Photo: FLLT

200 Acres in the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Conserved Forever

Ithaca, NY – The Finger Lakes Land Trust announced today that it has accepted the donation of a conservation easement in the town of Niles, Cayuga County, from David and Francie Pringle. The easement protects 200 acres in the scenic highlands above the west side of Skaneateles Lake.

The property has significant frontage on State Route 41A, a highway that runs the length of the western side of the lake, as well as frontage on Glen Haven Road and Bear Swamp Road.  It is also located within an area recognized as a priority project within New York State’s Open Space Plan.

Photo: FLLT

Photo: FLLT

The Land Trust has also been actively protecting land at the south end of Skaneateles Lake through its Skaneateles Highlands Protection Project, which aims to create a greenbelt extending from State Route 41 on the east side of the lake to State Route 41A on the west side. The Land Trust’s High Vista Preserve and Hinchcliff Family Preserve are key components of the greenbelt on the east side of the lake.

On the west side, the Pringle property joins a group of other protected lands, including Bear Swamp State Forest, Carpenter Falls State Unique Area, and the Land Trust’s Bahar Nature Preserve. It is also adjacent to another property secured by a conservation easement held by the Land Trust.

Perhaps the crown jewel is the 4,505 foot stretch of Bear Swamp Creek that flows through the property. Bear Swamp Creek is the largest tributary feeding into Skaneateles Lake. It originates in Bear Swamp State Forest, meanders through the hamlet of New Hope, and then drops steeply down to the lake. The creek harbors native brook trout and attracts a variety of other wildlife, including mink, fishers, otters, and beavers.

In recent years, the Pringles have taken steps to restore wildlife habitat and remove invasive species on the property. The couple have planted native grasses to provide cover for deer and ground-nesting birds. Working with the federal government’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), they are managing these meadows to sustain the nesting period for songbirds that rely on grasslands for breeding, including bobolinks and savannah sparrows. According to David, the songbird population on the property has skyrocketed since this management plan was put in place.

While a portion of the Pringle property remains a working farm—the Pringles currently lease about 20 acres along Highway 41A to a local farmer—the diverse terrain also includes lush meadows, hardwood forest, and a riparian floodplain. As David Pringle noted, “It’s a wonderfully varied and truly special place.”

Holland Gregg, President of the FLLT Board of Directors and Skaneateles resident, said, “The Land Trust and naturalists throughout the Finger Lakes are forever indebted to the Pringles for their efforts to protect the scenic highlands and preserve wildlife in the fragile watershed of Skaneateles lake.”

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. The Pringle easement provides for traditional agriculture and forestry uses while ensuring a buffer zone along Bear Swamp Creek. It also limits any development to 15 of the site’s 200 acres.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust protects over 17,000 acres of our region’s beloved forests, fields, wetlands, streams, and lakeshores. The Land Trust today owns and manages a network of 36 conservation areas that are open to the public and holds conservation easements on more than 100 properties that remain in private ownership.

The Land Trust focuses on protecting critical habitat and water resources, connecting conserved lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. We also hold programs to educate local governments, landowners, and the community about conservation.  The Land Trust works within the 12-county Finger Lakes Region—an area roughly the size of Vermont. Additional information on the Land Trust may be found at