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2 the Outdoors: College Lodge Forest, a history of inspiration

The Western New York Land Conservancy seeks to purchase the forest and preserve it forever.

FREDONIA, N.Y. — College Lodge Forest in Brocton is important both ecologically and culturally. The forest was purchased in 1939 by Fredonia college students to have a place to learn about nature. Over the decades the 200 acre forest became a place for many in the community to find their inspiration. 

"It's been important for research, for learning about old growth forest, and climate change and plant diversity," said Jajean Rose-Burney, deputy executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy. "Artists come here, poets come here, musicians come here. It's an incredible place for so many people, it means a lot to everyone. "

Credit: Terry Belke
The forest is home to numerous rare plants and animals

The forest is one of the most diverse in Western New York. It's graced with old growth trees and rare plants and animals. Tucked into the rolling hills of Chautauqua County, its hidden nature has left it largely undisturbed.

"It looks like Western New York would have looked like 200 years ago, even 2,000 years ago," Rose-Burney said. "You come here and this is like Jurassic Park, you know, these giant towering ferns and trees, and these cool peat moss bogs, you know it's really an incredible experience."

"The diversity that we see here, over 12 different plant communities, which results in more than 500 species of plants that we've recorded in over the last several decades," said Erik Danielson, a naturalist for the Land Conservancy. 

Credit: Terry Belke
The forest is a haven for one of the largest stands of old growth trees in WNY.

Among it's abundant beauty, the forests' old growth hemlock trees stand tall. Towering above the verdant land, these ancient trees have stood sentry for hundreds of years.

"Old growth forests are very scarce in Western New York," Danielson said. "The amount that we have here probably totals around 12 acres, maybe 13 acres, and that is one of the largest old growth forests we have in the area."

When the SUNY Fredonia Faculty Student Association decided to sell a large part of the land, they turned to the Western New York Land Conservancy to help protect the forest. The land conservancy needs to raise $790,000 to purchase the land, and has until the end of the year to do so. They're coming close, but Rose-Burney says they need the community's help to get there.

"We have a $200,000 challenge gift, so donors put their money together, that if we match that challenge gift, we'll have met our fundraising goal by the end of this year, and we'll be able to buy the land and protect it forever," Rose-Burney said.

If you would like to learn more on how to help contribute to their goal, you can access the Western New York Land Conservancy website by clicking here.