longtime love of the river. Both she and Scenic Hudson hope her gift will inspire others to donate. Scenic Hudson estimates that it could cost $1 billion to buy enough land to preserve the character of the valley for future generations. Scenic Hudson has benefited from wealthy donors in the past. The 25,000 acres it has preserved to date were made possible, in large part, by Lila and Dewitt Wallace, the founders of Reader's Digest. In 2001, the Scenic Hudson Land Trust received a $115 million endowment from the Reader's Digest charitable foundation. Of the new $20 million bequest, $15 million will go toward land preservation, and $5 million toward improvements at new and existing parks.