Conservation Easement Protects Water Quality in Tompkins County

Photo by Scott Levine
06/10/2021

Acquisition of Easement on Lounsbery Property Will Help Protect City of Ithaca’s Water Supply  

 The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) recently announced the acquisition of a conservation easement on 126 acres in the town of Caroline in the Six Mile Creek watershed as part of New York State’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program.

DEC awarded FLLT more than $641,000 in a WQIP grant for this and other projects within the Six Mile Creek watershed to help protect the city of Ithaca’s public drinking water supply. This recent acquisition adds to a previously acquired conservation easement of more than 13 acres in the town of Dryden that was also supported by the grant.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority for DEC and our partners across New York State,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Working with Finger Lakes Land Trust on projects like today’s acquisition announcement is proof of our sustained commitment to protecting drinking water and open space for future generations of New Yorkers.” 

Photo by Scott Levine

“This project will help ensure Ithaca’s drinking water supply while at the same time conserving an iconic family farm and scenic woodlands that provide a backdrop to the hamlet of Brooktondale,” said Finger Lakes Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Zepp. “The Land Trust is delighted to have the opportunity to work with the DEC and make projects like this possible.”

Known as the Lounsbery property, this parcel is upstream of the city of Ithaca’s drinking water supply and wholly within the Six Mile Creek watershed. It has more than 6,200 feet of frontage on the creek, where the FLLT designated a 24-acre environmental protection zone to be restored with assistance from the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District. 

The property features approximately 48 acres of forest and more than nine acres of wetlands. These naturally-occurring features contribute to critical source water protection, helping to slow runoff after storm events, filtering and absorbing pollutants, and reducing drinking water treatment costs.

In addition to the WQIP grant, FLLT also received funding from the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County to provide long-term stewardship of the easement. 

Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for both state and federal tax benefits.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 26,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 35 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 157 properties that remain in private ownership.

The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and local residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

Information on the region’s premiere destinations for outdoor recreation may be found at www.gofingerlakes.org, a resource created by the FLLT to encourage people to get outdoors. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at www.fllt.org.

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