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Environment & Science

Ecology Organizations Protecting Land to Preserve Water Quality in Finger Lakes


An upstate New York conservation group has purchased hundreds of acres of land that will protect some of the finger lakes from pollution … and ultimately protect drinking water.  The Nature Conservancy move, aided by a state matching grant, adds to work by the Finger lakes Land Trust to conserve areas that could have been farmed or developed – activities that contribute to harmful algal blooms the lakes have suffered. 

The Nature Conservancy Central and Western New York Director Jim Howe says the investment Is paying off.

“We’ve actually been successful at protecting two parcels that are top-ranked in their ability to maintain clean water in Owasco lake.” 

One of the parcels is 203 acres that will be added to Fillmore Glen State Park, increasing low-impact recreation.  Howe points out that besides providing drinking water for cities and towns including Rochester, Auburn and Syracuse, preserving clean water in Owasco Lake is vital to the economic health in the region.

“If we don’t have Finger Lakes that we can fish in and that we can swim in, then we’re not going to have the tourism industry and the vital property industry around the lakes.”

Credit Bill Hecht / Fingerl Lakes Land Trust
Finger Lakes Land Trust protecting a parcel in the watershed for Skaneateles Lake for similar water-quality reasons. 

Meanwhile another organization, the Finger Lakes Land Trust just announced the purchase and preservation of 68 acres of land on the eastern shore of Skaneateles Lake.  The groups says it includes steep hillsides and nine creeks that feed the lake … so protecting the land from development helps water quality.  Howe with the Nature Conservancy says a recent poll shows overwhelming support for conservation efforts.

“Ninety percent of the voters that we polled said they support increased funding and resources for water quality and solutions around these issues.”

The poll also showed more than two thirds of voters say the Finger Lakes are important to the area’s quality of life, and half believe the water quality has declined over the last ten years.  The Nature Conservancy scientists are evaluating some three-thousand parcels of watershed land to see if they could help prevent pollution from reaching the lakes.