Photos by Chris Ray

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) recently began an ambitious restoration effort at its Kehoe Nature Preserve in Big Flats, Chemung County, by planting 1,200 native trees and shrubs in partnership with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition (USC). Establishment of native plants at this site, which includes 1,480 feet of frontage on the Chemung River, will enhance wildlife habitat, promote native plant diversity, and create an important forest buffer.

The USC, which works with partner organizations to improve water quality in the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, took the lead on restoring a 5-acre field adjacent to the river by removing non-native invasive species such as knotweed, European buckthorn, honeysuckle, and tree of heaven—a preferred host plant for the invasive spotted lanternfly. They then planted native trees and shrubs such as sugar maple, oak, hickory, elderberry, and dogwood. Staff and volunteers from the FLLT and USC will continue to steward and monitor the site until the new plantings are established.


“This project moved forward thanks to the unique capabilities the Upper Susquehanna Coalition brought to bear by their Riparian Buffer Coordinator Lydia Brinkley,” said FLLT Senior Field Representative Kris West. “We are thankful for her leadership in all aspects of the planning, coordination and implementation of the restoration planting.”

The 42-acre Kehoe Nature Preserve was acquired by the FLLT in 2016 as a donation from Phyllis Kehoe, a resident of Pine City. The property, once slated for residential development including more than 30 homes, is now permanently protected as a wildlife refuge. Nearby, the FLLT owns and manages the Plymouth Woods and Steege Hill nature preserves. The organization also recently partnered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to acquire 315 acres on both sides of the Chemung River to add to the Big Flats Wildlife Management Area.

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 154 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, a resource created by the FLLT to encourage people to get outdoors. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at

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