The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced $1.8 million in Conservation Partnership Program grants for 55 nonprofit land trusts across the state. Representatives of the DEC and the Land Trust Alliance unveiled the grantees at an event in Skaneateles, in Onondaga County, in recognition of Earth Week, a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment to protecting our environment, conserving open space, and increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources. The grants are funded through NYS’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), and the Land Trust Alliance administers the Conservation Partnership Program in coordination with DEC.
“Land trusts continue to make a difference in local communities, maximizing public and private dollars to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources for generations to come,” said Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Through partnerships like these, the Environmental Protection Fund provides critical support for many environmental and open space programs, generating revenue, creating jobs, and ensuring a cleaner and healthier New York.
“DEC’s work with land trusts is essential in our efforts to conserve and protect New York’s valuable natural resources and this program is a clear example of the partnerships that have made a difference in preserving open space,” Seggos said. “Governor Cuomo’s historic $300 million budget for the Environmental Protection Fund will help support the work of the state’s land trusts to be effective stewards of important habitats in the state for generations to come.”
The Western New York Land Conservancy was awarded $70,000 in two separate grants. A transaction grant will support the Land Conservancy’s work in creating the Stella Niagara Preserve on the Niagara River in Lewiston — the most important and high-profile project in the Land Conservancy’s quarter century history. The Land Conservancy hired the nationally renowned landscape design team of Darrel Morrison and Nancy Aten to lead the way in restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat at the preserve. Their design was based on months of community engagement led by local consultant Anthony Armstrong. This planning and design work was recently selected to receive a 2016 Planning Award for public outreach from the Western New York section of the American Planning Association.
Assemblyman John Ceretto, whose district encompasses the Stella Niagara Preserve, said, “The Stella Niagara Preserve is an incredible asset in the Town of Lewiston. This grant will make it possible for the Land Conservancy to further enhance the natural beauty of this very special place and do more transformative work in our region.”
The second grant will enable the Land Conservancy to create a new full-time position. The Land Protection Director will lead new land conservation efforts across the region, further enhancing the Land Conservancy’s capacity to protect threatened natural places and farms in the coming years.
“With the rate at which we are losing natural land and farmland, there’s no time to waste when it comes to saving these places,” said Senator Patrick Gallivan, whose district is home to several of the Land Conservancy’s recent successes. “The protection of places like the Mill Road Scenic Overlook and the future Jackson Falls Preserve in Aurora is revitalizing our community today.”
Nancy Smith, executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, said, “It is with deep gratitude for this significant investment of Environmental Protection Funds that they Land Conservancy embraces the challenge of strengthening and reimagining our community. Saving our local farms and creating places where everyone can spend time in nature is essential to creating a healthy, vibrant WNY.”
Both grants will help the Land Conservancy as they launch a new and innovative five-year strategic plan, which prioritizes expanding the Niagara River Greenway, protecting land in the most critical watersheds of the Niagara River, preserving some of the state’s most productive farmland, expanding partnerships with the region’s indigenous communities, working in urban communities, and enhancing the biodiversity and climate resiliency.
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.