Finger Lakes Organization Protects Over 60 Acres Near Ithaca

Susan Compton and John Saylor with their dog, Apollo. Photo by Michael Ludgate

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) announced it has permanently protected 64 acres in the town of Dryden, Tompkins County with a conservation easement. Owned by Susan Compton and John Saylor, the property is nestled in a small valley on the southern side of Hammond Hill State Forest, a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and cross-country skiers.

Sue and John donated the easement to the FLLT, and other associated costs were covered by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Grant Program for Riparian Buffer Protection and Restoration, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Their property includes woodlands bordering the state forest, fields maintained for wildlife habitat, and the headwaters of the West Branch of Owego Creek, a high-quality brook trout stream. Sue and John worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2019 to restore creek habitat and with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition to plant trees on 3.7 acres in 2020.

The conservation easement will protect the property against subdivision and safeguard the restored stream corridor, improving water quality in Owego Creek and further downstream in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

“We both strongly support the mission of the Finger Lakes Land Trust and are placing our land in a conservation easement for several reasons,” said Sue and John.  “Our property is a visual extension of the Hammond Hill State Forest, is home to two streams that feed the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, is a habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants, and contains woodlands that would have been vulnerable to logging. We are grateful the FLLT enables us to protect all of the above for future generations.”

In addition to Hammond Hill State Forest, this newly-conserved property joins a large complex of protected lands including Robinson Hollow State Forest, Cornell University’s Slaterville 600 Natural Area, and the FLLT’s Goetchius Wetland and Roy H. Park preserves. This area lies within the Emerald Necklace, an effort to link 50,000 acres of existing public open space that extends in an arc around Ithaca—from Finger Lakes National Forest in the west to Hammond Hill and Yellow Barn state forests in the east.

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that permanently limit future land use in order to protect the land’s conservation value. Lands subject to conservation easements remain in private ownership, on local tax rolls, and available for traditional uses such as farming and hunting.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 28,0000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 45 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 168 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 residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.

Information on the region’s premier destinations for outdoor recreation—including Hammond Hill State Forest—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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