The Nature Conservancy in New York is pleased to announce the transfer of a 161-acre property in the Town of Sempronius to the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council (OLWMC). The Nature Conservancy acquired the property in 2021 to help protect clean drinking water and reduce contributors to harmful algal blooms. The project was made possible through grants from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund and Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. The transfer of this property makes OLWMC, an inter-municipal council dedicated to the protection of Owasco Lake, a land-owning entity for the first time. It is part of The Nature Conservancy’s ongoing effort to support local community organizations in managing water resources as an essential natural resource and source for public drinking water.
More than 70% of Cayuga County’s drinking water is drawn from Owasco Lake. The protection of the property, which OLWMC will call the Fillmore Nature Preserve, helps protect the lake’s water quality. A study by The Nature Conservancy ranked the property among the 10 most impactful parcels in the Owasco Lake watershed with the greatest effect on water quality if left in their natural states. Fillmore Nature Preserve includes diverse forests and approximately 40 acres of freshwater wetlands, and is located near the birthplace of President Millard Fillmore and Fillmore Glen State Park.
“Clean drinking water is essential, but it’s being threatened by a changing climate. Bigger storms can wash away more sediment and bring more contaminated runoff to our lakes. At the same time, our lakes are getting warmer. The combination of more pollution and warmer lake water leads to more and more harmful algal blooms,” said Olivia Green, The Nature Conservancy’s Finger Lakes water quality specialist. “But nature offers a solution. By protecting wetland systems, we let nature slow down and filter the water that sustains us. We are thrilled to partner with Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council to protect these resources and the health of our communities.”
Executive Director of the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council Adam Effler said, “The transfer of this property is a testament to the strong partnership between the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council and The Nature Conservancy. Protecting ecosystem services for the benefit of water quality expands upon the Management Council’s public service initiatives, while simultaneously securing an asset that builds organizational resiliency. We look forward to our new role stewarding the Fillmore Nature Preserve and making its beautiful trails available to the public.”
In addition to providing public drinking water, Owasco Lake is a recreational hub and an economic driver for the region. Residents and visitors rely on it for swimming, boating and fishing, and the surrounding nature trails draw hikers and birders.