Natural Capital: Potsdam, NY



Potsdam, NY is a rural, upstate New York college town with expansive farmlands. While the universities own the majority of the land within the village, the remainder of the town which consists mainly of farmland. A lot of the locals depend on a successful crop, making this the most significant natural capital in the region. A natural capital is described as a “stock of the region’s renewable and non-renewable resources,” (Green & Gaines, 2015). These properties nurture diverse crops and livestock that must be successfully cared for in order for members of the community to survive. The crops represent a renewable source of food and income for the farmers in the area. These farms are largely supported by the Raquette River, which flows through the center of the village. Historically, water from the Raquette River was the primary drinking source for people in the area and was cleaned through Potsdam Water Works (Curtis, 1894). The Raquette River also served as the main source of power for the paper mill plant during the late 1800s (Curtiz, 1894). Unfortunately, Potsdam Water Works and The Raquette River Paper Company have since closed. Water from the Raquette River is no longer used as a source of drinking water due to pollution by local businesses, sewage, and animal organic waste (New York State, 1912). While this water is no longer available as a source for drinking, it is still largely used for recreational activities. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation highlights activities such as canoeing and fishing, which may be enjoyed along this stretch of the Raquette (New York State DEC, 2016).


Gates Curtis (Eds.). (1894). History of Potsdam, NY: From our county and its people. A memorial of St. Lawrence County, NY. Boston: The Boston History Company, Publishers

Green, G. P., & Haines, A. (2015). Asset Building and Community Development. Washington, DC: SAGE Publications.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. (2016). Fishing and Canoeing the Raquette River in St Lawrence County. Retrieved from:

New York (State) Department of Health, (1912). Thirty-third annual report of the state department of Health, 1912. Albany, NY: State Dept. of Health.

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