Habitat loss is one of the planet's most challenging issues. Over foresting and rampant development are fragmenting land mass needed to maintain a healthy ecosystem.One of the solutions to preventing this is the concept of a "land trust ". Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the WNY Land Conservancy, offers this definition : " A land trust is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to protect land for future generations. "
On the Niagara Frontier, the Western NY Land Conservancy is a leader in protecting our natural heritage.
" We protect the most important wildlife habitat," Says JaJean Rose-Burney, the Conservancy's Development Director ." Scenic views, open spaces and farms in Western New York, so all eight counties of WNY. We have, since 1991, protected more than seventy properties and more than six thousand acres in Western NY. "
One of the properties currently being pursued is Jackson Falls in the Town Of Aurora. It's a fifty seven acre gem that Burney says has a number of remarkable features." What makes this place special is not only the fifty some acres of mature forest, Hemlock, Yellow Birch, there are vernal pools, places where salamanders breed, this is important migratory habitat for birds. But what really makes it more spectacular is where it's name comes from, Jackson Falls there's two really spectacular waterfalls on this property. "
The property is considered a headwater forest. They play an important role in the purity of our water in the region.Smith explains." There are vernal pools, there are acres of wetlands, and then there's a headwater forest that's surrounding the stream. So many things happen there that impact the water quality, it's the interplay between the water that's travelling back and forth between the vernal pools and the wetlands. "
Protecting this treasure is easier said than done.There's a deadline on acquiring this land, and Smith says that though the Land Conservancy is not the only group bidding on the land, she believes they are the only ones seeking to protect it's natural beauty." We're hoping to have a combination of private fund raising dollars, funding from large grants and local foundations. We have just until the end of October to raise six hundred thousand dollars to acquire the project. "
Burney believes it's an acquisition that will benefit the entire community, both present and future, in many different ways." In an age where we're losing species, we're losing diversity, we're losing wildlife, birds, amphibians, fish, all of these things are disappearing rapidly. We have to protect our habitat, without habitat they disappear, loss of habitat is the leading cause of decline of most wildlife species. "
Smith agrees " For natural land, again, it's the fragmentation taht damages the ecological value, so by linking properties together, you get more, less fragmented habitat , better for the wildlife, better for the ecological services. "