GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — The importance of forests to both our health and the health of the environment can not be overstated. At 145 acres, the Margery Gallogly Nature Sanctuary in Grand Island is a prime example of a relatively small forest that provides much to the area surrounding it.
"Forests like this not only provide recreational services, but they provide what we like to think of as ecosystem services as well," said Andrew Lance, restoration ecologist for the Western New York Land Conservancy. "So they purify water, they provide oxygen, they store carbon, which is a big interest nowadays with climatic change coming upon us. "
It's impressive in itself that the forest even exists. Grand Island was heavily logged in the 1800's. Jajean Rose-Burney, the deputy executive director for the Western New York Land Conservancy, says that the island's forests were essentially clear cut to provide lumber throughout the northeast.
"After the island was clear cut, it was farmed, it was grazed, there wasn't a lot of tree growth for 150 years," Rose-Burney said. "If you go back into the middle 1900's, a lot of those farms started to disappear, people stopped doing agriculture as much, and some of the trees in the forest started to grow back."
In 2018, the Western New York Land Conservancy acquired the property. Its mission is to conserve ecologically important land for future generations. As a headwater forest, this preserve takes on extra significance.
"There's little streams that come out of this forest that end up in the Niagara River," says Rose-Burney. "So protecting a forest like this protects those streams, protects that water that comes out of the ground, absorbs water, prevents flooding downstream, filters that water. So if you lose a forest like this, if something like this gets paved, or cut, turned into a subdivision or a parking lot, water quality decreases immediately. "
With the regeneration of the forest, so too came the return of the pileated woodpecker; a species thought to be departed from Grand Island since the 1800's.
"We have sections of this forest here which are probably 125, 150 years post disturbance, so those are beginning to serve as habitat for pileated woodpeckers," Lance said.
Rose-Burney says a hike in this preserve is like stepping back in time.
"This looks like what it would have been like 500 years ago or a thousand years ago. It's really cool, so definitely come and check it out," Rose-Burney said.
For more information about the Western New York Land Conservancy click here.