Unspoiled green space is a commodity that is rapidly disappearing.
Fields, forests, and streams are being plowed under in favor of rampant development in the name of progress. But that vanishing environment is critical to everyone's future on many levels, and fortunately there are those among us who are working hard to preserve that diminishing habitat.
The Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC) is once such group that has been doing so for over 20 years.
Nancy Smith is the Executive Director of the WNYLC.
"Our mission is protecting the unique natural areas and working farms in our community that have strong conservation values," says Smith.
One of the challenges faced by the Land Conservancy is just which land to protect. Sometimes the task is a simple one...others, the selection is more directed. But the main focus is always the same.
"One time we had three phone calls in one day, where the phone rings and the person that's calling says I want to preserve my land, can you help me? So, sometimes it's responding to a request that comes in, and we have a strategic land protection plan where we have focus areas identified, but I'd like us to be even more strategic, and it's one of the priorities of our organization."
Once a property is targeted, the Land Conservancy must choose just how to extend their protection.
"Sometimes we own land, but not as often," says Smith. "Of the 65 properties we protect, only about twelve we own. The more common tool is called a conservation easement, and that's where you get into the dry side of our work. It's a legal agreement between the land owner and the land trust. The owner still owns it, they can pass it on to their children or can sell it, but it will always remain protected."
The benefits to the surrounding community are as diverse as the land being protected.
"There are a number of different benefits, and some of them are for the wildlife habitat and the water quality," says Smith. "But some of them are economic benefits. Very often, land values increase in adjacent properties to open space. There's also the aesthetic of it, if you think about what you want it to be like where you live."
The jewel of the almost 5,000 acres protected by the Land Conservancy is the Kenneglenn Nature Preserve In Wales. Once owned by a wealthy family and used as their summer retreat, the 131 acre preserve is a beautiful blend of diverse habitat.
"It's a creek corridor, it's adjacent to Hunter's Creek Park in Erie County," says Smith. "There's pristine forest as well as this red pine forest that you can see here which is very beautiful. There's some wet meadows, and anything that protects water quality is important from the natural resource perspective."
Kenneglenn is also important in another way.
Because the Land Conservancy opens the preserve to public programs, it becomes an educational tool as well, a factor critical to the future of both land and humanity.
"Since we own it, it also provides public access," says Smith. "So we're able to have unique programs that allow the rest of the residents of Western New York to come and experience that natural beauty. People have to understand the natural world and spend time in it to care about it in order for it to be a priority for them to preserve additional lands."
The Western New York Land Conservancy is always looking for help, and there's a number of ways you can make a difference. You can find out more about this organization by visiting their website www.wnylc.org.