The Land Conservancy purchases The Owens Falls Sanctuary, protecting It in perpetuity

Through the generosity of many donors, the Western New York Land Conservancy has now purchased The Owens Falls Sanctuary in the Town of Aurora. The Land Conservancy and the Friends of Jackson Falls raised more than $700,000 over the last nine months to create this permanently protected nature sanctuary. The Land Conservancy will open the sanctuary’s walking trails to the public later next year.

As the name suggests, the highlight of The Owens Falls Sanctuary are two magnificent waterfalls. But there is more to the land than these waterfalls. Its beautiful hemlock and beech forest are home to migrating birds, breeding frogs and salamanders, and dense patches of stunning wildflowers. The property also includes wetlands and mature headwater forests which are vital to maintaining water quality in the Buffalo River and Niagara River watersheds.

The Aurora Town Board was instrumental in bringing this project to its fruition. Their support enabled the Land Conservancy to secure almost half of the necessary funding through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Owens Falls Sanctuary is a natural wonder in our community,” said Town Supervisor Jim Bach. “The Town Board was so pleased to be able to support the Land Conservancy in saving this gem for our residents.”

Earlier this year when funding was short and time running out, Barbara and Don Owens, neighbors to the property, committed $200,000 to ensure the land remained forever open. Other large donations included $20,000 each from the Gallogly Family Foundation, Kathy Lasher and Scott Bieler, Sue Sunderlin, John Quill Taylor, and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

“This property is a storybook of our region’s geologic history,” said Don Owens, Certified Professional Soil Scientist and founder of Earth Dimensions, as well as the donor for whom the Sanctuary is now named. “As a permanently protected nature preserve, the walls of this gorge and the glacial boulders deposited here will be able to tell these stories to generations of visitors.”

“The Land Conservancy is very excited to work with the community in planning the future of this inspiring place,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. “We plan to hire a consultant to help us design a new trail system. We will also remove some of the invasive plant species that are harming the wildlife habitat.”

While the land is now protected, the sanctuary is not yet open to the public. The Land Conservancy asks that those anxious to visit to please wait until the trails are well-marked. For the time being, access to the property will be limited to those attending guided Land Conservancy hikes. To learn more about hikes at the sanctuary and other Land Conservancy work, contact them at (716) 687-1225 or info@wnylc.org.

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years. For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call (716) 687-1225 or visit www.wnylc.org.

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