Photo: FLLT

116 Acres Next to Finger Lakes National Forest Now Protected

Conservation easement protects 116 acres adjacent to New York’s only National Forest.

Ithaca, NY – The Finger Lakes Land Trust today announced that it has accepted a donation of a conservation easement on 116 acres of fields and woodlands bordering Finger Lakes National Forest. The conserved land is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region, just outside of Watkins Glen in the Town of Hector, Schuyler County. The easement was donated by Neal and Dianne Melveney, and Chris and Lisa Melveney. Three generations of the Melveney family currently reside on the property.

The Melveneys’ conservation easement will ensure the integrity of their family farm located next to Finger Lakes National Forest. Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Landowners who donate conservation easements may be eligible for both state and federal tax benefits.

Photo: FLLT

Photo: FLLT

The property is a priority for protection because it is bordered on two sides by the National Forest and provides an important connection from one part of the Forest to the other. The easement expands the contiguous area of protected lands and provides an important buffer from development. Conservation of the property will also maintain the scenic nature and a rural hiking experience as approximately 1,500 feet of the Finger Lakes Trail runs through it.

The property has more than 6,500 feet of frontage on Tug Hollow Creek, an important tributary to Seneca Lake. Protection of the land will ensure its undeveloped condition and help maintain water quality.

Other notable features include 73 acres of meadows, grassland, and shrub lands which provide valuable habitat for a diversity of birds and other wildlife. The property is located within the Finger Lakes National Forest Important Bird Area, identified by New York Audubon as particularly important for breeding grassland birds and raptors.

The Melveneys’ conservation easement ensures future use of the land for sustainable agriculture and forestry uses. The Melveneys operated both a sheep farm and a Christmas tree farm in the past. The formerly managed Christmas tree plantation now serves as a source of greens for a small holiday wreath making business. The family continues to operate a sugar bush that produces high quality maple syrup and a portion of the property is leased to a neighboring farmer.

The Melveney conservation easement marks the 117th easement held by the Land Trust and adds to the more than 17,000 acres already protected by the organization. The easement keeps the farm intact and limits residential development to the two existing homes on the property.

“We’re grateful to the Melveney family for their wonderful gift,” says Andrew Zepp, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. “This is a beautiful tract of land and the fact that it borders our state’s only national forest makes it even more significant in terms of its conservation value.”

The completion of this project is the Land Trust’s fourth in the vicinity of the Finger Lakes National Forest. The Land Trust has acquired two parcels of woodland on behalf of the US Forest Service and holds another conservation easement on 70 acres bordered on two sides by National Forest land.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust is a member supported, non-profit conservation organization that works cooperatively with landowners and local communities to conserve forever the lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region, ensuring scenic vistas, local foods, clean water, and wild places for everyone. To date, the Land Trust has worked with partners to secure more than 17,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped shoreline, scenic farmland, rugged gorges, and majestic forest. The organization owns and manages over 30 conservation areas that are accessible to the public and holds conservation easements on over 100 properties that remain in private ownership.